5 Tips to Negotiating Your Salary

“If you think hiring a professional is expensive, wait until you hire an amateur.” – Red Adair

There’s a thin line between the cliches “Know your worth,” and “Beggars can’t be choosers,” especially when it comes to salary. Negotiating your salary can feel awkward and uncomfortable, but if you go into that conversation with a fortified perspective and strategy you can get to the left of those uneasy feelings.

As I approached the last year of my enlistment in the Navy, I needed to make a decision. Would I continue my military service or transition into the civilian workforce? After careful consideration, l decided that I wanted to give myself some flexibility in regard to my career path. You can’t put in a two weeks notice for the military sort of commitment. If you’re like me and you’ve caught the entrepreneurial bug, that sort of commitment can feel stifling.

So, what now?

I’ve been told where to go, when to be there, what to wear and how to do my job by the numbers for four years. With those sort of systems in place, salary was definitely covered with zero room for interpretation. Military salaries are public information and they are cut and dry. Making the decision to transition into the civilian workforce also meant that it was time for me to decide how much my experience is worth in order to leverage my income. 

When it was time for me to get on the job hunt I knew I needed to educate myself in order to make an informed decision. I knew it was key to strategize in advance to get a desired result and I knew that failing to do so meant money lost. According to an organizational behavior study, failing to negotiate on an initial job offer could mean missing out on over $600,000 in salary during a typical career. That’s insane! The national average raise or promotion salary increase is typically anywhere between 5% and 10% according to CBS MoneyWatch.  I was able to garner a 38% salary increase from my military base pay and housing allowance by negotiating my salary upfront. Before negotiating, there were a few things I did to prepare.

Here are five tips for negotiating your salary:

    1. Know your value. 
      Perspective is key with this one. You should absolutely be hungry for success and for the opportunity to do great things, but you shouldn’t be so hungry that you’re starving for any raggedy bone an employer offers to throw you. Think of it this way: You are skilled and experienced. You’re doing the employer a favor by offering your unique expertise and experience. Leverage that.
      You’re doing the employer a favor by offering your unique expertise + experience. Leverage that. Click To Tweet
    2. Do your research.
      Sites like salary.com and Glassdoor provide you with with a range to give you a good idea of your market value. It may seem like the wiser choice to ask for something in the middle range but you’re better off asking for something toward the top. You should assume that you’re entitled and worthy enough for top pay. Asking for less implies that even you do not believe in your capabilities so why should your employer? How can you expect others to believe in your value if you don’t?
      How can you expect others to believe in your value if you don’t? Click To Tweet
    3. Show what you can do.
      Before you get down to the nitty gritty numbers game show why you’re the most valuable candidate. Show, don’t tell. It may even be wise to create a one pager featuring testimonials from previous coworkers, clients and coworkers. Show the employer what you can bring to the table. It’s always wise to provide examples of how your skill sets can easily integrate with the company’s values and mission.
    4. Be silent.
      Once you receive the job offer, the employer will make their salary offer. it is important to remain silent, no matter what the offer is to avoid “the flinch.” Silence can be just effective as tears, anger and aggression. You’ll want to consider if the offer is worth it before you jump at the first one the employer brings to the table.
    5. Be kind, but firm.
      If you receive an offer that was less than what you asked for, express your excitement to take on the opportunity while mentioning the things you were looking forward to doing at their company. Graciously thank them for the offer but express your disappointment since you were expecting to be in a range closer to your asking salary based on your experience and performance. Ask if they’d be willing to reconsider. The employer obviously wants to work with you if they gave you an offer, it’s not one you’re willing to accept anyways so what’s the harm in asking for a salary increase?

Something to keep in mind …

Be prepared for the no. There’s power in managing your expectations. What’s the worst that could happen? You could end up in the same boat you were in going into the interview? Don’t settle! There is a job out there for you – and it pays! If you can’t find one – create one.

Have you ever negotiated your hiring or promotion salary? What tactics worked best for you? 

  1. Ghislaine says:

    Glassdoor is so helpful. Seeing that I’m on the low end of the pay range for my position has me feeling like I have even more leverage! All your other points were spot on, too. I need to stop playing myself and get my head in the game! lol

  2. Rose says:

    This is helpful. Any ways that you can suggest to really knowing what your male counterparts are getting, to really know whether you’re getting a reasonable offer, even if it matches up with the range on Glassdoor? In a male dominated industry (I work in engineering/construction) it’s hard to know if my salary is where it should actually be compared to males.

    • Danica Michelle says:

      Oh, absolutely! Thank you for your comment, I’m glad you found this post useful 🙂 Under the Equal Pay Act, you have the right to address pay disparities among genders. The act prohibits employers from paying men, with equivalent experience at the same location, greater pay. I think you’d have to ask yourself what you bring to the company, what experience you have and how it measures up to your counterparts. If you find that you’re making less than your counterparts with similar and/or equivalent experience, definitely speak up. 30% of women and 46% of men are likely to negotiate their salary, so some of the gender pay gap can be attributed to that statistic. The tricky part here is knowing what your counterparts actually make– that’s where you have to practice discretion and tact when asserting your position. Let me know how it goes! Good luck. <3

  3. Sirena says:

    I think that this post is an awesome post and timely. It’s a skill that I am still learning to manage and one that I wish I was taught in addition to other “career prep” lessons (ie. how to dress, interview questions, etc.).

    • Danica Michelle says:

      I’m so glad you found it useful! I absolutely agree. We’re so often taught what and why we need to do things but hardly ever the how. Wishing you the best in your negotiating endeavors!

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