Sometime within the next few days, you'll be sitting down at a table and engaging in a negotiation with potentially high stakes. While you'll be making a case for a salary increase, the person across from you will be playing her hand with the best interests of the company in mind.
No matter what happens during the process, remember that you aren't alone. Salary negotiation is an art and a science that's been practiced in the civilized world for thousands of years. If you need help or have questions, get them resolved before you begin the process. Don't wait until you're sitting at the table trying not to look flustered. And remember, once you a strike a deal, you've set a precedent and assigned a specific value to your work. At the same time, your employer will have clarified how much or how little your work means to the company. Use this information as your decide whether to stay with this employer or look elsewhere.
Under the best of circumstances, you'll walk away feeling like you've come out ahead, dollar-wise. But negotiating a salary isn't like buying a car. The two participants don't shake hands and part ways once this transaction is over. Instead, they ideally move forward into a functional, ongoing relationship on which both of them depend for mutual success.
1. Stay confident. You're just one person, and you'll be going toe-to-toe against an entire institution. But don't let that rattle you. You aren't begging for a handout like Oliver Twist. You're offering your talent, your skills, and your time in exchange for a fair price. Know that you have other options. Even during this bleak economy, there are plenty of other employers who would be happy to bring you on board and pay you what you're worth. Keep this in mind throughout the entire process.
2. Careful research can help you with item 1. Find out exactly what other companies are paying in your area, and find out what the same job brings in from employers outside your industry. Head for the internet well in advance of the meeting and start searching.
3. Measure the data you gathered in item 2 against your track record in this position. An average employee in this geographic area and this business may make $40,000 per year. But are you an "average employee?" Probably not. Be ready to prove it with a clear record of your contributions, and a list of the ways in which you've shown higher-than-average levels of talent and dedication.
4. Keep a cool head. We always gain slight advantage during a negotiation when we can afford to stay impersonal and dispassionate about the outcome.
5. If you can, let the employer speak first. Her opening bid will set the tone for the entire process, and her opening bid may place the odds in your favor.
6. What does your employer know about your life and personal ambitions? If she's smart, she'll be factoring these things into the discussion. For example, if you're ambitious and gunning for a senior position, she may remind you that this company offers more room for growth than their competitors do. And she may make offers designed to keep you happy while keeping the final salary number in check. If you're willing to accept an adjusted benefits package in lieu of a higher salary, she may propose this as a solution (or you may suggest it.) The same applies to a change of title, an increase in status, a nicer office, more flexible hours, or a better parking arrangement. If you aren't interested in alternative benefits, stay focused and steer the conversation back to your salary.
Are you considering negotiating a pay raise? Use our Salary Calculator to find reliable, up-to-date salary information.