Making a serious career change, whether it entails a new industry or a new job title, is exciting but it can be a nerve-wracking endeavor, especially when it comes to negotiating a new salary. Knowing what kind of salary you deserve, especially if you don't have direct work experience in the field, can be difficult to navigate but it's a critical step that can impact your future earning potential.
Research shows that women, in particular, will often say yes to the first offer that comes along without attempting to negotiate a better salary or benefits package. Don't make that mistake.
As a woman making a career change, you must focus on the value you will bring to the employer and be able to articulate why this added value entitles you to a higher rate of pay.
You must also keep in mind that salary isn't the only thing you can negotiate.
Even if you have limited experience in your new role or field, you've already proven that you bring relevant work experience and transferable skills to the table that will be valuable to an employer.
After all, the employer sees enough potential in you to make you a job offer. Now it's time to begin negotiating.
Here's how to take your existing skills and translate them into the compensation package you deserve:
1. Research before, during and after the interview.
Before you go for the initial interview, do your research to find out how much this particular job in your new industry generally pays. It's helpful to use a salary calculator that will take your geographic location and level of experience and education into consideration. You should also research the standard package of benefits and, if possible, you should also ask current and former employees — particularly female employees — about their compensation and benefits. Do they feel fairly compensated? If this isn't something you are comfortable with, reading company reviews on websites like Glassdoor will often give you insight into how current and past employees feel about their experience.
2. Determine your professional worth.
The market value for your new position is a great place to start, but the unique skills and talents you possess also add to your personal value when searching for a job. You can figure out your own value by asking yourself questions, such as:
- What are the specific skills I have that this company values?
- What are those skills worth in the open market?
- How do they translate in this new industry?
- How much time, effort, and stress will this job entail?
- Will I have to travel? If so, how much is my time worth to me?
3. Focus on what you bring to the table.
If an offer is made that you feel is too low, it's time to remind your potential employer what you'll bring to the table. Go back to the job description and make a list of all of the ways the employer will benefit from your skills and experience. This is where it's critical to have a clear focus on transferable skills. Go line by line through the requirements of the job ad and make a list of similar experiences you will be able to draw from in your past professional life. Being able to connect these dots will strengthen your case for a higher salary.
4. Prioritize what's important to you.
Salary isn't the only element of your compensation package that you can negotiate. Write a list of the benefits you most want to have so you know where you can negotiate when the time comes. Is your passion traveling the world? If so, a generous paid time off (PTO) package might add value to your life. Are you a new mom who needs a flexible schedule to care for your child? Or, does a solid healthcare insurance plan top your list of must-haves? Most larger companies will offer health insurance and a 401(k) plan, but watch out for voluntary benefits, which will come out of your pocket and not the company's.
5. Use your second or final interview to find out about compensation.
Most professional jobs will have several rounds of interviews, and you'll seem too eager if you talk about compensation right off the bat. Instead, come up with questions about how the company is structured, job titles, opportunities for advancement, and other issues that show you've done your homework. Show off your skills and interest, and give your recruiter plenty of information about your qualifications to take back to leadership.
In your second, third, or final set of interviews, you should ask specifically about compensation. Is there a range for your position? Is there a set bonus? Does the company always pay its bonuses in full or is it based on company performance? How does the total compensation compare with the market?
Finally, ask what else is considered part of total compensation. You may find that your position includes a generous amount of paid time off or that the health insurance has no deductible. Even if the pay is only in the middle of the pack compared with other similar companies, perks like these add to the total value of your compensation package.
6. Counter the offer with supporting arguments and documentation.
The company made you an offer, so they want you to join them. Now, you have to figure out whether they're offering you a competitive rate.
Women often assume that a company's first offer is also the final offer. But, that's rarely the case. Once an offer is made, ask for time to think about it, then objectively analyze how closely the offer meets your needs and wants. You should be able to get everything you need from this job and hopefully something extra.
Once you've decided what you like about the offer and where you'd like to see improvement, you can gather your documentation to support your position and contact your recruiter or hiring manager. Make your case in a calm, confident way, then wait for the recruiter to make the next move. While it's tough to play the waiting game, you have to let the company respond to your counteroffer.
Even if you don't get everything you negotiated for, you can ask your interviewer to help you create and present a structured plan of reasonable milestones, which shows that you understand their needs and can exceed their expectations.