When I was first new to the workforce, I dreaded talking about money. I was nervous and desperate. Who was I to negotiate a salary, let alone turn one down?
Negotiating a salary can sound scary, especially when it's your first time. But, it doesn't have to be. The key to a negotiation is to go into it well prepared and researched. Thanks to the endless information that can be found on the Internet, this is easier than ever.
Before you continue to read this, the number one rule going into a negotiation is this: Do not negotiate a salary if you're not willing to lose the negotiation.
I always advise people to put themselves in the best position to have multiple offers to negotiate and choose what works for them. It's easier said than done, but if you want it badly, you'll make it happen. Remember you're a highly qualified candidate, and you know your worth. I come from a place where I've applied up to 300 jobs to make sure I put myself in the best position.
1. The Pre-Work
Make sure you have an active and filled-out LinkedIn profile. Having an active and complete profile is important for a few reasons.
LinkedIn can help boost your credibility in any field, and it's also a great resource for finding jobs. I doubled my salary in six months by being recruited for a better job through LinkedIn. You can check out mine if you'd like to see a sample profile. Heck, feel free to connect with me on there. If you think LinkedIn is a waste of time, stop reading this now.
Read Industry News
This may sound dumb, but a lot of people forget about this in the midst of a four-hour Netflix binge. Being up-to-date on what's going on in your industry is key to proving more value in yourself as a candidate.
Know what recent investments have been made in your industry, what movies are being worked on and what technology is up-and-coming in your field. If you know a new tool is being used in your industry, sign up for a free trial and learn how to use it.
Being able to adapt to your ever-changing industry makes you more valuable and adds substance to your interview conversations. You're probably all in different industries, so it's your job to research where to find that information. I like to read TechCrunch, Forbes and The Muse daily, along with a ton of other sites I loop into Feedly to save me time.
Have An Online Footprint
It's 2016, and you know what that means? Everyone should have a blog or a website. A ton of people have both.
These days, when an employer searches your name, he or she wants to see that you exist both off- and online. A website can help you find new opportunities, land better offers and attract press and clients. If you have a super common name, create a brand for yourself or learn simple SEO to help boost your website ranking if there are many of you out there.
It's easier than you think, and it makes you more valuable. That means you, money bags.
Here are a few questions you should know before going into an interview or negotiation:
What are competitive companies paying their employees with the same job title? What is the average salary in your city and state for your role? What is the national average salary for this position? What do you believe you're worth?
If you're comfortable talking money with your friends and family, find out what they've made in a similar role and with your experience. You can find the answers to these questions on Glassdoor and AngelList, or just by Googling the f*ck out of it.
And when in doubt, if you know someone at the company personally (not distant), ask the person, “Generally speaking, do you know what salary range the company pays its [insert title here]?” Every industry has its niche sites to find this stuff. Find yours.
3. The Golden Rule
The golden rule in negotiating a salary is, the first person to say a number loses.
4. Talking About It
Now that you're researched and informed, it's time to talk about it. Here are some phrases that have worked for me and my peers:
As you start the negotiation phase, say something like, “I appreciate you continuing the conversation for this role with me.” Something like, “Based on my research, the range for this position in this industry with competitors is between X and X. Based on my experience and skills, I believe my salary range should be at X,” could be the key to your higher salary. Leave room for wiggling, but keep in mind the first thing the person will hear is the lowest amount you mention.
At this point, the person will say, "I'm sorry, but we can't do this," or "Why do you think you deserve that salary?" To prepare for this, have around seven to 10 strong points on things you have that other candidates don't. This is where you rock the skills you have.
Maybe you've traveled, know a second language or have a skill set most people don't traditionally have in your industry. This needs to be something that makes you stand out. Bring up specifics, and always remember to quantify these things whenever possible. Start with the most impressive, and then go to the least. At this point, the person will make an offer or possibly say something like, “I'm sorry, but X is the highest we can go.” That's where your research comes into play.
Research recent investments or acquisitions made into the company. You need to know before you start negotiating if it even has the resources to pay you what you want. Make sure you know how the company is doing financially.
Say something like, “Would it be appropriate to discuss other methods of pay?” These could be things like a shorter review time. Instead of an annual review, ask for three months, six months or nine months. I'd say three months if you're ballsy and know you can prove your worth in that amount of time.
Say something like, “I will prove to you in X months this is why I'm worth $75,000.” If the person is OK with this, ask him or her what it means to be extraordinary in this position. Write that down, and in three months, overachieve those goals.
Other alternative methods of payment are stock options, vacation time and remote work flexibility. You can even say something that pertains to your role. “I see you recently made this campaign on social media. Here are three things I can do to help this campaign be even more successful.”
If you have a competitive offer, this is usually the best tactic. You can mention you have a competitive offer and say something like, “I currently have offers in the range of X and X.” Interviewers get nervous when they hear this.
Remember, if they're negotiating with you, they want you as much as you want them. Good people are really hard to find. This is where you make it clear that, although you have offers, this is where you want to be. Make it clear why you want to be there for reasons besides money, but the money is still important.
This sounds like a lot, but this is what it takes to get the money you know you deserve. Remember that a $15,000 difference in pay is a lot to a single person, but it's nothing to a company.
Companies have more resources than you'll ever even imagine, especially at larger corporations. You must be prepared before the conversation takes place. Know your stuff. Memorize it. Say it out loud to yourself, to a loved one or to someone in your social circle.
Keep in mind that when you're negotiating a salary that will bypass the $100,000 mark, sometimes the person in front of you isn't the person who can guarantee that. But, that doesn't mean it can't happen.
You need to become comfortable with talking about money. If you're comfortable talking about money with your friends, it can help to know what friends with similar experiences are making at different companies.
Knowledge is power, not a pathway to envy. Know that the more you're open about talking money, the better it is for you and everyone else in regards to equality. But, don't go asking your entire office their salaries at the next happy hour.