Arrrgh. It’s that awful moment (for too many of us) when we realize it’s time for salary negotiation. Younger employees and women are even more hesitant to talk about money than most men. But if you don’t take your salary into your own hands, you’re dooming yourself to reduced income, benefits, raises, and ultimately, retirement income. Instead, let’s talk about how you can get past the jitters and make the most of this opportunity.

Good negotiation skills are important whether you’re hoping to land a new job or hoping to land a raise.


You think you’re worth it, but do they?

Self-esteem is good, but employers need to know your value is higher than your cost. It’s not personal, it’s about your performance. Be prepared to outline how you have helped the company thus far. Or remind them how hiring you will benefit the company.

Before you even start talking about salaries, you need to clarify in your own mind what your bottom line number is. This is your monetary line in the sand. You will walk away from anything less. Identifying this figure ahead of time can boost your sense of self-worth. And it will keep you from giving in to a lower salary that will make you unhappy later on.

If you’re considering asking for a raise from your existing employer, you should also have a number in mind. Backing up your request with facts and figures will give you the best shot. You may not get as much as you want, but you’ll get nothing if you don’t ask.


When to reveal your number (or not)

There are two schools of thought here. Some experts recommend an up-front approach to revealing your bottom line. Wait to receive an offer. If the company offers a salary below your bottom line, you should let them know the minimum amount you will accept. It’s up to them to meet it or not. This eliminates the potential embarrassment or frustration of a back-and-forth exchange. Haggling is for the street bazaar, not salary negotiation.

Other experts say whoa! Revealing your number too soon is the worst mistake you can make. For one thing, once they know the least you’ll accept, an employer has little incentive to offer you more than that.

Compensation is a total package

Salary is just one component of your compensation. Tangible and intangible benefits matter as well. In some cases, these points may be more important to you than the salary. For instance, the pay sounds great, but vacation is miniscule or inflexible. You’ll want to consider:

  • Health insurance – does the company pay, or will you?
  • Time off – the number of vacation, sickness and personal days
  • Work schedules – can you work remotely if you want? Or change your hours?
  • Promotion opportunities and timeframe
  • Reimbursements – for professional development, auto expenses, etc.

Are you losing ground in any of these areas if you switch jobs? You can use that information to negotiate. Maybe the commute is farther, which will cost you time and money. Or the cost of living is higher in the new location.

On the flip side, remember that “benefits” are called that for a reason. They cost your employer money, but they augment your salary. The right package of benefits could offset a less-than-stellar salary, but only you can determine that.

Salary negotiation need not be a nerve-shattering experience. It should leave you feeling justifiably proud of yourself for your professional approach. So marshal your facts and stand up for yourself. You may be pleasantly surprised how well things go. But don’t take the company’s response personally if things don’t go your way. If you can’t arrive at mutually agreeable terms, be polite and know this wasn’t the right match for you after all.

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