Money, can’t live with it, can’t live without it. Salaries shouldn’t be important when it comes to accepting a job offer you really want, but unfortunately, we need money (and lots of it these days) to get by. Between rent, buying a new professional wardrobe for said job, phone bills, food, and other expenses, your paycheck will go down the drain fast. An important skill to have when entering the job market is knowing how to negotiate your salary, so both you and your boss are satisfied and you don’t end up living in your cubicle.
The first step is self-evaluation. This part is tricky because you have to get a sense of what you are worth—and no, this doesn’t include all the chores you did around the house as a kid or what a good person you are. You need to think of your skill set and what you can bring to the company you’re working for. This is more than just considering if you can do the job—you got the job, so hopefully you can. It’s about progress in your field, striving to do better, making recommendations and if you’re willing to go beyond the work requirements. Professionals recommend that you keep track of your progression, making a file of your best work and any recognition you receive. If you really have no idea how to begin to consider what you are worth, there are even websites like PayScale and Vault that will determine a reasonable salary for you based on the company, your location, and other factors. You should also talk to colleagues and people in similar job positions elsewhere to get an idea what an average salary for your work looks like. Ultimately, doing your job, doing it well and going beyond what you have to do will give you more leeway in your negotiation.
Another important aspect to keep in mind is to not walk into the job offer with big money signs going off in your head. Consider yourself lucky to have a job in this economy, and don’t expect a certain salary just because you used to make it with your own company or it’s the amount you want to make. Don’t suggest a salary to your employer before they even lay an offer on the table. Your new employers don’t even need to know what you used to make, though sometimes they’ll ask for a range. Since salaries can be a touchy subject, try to keep this conversation for the post job offer period. When they propose a salary to you, think of all the research you did ahead of time. Consider your worth, what others are making and compare the marks. If it’s close to what you expected, congrats! You got a job and you don’t have to sweat through some awkwardness of negotiating. If it’s too low, it’s time to get polite and reasonable.
Discuss with your employer the work you did before the job offer. Convince them of your worth and why you are worthy of such an amount. It will also help to tie in your knowledge of what other people are making in a similar job position. A lot of people are afraid to negotiate because they think they’ll come off as rude or too aggressive. It might feel awkward at first, but being assertive isn’t necessarily bad as long as you speak to your employer politely and don’t get too demanding. Negotiating will not lose the job—unless you’re completely unrealistic or rude to an extreme. Keep in mind, not all companies will be able to up your pay simply because they don’t have the means. In this case, ask your boss about the potential for raise evaluations when possible or the opportunity for bonuses. Don’t automatically assume you can’t take the position because there isn’t enough money in it for you—unless there is absolutely no way you can live off of the offered salary.
The best thing you can do in approaching your boss to discuss a salary is to be honest with yourself and with them. If you know you deserve more than you’re making, don’t be afraid to speak up and show off all the hard work you have done for the company or what you are capable of doing. Be realistic about what you think you should be making and what the company can afford to pay you. Further, even if your salary itself can’t be made, ask about bonuses or later raises with evaluations that can boost you to the amount of dough you always wanted and more.
Good luck and may the best negotiator…have lots of money!