Salary negotiation can be awkward and uncomfortable. This is especially true when you’ve finally land a job after a protracted search; uncertainty and fear can hold you back from negotiating to get a fair salary. But you don’t have to give in to those fears.
When you know what you’re worth and base that value in proven accomplishments, experience, and results, you’ll be in a great position to negotiate for the salary you deserve. I purposely use the expression “the salary you deserve,” not “the salary you want.”
Why? Because your own wants have little influence over your final salary. While it’s great to have goals, your unfounded salary desires provide almost no leverage, and can actually hurt your credibility, in a negotiation.
So I’ve put together some essential approaches to preparing for your next salary negotiation. The bottom line: ground your argument in your measurable professional value–to your boss, to the organization, and to the market at large. The better you can quantify this value, the easier and more fruitful your negotiations will be.
Here are 4 key ways to prove your value when in a salary negotiation:
Connect your accomplishments to your ask
Prior to approaching your boss for a raise, take stock of your previous accomplishments. This will help you prove your ROI as an employee. Ask yourself:
- How much have I brought to the company or to a previous employer in terms of affecting the bottom line?
- Have I made the company money?
- Do I affect change in some other measurable way?
These are the hard facts that most speak to your value as an employee. The more value you’ve created, the more money you can reasonably request.
Keep track of your own performance over the course of your career. These are the kind of metrics that come in handy in salary negotiations and in your resume.
Get your salary range in the job market
Take time to research the local job and labor market. How easily could your employer replace you? How much time and resources has your employer already invested to find and retain you? The greater your unique (or hard to replace) value, the more likely you are to get a raise.
Likewise, explore average market salaries for people your same position. Check out the salaries in listings for comparable jobs. Salary.com and GlassDoor.com are also useful tools for researching comparable salaries. This information establishes a baseline market value for what professionals like you are worth.
Know the need to negotiate with leverage
Get to know the threats and opportunities your employer faces before you go into negotiation. What does the budget look like? What are the strategic goals for the next year? Where are the pain points? The more you understand the needs of the organization, the better you can position yourself as a valuable employee.
Generally speaking, it’s going to be more difficult to get a raise if the organization is on a tight budget—sometimes there just isn’t extra money to spend. However, there are still opportunities for negotiation in these situations. For example, if you’re the best salesperson in the organization, a revenue-tight environment might be the best time to position yourself as a too-valuable-to-lose resource.
Invest in your relationship with your manager
Bosses are people too, with their own passions and pressures. Try to empathize with your supervisor to understand his or her priorities. If you can figure out your manager’s pain points—or even better, what keeps your boss up at night—you can establish your own value relative to those challenges. The more you showcase yourself as your supervisor’s problem solver the more likely you are to be seen as invaluable, and worthy of a raise.
And remember, salary negotiations are always easier when you have a positive, polite, and friendly relationship with your boss. Empathy goes a long way towards building such a relationship.