Your Guide to Salary Negotiation: Owning the Money Conversation

The prospect of salary negotiation can feel daunting but it’s a crucial aspect of making sure a job is right for you. According to one study, 71 percent of U.S. workers didn’t try to negotiate salary in their current or most recent role, and that number is even higher for women. Whether you’re entering your first job or a seasoned professional, it’s never too late to own the money conversation and implement effective strategies to find salary success. 

Your starting salary serves as an anchor throughout your career. 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 the salary you deserve. This guide will walk you through how to negotiate your salary, follow up with next steps, and maintain strong relationships with employers, no matter the outcome.

Preparation for the Negotiation

Strategy: Address & get past anxiety about asking for money.

Tactic: Give yourself a pep talk about your worth as an employee!

If you’re negotiating a salary for a new job, remember: by the time an employer has gone through the hiring process and decided to make you an offer, they are invested in you. And if you’re negotiating at your current job, remember you’ve already had the opportunity to prove yourself as a valuable employee. It’s important to frame the salary negotiation as a conversation instead of a confrontation. Even though it might feel scary and presumptuous, negotiating may improve your standing in your manager’s eyes

Strategy: Prove your ROI as an employee.

Tactic: Connect your accomplishments to your ask with supporting details.

By taking stock of your previous accomplishments, you will illustrate why you’re qualified and worth the money you’re asking for. These hard facts must speak to your value as an employee. Keep track of your career performance, including revenue generated, projects completed, and other notable contributions.  These tangible, concrete metrics will come in handy during salary negotiations. The more value you’ve created, the more money you can reasonably request.

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Ask yourself:

  • How much have I brought to the company or a previous employer in terms of affecting the bottom line?
  • Have I made the company money? How can my achievements be tied back to the company’s overarching business goals?
  • How have  I directly affected the organization’s  progress in measurable ways?

Strategy: Identify your market value.

Tactic: Research the local job and labor market. Identify your worth based on facts and well-documented sources, not emotions.

It’s important to approach the negotiation as objectively as possible. Build an evidence-based case for your desired salary by focusing on market statistics and the value you bring to the organization. You can establish a baseline market value for what professionals like you are worth by researching comparable job postings and salaries. For your negotiation, you should have a range that you want to land in but ask for the top of that range. Ready to find your market value? Check out Mac’s List’s Salary Research Guide to find reliable online sources of salary data. 

Strategy: Understand the company’s big-picture goals.

Tactic: Present your ask with the company’s challenges in mind. 

If you can figure out your manager’s pain points, or even better – what keeps them up at night – you can establish your value relative to those challenges. Generally speaking, it’s going to be more difficult to get a raise if the organization is on a tight budget, but there are still opportunities for negotiation in these situations. The more you understand the needs of the organization, the better you can empathize with an employer’s priorities and position yourself as a valuable employee.

  • TIP: It’s also a good idea to draft an email before your negotiation that includes all of the above information. That way you can follow up after your meeting with your talking points and document the outcome of your conversation.
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Post-Negotiation Strategies 

Strategy: Outline your counteroffer.

Tactic: Start your counteroffer by outlining the accomplishments and research that support your ask.

It might be impossible to over-prepare for your first salary negotiation. Even if you love what an employer is offering, it’s important to take at least a day to review the offer and prepare your talking points for a counteroffer letter. You’re probably going to be nervous in the conversation, so it’s especially helpful to document what you want to say and bring it to the meeting. One helpful salary negotiation tip is to imagine you’re negotiating for a friend. Studies show that people tend to do better when they negotiate for someone else. Emphasize why you are a strong candidate for the position and why this counteroffer is a reasonable request. 

Strategy: Have a plan B and a plan C.

Tactic: Think about the whole package! Don’t forget you can negotiate your benefits. 

If your employer offers a salary lower than your ask, counter with a request for more vacation, flexible schedule options, or other opportunities that might be easier on their budget but would still improve your life. Your salary is more than a deposit in your bank account – it’s also how a company supports your work-life balance with professional development, work flexibility, and health-related perks. Be creative in your thinking about a solution that will work for both you and the employer. Once you’ve made your ask and given the employer a chance to respond, be open and receptive to their response. 

Finally, be gracious. It’s important to keep your relationship with an employer or potential employer positive, polite, and friendly. Regardless of the outcome, be understanding, appreciative, and grateful for the opportunity to negotiate your salary. If you don’t receive the response you’re hoping for, ask for feedback on how to improve your work moving forward and request a salary review for a later date. The more practice you gain with these conversations, the more you will feel at ease taking ownership of how to negotiate salary offers.

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