For those of us who are new to the professional world, there are countless new lessons to learn. One of these new lessons that was never covered in any classroom I stepped foot in is salary negotiation. Even the phrase ‘salary negotiation’ sounds intimidating and just so very adult. I always thought it would be an easy thing for me, telling my boss what I thought my services are worth and holding firm to that, but the reality is that I am not an experienced negotiator. In our modern culture, negotiation has been taken out of nearly every aspect of life. We go to the store and pay a fixed price or go online and search for the best deal, but we rarely actually sit down face-to-face and attempt to strike a bargain with another individual. The exceptions I have experienced are buying a car and negotiating salary, but I am even less versed in car buying than I am salary negotiating.
To prepare for the looming salary negotiation I knew was in my near future, I picked up Roger Dawson’s book, The Secrets of Power Negotiating. I took as many lessons as I could from the book into my boss’ office just last week. As with any big life decision, the key is to negotiation is to plan ahead. The three main take-aways in the negotiation planning process are as follows:
- Do your homework. Research the industry standards for a position similar to yours. I used http://www1.salary.com/ to research not only my position, but company size and relative experience as well.
- Consider your strengths. Take into account anything else you bring to the table that a normal employee in a particular role would not. The second phase of planning is to document what you have already accomplished. I started doing this with the goal of proving my worth to my employer, but ended up slowly building confidence in myself. I felt considerably more comfortable walking into the corner office after putting together a list of the projects on which I had a significant impact.
- Work the numbers against your personal budget. Does the salary you are aiming for make sense for your lifestyle, goals, and skill-set? If you go in asking for a deal that doesn’t get you excited, you may not walk away feeling like the position is a long term fit. Set a standard for where you would walk away from the table before even entering the room.
Being selfish probably isn’t the best way to phrase this approach, but in negotiating, you really have to look out for what’s best for yourself. For me, working for a smaller company made this even harder. I knew exactly what budget cuts would be made if I was to get the salary I wanted. At the end of the day, I was able to have a constructive conversation with my boss and outline what I believe to be my value to the company. I walked in asking for a little higher than I was willing to accept and walked out with the offer I was after. If you do your negotiating well, you can walk away feeling like both you and your company are getting a win.
By Greg Burns