How to negotiate salary negotiation is one of the most complex and complicated conversations you can have if you are an introvert. Some people have a natural ability to have these difficult conversations, but we should take deliberate action toward that goal for most of us.
If you have the right tools and resources, you can master this skill and make more money than you ever thought.
Even 5k today can turn into tens of thousands in the future
One of the best ways to increase your salary is to “shop” around. Your salary is no different,t just like you would with a mortgage or car interest rates.
Employers are looking for talent and are willing to pay more if you are the perfect fit.
This may not always be possible, but you should consider it, especially if you are unhappy with your current position.
While switching jobs for higher pay may sound appealing, several factors to consider before you take the leap. Here are a few:
- You will be starting at a new company. This is always a dangerous place to be when economic downturns occur. Companies will be looking to shave their workforce, and the newer people are the first people to go. As a new employee, you typically make the company “lose” money as they train you over the first few months.
- Changing careers often can also be seen as a sign of disloyalty. It is OK to switch jobs for a solid reason, but switching too often can be a potential liability for the company trying to hire you.
- One of the primary considerations for me has been other negotiation factors I can go after. This can include more flexibility, better benefits, more Paid Time Off (PTO), and anything you can think of. Companies that are not willing to lose you easily quickly are top performers
How can you prepare to have this conversation?
You first need to realize that it is not a one-and-done conversation. Negotiating your salary takes time. Be patient.
Before we go into the actual process, it is worth mentioning that this won’t work if you want to increase your salary without the number to back it. I did a ton of research and talked to some friends to ensure I was not out of line.
I approach this conversation a little differently. I believe you need to give, give, give, and then ask. If you immediately ask for a raise on your first day at your job, the most likely answer will be no.
Be patient and work hard to show your value.
Regarding preparing for the conversation, the best way to bring this up is during your annual review. You are almost expected to receive a salary increase during this time.
Listen first to your supervisor’s feedback and provide your point of view. Start getting clues on how others see your performance and how it compares to your assessment.
Sometimes the conversation happens right there, but more often than not, it will occur after your supervisor has time to collect all the information they need to make a decision.
Your job starts months before this call.
Make it know what your career goals are. Are you looking to get a promotion? Are you looking to get more responsibilities?
If you have one conversation, you can expect nothing to happen that day.
Set your career and goal expectations with your supervisor. This will allow you to have a strong case for a raise.
Once the review date starts approaching, research what you think your salary would be. This is critical if you are expecting a promotion or just had a significant career milestone like passing the PE Exam.
You don’t need a dialed-in number that day but a salary range.
I recommend you let your supervisor do most of the talking at the beginning. They will feel heard and will make the negotiation a lot easier.
Depending on your company, they will give you a raise based on your performance review. If this number matches what your research is showing, Great!
If you are an extraordinarily high-performer and have seen surveys that show you have an “average” salary for your position, this is when you want to start the negotiation.
What if the offer is way below market value? Well, that is what I felt when I got my annual raise. I had just passed the PE Exam and was on the verge of a promotion. Surprisingly, the salary increase did not match what the market told me.
Naturally, I went back to the drawing board and started doing more research to make sure I was not missing something.
Have the conversation
The conversation will go more manageable if you have all your numbers ready and evidence that your performance and responsibilities match the salary you expect. I used three resources to gather this data:
- The American Society of Civil Engineer’s annual salary survey
- I talked to close friends that work in a similar field, are at a similar career level, and are near me. This eliminated a lot of variables such as experience level and cost of living.
- Talked to my friend and coach Nicolai Oliden from Engineering You. He has a ton of experience with this type of conversation as well as data to back up his knowledge. He is also a manager, so it was an excellent perspective to have coming into the conversation.
All of this information made the conversation 100x easier. I was prepared, I had evidence of my high performance (based on the performance review), and most importantly, I had the number of back it up.
The more you prepare, the better the conversation will go. It is important to note that the salary is one factor (although very important) that you can negotiate. Sometimes companies are tight on cash and would instead give you more flexibility or PTO.
I highly encourage you to go after a salary raise over other benefits since this will determine future increases. A 10% salary increase on a 50k salary is not the same as a 10% increase on a 70k salary. This compounds, and you will end up making a lot more money in the end.
Salary negotiations are not easy. They take time and effort. Here is the TL;DR of what we just covered:
- Start the conversation 6 to 8 months before your annual review.
- Set clear career expectations where you can show progress and value
- Do your research. Know your market value.
- Come prepared for the negotiation and be open to listening.
- Have a strong case with data, results, and other information to support your case.
- Don’t be afraid to negotiate non-salary benefits.
I hope this has helped you. I was saddened that my market value was much higher than my salary. I didn’t immediately blame it on my company but instead built my case as to why I thought I was being underpaid. This made the conversation more manageable and less confrontational.
At the end of the day, companies are willing to retain employees that show they are an asset to them.
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