6 Steps for Negotiating the Salary You Really Deserve

UPDATED: August 23, 2017
PUBLISHED: August 23, 2017

Here’s another one to add to your ongoing “reasons millennials aren’t actually spoiled brats” file: A 2015 study found only 38 percent of millennials negotiate their first salary. And of course, if you’re a woman, those numbers dip even further. Women negotiate only 34 percent of the time as opposed to 44 percent of men. This, despite the fact that 74 percent of employers in the same study said they’d allotted room for an increase.

So what gives? Why aren’t more of us asking for a little more of the pie when it’s there for the taking?

Cue the arguments about millennials being highly non-confrontational and having an egalitarian outlook. But chalking it up to the idea that our hearts bleed even for the tenets of capitalism seems like a bit of a broad stroke, no? As with the gender pay gap and the confidence gap, there are a number of factors at work, but here’s one that seems pretty intuitive: The notion of “entitled millennials” is so pervasive that in a self-conscious effort not to perpetuate that stereotype, we’re not asking for what we deserve.

The antidote? Educating ourselves about what we deserve and preparing ourselves to ask for it. We caught up with two money and entrepreneurship experts on the issue: personal-finance guru and best-selling author Shindy Chen, and Tamara Mellon, co-founder of Jimmy Choo and founder of her new eponymous shoe and handbag company.

Next time you’re getting ready to negotiate your salary, take heed of the below. Because the money’s most likely on the table, and with the right preparation, it’s yours for the taking.

Preparation is everything.

1. Arm yourself with salary data by demographic.

“When you’re asking your boss to give you more money for the job you do, you better come prepared to show why you deserve it,” Chen says. “Visit salary websites such as Glassdoor, Payscale, Indeed and Salary.com. Research your current position, title and role with comparable companies and roles in the same city as you. The last one is huge, because you don’t want to forget that salaries are higher if you live in a more expensive metropolitan city. Compare corporate positions to startups, and then add in considerations such as your seniority and skill level. Even if you’re on the high end, you have to show why you’re worth it.”

At the same time, Mellon adds, your comparative research “shouldn’t define or limit you. Consider the numbers you discover to be a starting point.” And be well-versed in what, exactly, you’re asking for. “Consider non-monetary compensation. Extra vacation days, flexible Fridays. It doesn’t change the bottom line on your checks, but non-cash incentives are a real part of negotiations. Knowing how things compare apples to apples is key here; for example, negotiating an extra two weeks of paid vacation is worth about $4,000 in pay on a $100,000 a year salary. Go in knowing what you want.”

2. Pinpoint foreseeable obstacles and set the table.

“Schedule the time,” Mellon says. “Be clear about what you want to meet about. The element of surprise does not work to your benefit. Be conscious of your supervisor’s schedule and high-pressure times of day, and set your conversation up to have the time it deserves. Put yourself in your supervisor’s shoes. Companies aren’t human, but managers are. Do a mental exercise of what your supervisor values in you. Maybe you’ve stepped into a leadership role with other members of your team, or you’ve become her trusted go-to for projects involving XYZ. Your list of human value is much longer than job deliverables.”

And practice makes perfect: “Be aware of your presence. You communicate a lot without saying a word. Nonverbal cues like touching your hair or playing with your pen can lessen your authority. Ending sentences with the intonation of questions can too. Practice the conversation aloud, and be conscious of what you’re communicating with your whole body.”

When the moment arrives…

3. Sing the song of yourself.

“I have a saying I always like to share with people, and it’s that ‘Numbers don’t lie, but people do,’ ” Chen says. “When you work and do your job at an excellent level, you are providing exceptional value to your company. You should be compensated royally for it. So when you want a higher dollar figure, you need to back up the number you want with actual numbers themselves. Show how your team has grown from x to x. Show how your sales figures went from this to this.

“Demonstrate how your customer service scores blew up the charts. But what if you can’t assign numbers to your case? That’s OK, but you must show your value in other ways: Won any awards or nominations? Received excellent verbal praise internally or from customers? Represented your team or company as a spokesperson on outings or at seminars at your highest level? Trained new hires? All of these extras shouldn’t go unrewarded. Get paid your worth.”

But don’t get too mired down in the past, Mellon adds: “Speak to your potential and what you will do. Your raise determines your pay going forward. With this in mind, your new rate should relate to your upcoming and current projects. Don’t get so distracted by what you have done that you forget to speak about what you are doing.”

4. Demonstrate your loyalty.

“Asking for a higher salary also needs to come with some confidence and belief in not only yourself, but in your company,” Chen says. “Be excited and positive about working with your peers, team and company going forward. Put yourself in the shoes of the employer. Would you want to work with someone who is defensive or combative, or worse, delivers an ultimatum (If you don’t give me X raise… )?”

5. And then go all in.

“Once you’ve spent a few minutes laying your groundwork, get to your point,” Mellon says. “It’s scary to say, ‘With all the things I mentioned in mind, I’d like to ask for a raise. I currently make $A, and I’d like to discuss a salary of $B.’ But that’s the whole point of your meeting, so don’t be afraid to vocalize your ask. And don’t fear silence. This is a key thing to learn in any negotiation in life. A silence after you’ve made a request can be agonizing, especially if you don’t know how the decision will go. But filling silence with nervous chatter or rationale doesn’t do you any favors. Wait for your request to sink in, and your manager to process it. What feels like forever is only seconds, promise.”

6. Whatever happens, keep perspective.

“There is a good chance that your raise will fall somewhere between your current rate and your desired one. This is not failure—it’s progress! You want to leave the conversation with a few things: having had a frank conversation about your value to your company and supervisor; having reached some kind of conclusion about increasing your salary or adding value to your employment agreement; and (this is important) having planted a seed for revisiting the conversation in the future. Whether it’s a review you ask for in six months, or a follow-up after a project, set a stake in the ground to have your value be an evolving conversation—just like your work is an evolving project,” Mellon says.

Now go forth and stack that cash.

Deena Drewis


This post originally appeared on Girlboss.com.

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