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How to Get the Salary You Want (and Deserve)

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Even if you’ve sailed through the interview process and are already picking out new stationery for your desk, there is still one last challenge you have to face before starting a new job: the salary negotiation.

Salary negotiations are a game of strategy; your new employers would like to get you as cheaply as possible, you would like a new car and a house in Gigiri. It can be daunting, especially as the wrong move could mean that the job offer is subsequently withdrawn because you are “too greedy.” Still, there are a number of things to bear in mind while discussing your salary.

Know Your Worth
You know the position and responsibilities that your new job will entail, but how much is the work actually worth? You need to have a rough idea of how much people in similar positions earn across the industry. While many people consider discussing their salaries vulgar, you should be able to get a general idea by the cars they drive, the number of times they eat out, how much money they’re able to spend on holidays, the schools their children go to, etc. This gives you the ballpark figure that you should be aiming for, but be careful…

Adjust Your Expectations
Even if you know how much people in your field generally earn, you need to tailor your salary both to your personal circumstances and to the company you’re going to be working for. Are you fresh out of education with no previous experience? Is the company a start-up or a long-established business? Are there any additional benefits or perks that you will receive in addition to your basic pay? Will your new position be a step up or a horizontal move for your career? All of these will have a bearing on whether you should be asking for more or less money. Rather than taking the industry average as gospel, treat it as a figure that you can work around, not from. This is especially true if you’ve been working abroad and are now taking a job at home. The cost of living is different; change your ballpark figure accordingly.

Don’t Be Specific
As I said, the salary negotiation is a game of strategy, and once you have named a figure, the ball is in the employer’s court. If you are asked how much money you expect to receive, don’t mention a number. In fact, don’t even ballpark it. Instead, say that you’re thinking about the overall employment package that you’ll receive, and that the salary is a negotiable part of that. If you’re asked for your current salary, again, say that it is part of an overall package. Force the employers to make the first move and name what they think your salary should be. This gives you a base point to work from, because that amount is what they think they can get away with. If they want you, they’ll go higher.

Consider Total Compensation
Your salary may not be the only payment or benefit you’re entitled to, so keep this in mind when you’re negotiating. Are there any perks that you might be entitled to? Can you use company computers for personal business? Can you get a new laptop or an interest-free loan for a new car? Maybe your new employers are happy for you to work from home a couple of days a week; are they willing to chip in for your internet bill? Are there any club memberships or insurance schemes that you will be enrolled in when you join the company? Each of these things has a value which is a part of your overall compensation. So while your salary is a very important part of the employee package, consider also the value of the additional benefits that you will receive.

Don’t Demand
You applied for this job and were interviewed. That means that there are other people who are willing and able to do this job. Unless you’ve been headhunted, you are not the only candidate uniquely able to fill this role. If you’re too pushy, the employers will walk away (which is why you haven’t resigned your current job yet, right?). You know how much your job is worth, but that doesn’t mean you can simply present it as a fait accompli and expect to get it. Haggle. Start with a preposterously high figure that you yourself know that you would be lucky to receive and be ready to move down from there.

Show Your Worth
Make sure the employers are aware that you know how much people in similar positions earn. Then show them why you deserve at least that, if not more. Bring up all the things that aren’t in the job description that you could do for the company. Tell them about the marvellous ideas you have that will generate massive profits (not in too much detail, mind. You don’t want them stealing your ideas). Highlight all of the features that made them want to hire you in the first place. Use facts and their own words against them. Build a case. If one of your best friends were in the room, acting as your cheerleader, what would they say? What would your current boss say about what you contribute to the team? Make sure that you leave the employers with the impression that letting you walk away would be a huge mistake.

Be Willing
You’re a strange fish if you’ve applied for a job you don’t actualy want. Once you start negotiating salary, the job is within your grasp and it would be terrible to lose it now. If the employers laugh in your face when you name a number, smile and tell them that the figure is a starting point for negotiations and that you’re willing to revise it. Ask them what they consider to be a more reasonable amount. If they’re trying to screw you over basic salary, squeeze them on benefits. See how many extras they’re willing to throw in if you accept a lower amount. If the perks aren’t impressive, press for more money. There needs to be give and take on both sides, however: they will give you more money if you drop your demand for a BMW. If you’re willing to accept less money, they might cover your petrol expenses.

While all of this may seem very straightforward, it is much harder in somebody else’s office as you’re gambling for the future of your career. So practice. Negotiating is about getting what you want without having to give to much to the opposing side. Just as armies do drills because combat is no time to start learning how to fight, you need to be ready to plead your case before you’re asked to. Don’t wait for a job opportunity to present itself before you start thinking about it. In fact, if you’re brave enough, you could ask your current boss for a raise instead. The worst that could happen is that they’ll say no.

[Image by Sami Keinänen]


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