Top 10 Tips: Negotiating Your Salary

1) Don’t be afraid to ask. The worst that can happen is your employer says ‘no’. You need to ask in the right way. When negotiating, always consider the opposing perspective. To a company, you are an asset with an attributed value. Understand that value and be prepared to defend it. Asking for an increase because someone else got one is naïve (and isn't going to work). Asking for an increase because you have a track record of exceptional performance, have taken on more responsibility, or shown dedication/loyalty to your firm consistently are better reasons to warrant a raise and will more likely to be received favorably. 

2) Imagine you are asking on behalf of others. Research shows that women are better at negotiating for others than they are for themselves as such behavior is consistent with conforming to the female gender role.  Be objective when preparing your argument and ask yourself what points you would argue if you were on the outside looking in.

3) Research. Make sure you have done some research to investigate the market rate for an individual with similar experience and education to validate your argument. Don't rely on Glassdoor, or Adzuna - as much as they want you to believe it, your employer won't appreciate an email from a website that has scanned your CV to tell you what you're worth. Gather as much information as you can by speaking to internal and external recruiters, colleagues, mentors and industry experts to find out if they think you have a valid argument  (rather than asking them what they are earning and trying to compare yourself to them). Perfect your pitch by telling them all the reasons why you think you are being undervalued and gather feedback. Not everyone will agree with you, but that's okay, too. It's good to start building resilience. By doing your homework, knowing what salary your role is currently advertised at, and knowing what you want - you will always have a better argument. 

4) Establish your minimum value. This could be your perceived market value (having done your research), your current salary or the amount you absolutely need to maintain your current lifestyle. It’s pertinent to know this going in so you can avoid agreeing to something in the heat of the moment that you would not have. Think about what compromises you are prepared to make and whether it is the right time to make them. Be prepared to walk away if your minimum value is not similarly valued by your employer. Sidebar: avoid pulling the ultimatum card during negotiations.  Try keeping that card close to your heart until you've established that you've lost the argument and only if you have a contingency plan.

5) On that. Have a contingency plan.  There is no better way to prepare for salary negations (or any decision that carries a lot of weight or makes you even slightly anxious, really) as 'scenario thinking'. It is as easy as it sounds, and can be as detailed as you like. E.g. I ask for a pay rise. Negotiations ensue. 

Scenario 1: Boss says 'yes'.
Scenario 2: Boss says 'no'.
Scenario 3: Boss asks me to 'prove why' in some way or another. 

Have you considered all of the outcomes? How do you envision yourself reacting (emotionally) and responding (verbally)? What is your next move? This is an exercise that will really help you. 

5) Establish your target. What would be a fair and equitable outcome? Base this number on an ambitious assessment of what you think you are worth and your research on market averages. 

6) Open ambitiously but credibly. In other words, open slightly higher than your target. Women tend not to be as ambitious in what they ask for (you should read this: 'Nice Girls Don't Ask'), which is part of the problem and reason the discrepancy exists. Asking for a little more leaves room for negotiation but it also allows you to explore what they are willing to offer. In the same vain, don't be unreasonable - you want your employer to take you seriously. Lead the negotiation with the reasons you bring value to the firm, focusing on a combination of past wins, your potential and your passion rather than your (slightly higher) target. 

7) Anchor. The first number on the table sets the context for both sides of the negotiation because the brain aligns to the first number it sees (this is a cognitive bias called the anchoring effect). With that in mind, understand that the person who makes the first proposal is more likely to get what they want. So get in first. Expect your employers first proposal to be just as ambitious as yours, but in the other direction. It may not be, but its always better to be prepared and understand the logic behind their thinking. 

8) Be flexible. Be prepared to be flexible between your minimum value and your target value. Understand that monetary negotiations are not the only variable in play. Think about what else could improve the overall package if you settled for something in the middle. This could be in the form of a performance bonus, a sign-on bonus, an expense budget, investment in training or education and other benefits. What is it that you are really after?

9) ‘No’ doesn’t mean ‘no’. And you are going to hear it in negotiations so don’t become disheartened and lose focus when a proposal is denied. Chose to see an initial rejection as an opportunity to suggest alternatives and redirect the conversation. Explore how they as your employer can get closer to what you want and set measurable and transparent targets to help you get there.

10) Believe that you are worthy (and you're half way there). Women are less inclined to self-promote and are said to speak more conservatively of their achievements. To counter this, you need to become more comfortable with talking up your wins. A good exercise is to keep a diary of your small wins , and find the time each Friday to tell someone close to you (or even a complete stranger on the tube home) what you've achieved this week. 

So, what are you celebrating this week?