Cha-ching: How to negotiate your salary and get your money

It is very likely you are making less than a man would (or does). Let that fact sink in, infuriate you and fuel your fire to get your money.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash 

The pay gap is real. In 2017, the World Economic Forum estimated that men made 1.75 times more on average than women globally, and that number is even worse for minorities. Though young women (25 to 34) have made some ground in the last few years, research shows that the pay gap actually WIDENS when we get into our late 30s.

Surveys show that while 83% of women “agree that it’s important to negotiate their salary and/or benefits package,” only 41% ACTUALLY negotiated their offer at their current job. And a recent Glassdoor survey shows that men are 16% more likely to negotiate than women.

Despite wanting to ignore the terrible facts I just told you, it is very likely you are making less than a man would (or does). Let that fact sink in, infuriate you, and fuel your fire to get your money.

Asking for more money can be awkward and daunting, and many of us fear coming across as ungrateful. Here are a few tips to help you confidently negotiate your salary.

1. Do your research.

You need to know how much you’re worth (HINT: you’re priceless). But in all seriousness, get a sense of what people are making for your job or jobs you’re interested in where you live. Glassdoor, LinkedIn, or Indeed are good resources, and state and federal employee salaries are public information. If you can ask people directly within a company or role, that’s even better.

Two years ago, I moved to a new part of my company. There were a handful of people who had previously been in my new role, and I asked them if they could give me a range of salaries for my position. Asking for a range took the pressure off of them to tell me exactly how much they made (which can get awkward!), and it gave me a sense of a reasonable salary for my role. It turned out I was making about 30% less than I should have been. Ouch.

2. Prepare your pitch

Prepare to explain WHY you deserve more money. If you’re asking for a raise, start the conversation by explaining what you have added to the company in the last 6 months to a year, and what you will add to the organization in the future. If you are negotiating an offer at a new job, explain how you meet or exceed their minimum job qualifications, and tell them how you are uniquely qualified to contribute.

I keep track of key metrics I have hit (sales, managed revenue, cost savings) in addition to good management reviews to demonstrate my impact on the company’s bottom line or mission. I then craft a story about how my experiences and role are critical to the future success of the organization based on its strategy or vision. At the end of the day, corporations are trying to increase their bottom line or advance their mission, so I try to justify a raise in their language.

3. Time it right

At your current job, you have the most power after a strong performance review or delivering a critical piece of work. People will listen more in these moments because you’ve proved you’re awesome and they don’t want to lose you.

At a new job, you have the most power after they’ve offered you the job, during initial salary negotiations. They want you to join their team, and can offer you things to get a “yes.”

When I moved to a new team within my company, I learned as much as I could, and worked hard to have an impact quickly. Once I had a few “wins,” including  a good performance review, and armed with the knowledge others had made 30% more than me, I asked for a raise. Within 2 weeks, I heard back from our HR team—they agreed to a 27% increase. If I had asked before demonstrating my success in that role or without my research on how much to ask for, I am doubtful I would have gotten such an increase.

4. Keep Your Mouth Shut (at the right times)

When negotiating a salary at a new job, companies often ask about your current salary or salary expectations, sometimes before you even have your first interview. Answering this question early puts you at risk of getting paid too little if you give a low number, or of getting kicked out of the running because you’re “too expensive” if you give a high number. Some states and cities have even passed legislation that prohibits employers from asking salary history questions because it puts the potential employee at such as disadvantage.

Our best advice is: deflect, deflect, deflect and use phrases directly from this podcast when you start feeling uncomfortable. For example, “I’d rather talk about that when we get to a later phase.” You can also turn it on them by asking something like, “What is the range for this position?” Try not to give a specific range or number until you have an offer.

When Jen’s soon-to-be new boss kept pushing her with phrases like: “Well, if you won’t say what you’re currently making…” she told me, “I committed to not succumbing to the pressure to fill the silence that followed. I explained how much I wanted to be making, and how much I knew peers at my level at other companies were making, and left it at that. I got what I wanted. Plus a signing bonus.”

5. Money isn’t the only negotiating point

Know your BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) — business jargon for what’s your bottom line. Would you really quit if you didn’t get the raise? Or not take the job without a pay bump? Sometimes more money isn’t possible or not what is most important to you. Things like vacation time, flexible hours, professional development/leadership opportunities, or location are all things you can ask for.

During a negotiation where a manager did not seem to be budging on salary, Z, my brother, decided to take a different approach. What he really wanted was to change his role in the company, so he asked his company to pay for 3 months of coding school — and they agreed! The cost of the education was more than the original raise he was asking for, and it propelled him into a new job that he enjoys more.

6. Practice, practice, practice.

Asking for a pay increase can be challenging, so don’t assume you will be good at it upon first try. Practice by yourself, and with others if you can.

Negotiating your salary is almost never easy. When Sarah was 25, she got a job offer for $10,000 more than she had made previously. They asked “is that comparable to your previous salary?” to which she replied, “No, it’s a lot more!” She didn’t negotiate a single penny, and took the job. Don’t be like 25-year-old Sarah. Learn what you, your skills, and your kick-ass drive is worth on the “open market.” Then build up your confidence and practice your butt off. Once you justify your raise to yourself, you can confidently justify it to your employer.

Remember, negotiating your salary can have a huge impact on your financial future — one conversation could be worth thousands of dollars now, and WAY more in the future (thank you compounding interest!).


Written by:

What do you think? (Leave comments here.)