Why it’s Important to Negotiate your Salary

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We hear this over and over again, and in my experience working full-time I realize it more than ever why it’s important.

Fabulously Broke wrote a great article about the wage gap between men and women and how negotiating your salary plays a huge role.  You should really check it out.

I thought I’d focus on my personal experience with salary negotiations in this post.

My Story

When I was in my last year of university, I had 2 job offers.  I was a new grad, I was ecstatic that there was someone who wanted to hire me.  One company (A) offered me a base a salary of $50,000 but it was based out of the west coast, and my current company (B) offered me $48,000 was based in my home city.

Research, Research, Research

I talked to my professor and mentor at the time, and asked him what range I should be expecting for a starting salary. He gave me a range of $50,000 to $55,000.

I talked to my classmates who were looking to work in the same field and asked how much they were getting paid and their compensation package.

$50,000 was the median answer with 2/3 weeks of vacation.

Negotiation

I negotiated with B.  I spoke with the principal and told them from speaking with my professors and colleagues in the industry, a starting salary of between $50,000 to $55,000 was fair with 3 weeks of vacation a year.

The principal I was speaking with said he would discuss with his boss and get back to me.  He got back to me said he could not offer me 3 weeks of vacation as that was a seniority thing and it would be unfair to current staff.  Instead of a starting salary of $50,000, they offered a signing bonus of $2,000 and the same $48,000 salary.

I took their offer.

Lessons Learned

Be keen but do not show all your cards.  For another application, I let it slip that I wasn’t too keen on moving out west and the firm that was very interested at first, dragged their feet in getting me my offer and contract papers.  Show your cards when it works to advantage only – such as A is willing to pay me more and offer better benefits.

A signing bonus should not be in lieu of a better starting salary.  Your starting salary is the base of which all your raises will be bench marked against, so obviously a higher starting salary will result in bigger raises (the dollar amount).  If there is a salary freeze one year, you’ll actually be paid less than in your first year (no bonus).

People remember you for negotiating.  The principal who hired me is currently my manager.  2 years later, when we were discussing my performance he reminded me that I negotiated for my salary and that stood out to him.  It took him aback since he thought that as a new grad, I should have been “grateful” for a job offer, but it also made him think that I was going to be able to interact well with clients since I was able to stand up for myself.

Prepare and practice how you will say this.  Saying things out loud is very different than having things in my head.  When I say things out loud for the first time, it usually comes out less clear than how I had thought it.  Try to be concise, factual and have research/proof to back up what your are saying.

Conclusion

Practice makes perfect.  It’s hard the first time, and maybe you won’t get it quite right – like me.  But it gets so much easier the next time, and the time after that.

I think it’s the same approach for women and men, but I feel that whereas for guys, their first instinct is to negotiate, for women, our first instinct to accept.  Maybe it goes back to how women are generally more “nurturing” and don’t like confrontation.

But if we don’t’ stand up for ourselves (man or woman), who will?  I want to be compensated fairly so that I can properly take care of myself, my parents and my future family – what can be more nurturing than that? 🙂

What are some of your tips for salary negotiations?  Please share your lessons learned!

Cheers,

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16 Comments

Filed under Career

16 responses to “Why it’s Important to Negotiate your Salary

  1. I hope I get job offers when I graduate!

    I need to learn how to negotiate salary. Did you tell B about A? Some companies won’t negotiate, but it should definitely be something that I will do when I finally graduate and get a REAL job.

    • I did, but they weren’t really willing to budge for that reason alone since the jobs were located in different locations and the cost of living varied.

      For sure, you gotta negotiate, whether you think the company will budge or not. It may be the biggest raise you give yourself – it never hurts to ask, as long as you know what you are asking for is fair. 🙂

  2. bergiepowers

    Such a good example. I used to shy away from stating what I expected for a wage (totally in that category of thinking I just had to take whatever was offered to me). But, the last two jobs I had, I just went for it and confidently stated what I needed in order to have a living wage. I was successful both times, which surprised me, but also made me realize there is some major girl power to be had out there!

  3. I think this is such an important lesson to learn, especially for women! It’s widely known that women are less forward about negotiating their salary than men, and I think it’s important for us to buck that trend!

    I have to admit I did not negotiate my starting salary when I got my job offer in university. The industry practice is that it is non-negotiable, and I accepted that. Although I probably would not have been an exception to the industry norm, sometimes it helps to negotiate just for being known/making the impression that you value yourself (higher), and therefore your employers should too. When I got my offer for transferring to a different office, I negotiated. I spoke to the head of Asia HR first, who was the one who gave me my offer. Then I spoke to the head partner of Asia-Pacific. We had a one-on-one lunch, and even though he reiterated what I already knew, that the salary offer was based on the same benchmark given to every first year consultant, I know I did the right thing to speak to these various people and make it known to them that I was no fool and I valued myself higher than what they were offering.

    • Good for you for asking and talking to all those people. It can be so intimidating… but I truly believe that we still have to do it. It is only through trials that we learn and grow, right?

      We may not always get the raise, but that is secondary to the process of negotiations. I think you did the right thing by talking to all those people, even if you didn’t take the offer, they know that you know your worth and you won’t let them walk all over you.

  4. I tried to negotiate my salary, but it was impossible — my current job offered so much more than what I was being paid before, plus more benefits and fewer hours. Even though I didn’t manage to negotiate a higher salary, I still feel like I could have done worse.

  5. Thanks for sharing your story. The more women share their stories of salary negotiation, the more talking about salaries will become the norm. The one lesson that I would include is to ask for a salary higher than you think the job should pay. Asking for a range of $53,000 – $57,000 may have helped you get the $50,000 that you had determined to be the right target salary. All in all, you did a great job. Thanks again for sharing.

    • Thanks, Kate. I hope that more women can talk about their experiences so that we may always be able to learn from one another and help each other as we navigate the murky waters of salary negotiations and career.

      That is a great tip! You are right, I should have either gave a higher range or given a bigger range, i.e., stated a range of between $50,000 to $60,000. That way, it would’ve looked “worse” that they offered a mere $50,000 compared to what I asked. Lesson learned and filed away for future negotiations.

  6. Great tips! I especially liked your comment on how a higher starting bonus shouldn’t be equated with a higher base bonus. Nowadays more and more corporations cheap out on the base and bribe employees with other lump sump bonuses, which is actually worse off for the employee, so negotiating a good starting salary right from the get go is important.

    • That’s a lesson I learned after the fact. Because I was offered a higher starting bonus, my company also had a salary freeze the following year :(, not to mention all my raises following were bench marked to my starting salary.

      So make sure you get don’t tempted like me to take the lower hanging fruit 😉

  7. Pingback: Misrepresentation of Women in the Media | fabulously fru-girl

  8. Pingback: Are women burning out by the age of 30?

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