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Growing up, many of us were taught that we should look for careers doing what we love. I was told “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” There’s wisdom in that statement but it does leave out one very important thing: compensation. No matter if you’re doing something that you love or something that simply pays the bills, none of us can really afford to do it for free.

Sadly, many don’t feel that they’re being paid enough, according to a recent study done by indeed. According to their findings only 19% of employees surveyed feel comfortable with the amount of money that they’re making. 54% even said they would consider changing jobs to get a pay raise. Results varied by regions as well. People in the Northeast seem to feel the worst about their salary with only 16% satisfaction. Those on the West coast felt slightly better than others at 21%

Regardless of where you’re from, most of us could use a little more money. Lucky for us, negotiating doesn’t start in any particular geographic location. It all starts in your head.


Get your mind right


After a grueling job search, most of us just jump to whatever the salary the employer says. According to a 2018 study done by Robert Half Staffing Firm, only 39% of American workers negotiated their last salary. That’s a shame because Glassdoor estimates the average american could be earning 13.3% more than their current base salary if they did. That is about $7,500, in case you were wondering.

So start with getting out of your head. According to experts cited in Harvard Law School’s blog job seekers tend to make concessions in their own heads before the negotiation even begins. They suggest gathering as much information as possible beforehand so your claims will feel defensible.

That means doing some serious homework. How much does this company pay? How much does this position usually pay? What’s the median pay average? Look up how much positions like this usually pay in your city. A manager’s salary in Washington D.C. may look a little different than a manager’s salary in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Remember that Google is your friend. 

It pays to negotiate your salary. You’re actually not the only one who benefits.

Be prepared to discuss the value you’re bringing to an organization. This is the time to bring up all of those tricks up your sleeve that will help you thrive at this position. Make sure you keep in mind what your job duty expectations are as well. Is the money that they’re offering appropriate compensation for what you will have to do? If not, you may need to debate a higher salary. Don’t do $70,000 worth of work for $50,000.

At the same time, remember that it’s not just about money. The keyword here is “compensation.” Maybe this company can’t offer you an extra $7,000 a year. That can be forgiven if they can offer you some serious benefits or perks that can make up for it.

Choose your style


So you’ve done some research and have a bunch of information on how much this job should pay. How should you approach that negotiation? Well, recent research published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior identified five types of negotiation strategies. Those styles were: collaborative, competing, accommodating, compromising, and avoiding. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to hone in on the two that matter the most: collaborating and competing.

“I am yet to hear someone claim that a salary is nothing but a number.”
― Mokokoma Mokhonoana

Collaborative negotiations focus on trying to find the best possible outcome for both sides. Competing negotiations focus on trying to maximize your own outcomes with little concern for others. As we’ve established, simply choosing to negotiate usually winds up in a salary boost. Researchers say that competitive negotiators got more money on average. Collaborative negotiators were found to be happier with what they got from the negotiation. You will have to choose which approach suits your goals and personality best. But it is clear that sticking up for yourself and negotiating will get you something. So what do you actually say to start all of this?


Practice makes perfect


Well before you arrived at the negotiating table to talk salary, you were preparing for this interview. You likely ran through a few scenarios in your head and prepared answers for some of the difficult questions asked during interviews. That’s a reasonable thing to do for the interview and you need to do the same thing for your salary negotiations.

There are a lot of scripts you can use to discuss salary, but here is the approach this writer is endorsing: simply ask. If you know your job can pay anywhere between $60,000 – $70,000 you can say something like “I was doing some research online and heard that people usually make between $70,000 and $75,000 for this kind of position. Is that true?” This way you can start the conversation in the higher range. Your employer will have no problem bringing down the cost if that’s too expensive or they may give you a new figure in that range. If you still get a number that isn’t tenable try “The cost of living here is a bit higher and I want to make sure I’m focused on this job. Do you think we could do $73,000?”

You don’t have to be aggressive at all, even if you’re using a competitive approach. You and this company are effectively business partners. You want to do work with them, they want to do work with you. This is not a sensitive friend who needs to be handled as gently as possible. You can be respectful while still being firm about what you need. 

“If you don’t value your time, neither will others. Stop giving away your time and talents. Value what you know and start charging for it.” – Kim Garst, Founder and CEO of Boom! Social

Once you’ve got some of your wording down, practice it. Talk to the mirror if you need to, call up a friend and run through it with them, and do whatever you need to do to get ready. The more you practice it, the less weird this will be to you when the time comes for negotiation.

It pays to negotiate your salary. You’re actually not the only one who benefits. Experts are encouraging employers to offer wiggle room to bargain for better salary. They say it could help create a more satisfied and productive workforce in the long run.

So if you’re interested in filling out fewer job applications over your lifetime, you may want to consider negotiating better pay.

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L2W Team Editor

Content contributed by the L2W team

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