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How to Negotiate Your Salary as an Employee

There’s no doubt about it – employers control the American workplace. From deciding when you have to arrive at work, what you have to wear, and when you must permanently leave, employers dictate most things. That’s why it’s important for employees to take advantage of the few things they have a say in. Negotiating your salary is one of those things.

You have to see an increase in your salary as a cumulative benefit. What seems like a minimal increase, or an amount “not worth bringing up,” can end up being a substantial amount after a series of pay periods. Better yet, an increase in pay serves as a basis for all of the raises that come after. If you’re successful during your first negotiation then it puts your boss on notice that you’re going to expect more raises, and are capable of explaining and convincing him/her as to why you deserve them.

So now that we got the “why is it important to negotiate” out of the way, now it’s time for some useful tips on how to successfully negotiate your salary:

Have a figure in mind. When you meet with your employer, there are a lot of things that can come up, many of which you can anticipate. First and foremost – have a number in mind. Not having a set amount in mind leaves the door open for your employer to control the conversation and adopt an amount that seems fair to them. If you enter the room with a salary in mind then that can limit how low your employer will go.

Do a little research. This one ties into the tip above. Not everyone has the luxury of looking up the salary information of their employer on Glassdoor. For those that can certainly do. A more reliable way of finding out the goods is to ask fellow or past employees. Although most people avoid asking their coworkers how much they earn, it’s okay to ask your colleague (depending on the relationship) how often and what percentage raised they have received.

Barter a bit. It’s okay to be creative when it comes to salary talks. One way of doing so is offering to give something up. If you went on three vacations this year then why not offer to give up your vaca days for the following year? Okay, maybe that’s a little unrealistic but there may be some fringe benefits you’re receiving now that you wouldn’t mind giving up for a boost in pay. You could always offer to put in more hours if it gets to that point too.

Practice, practice, practice. Definitely the most obvious tip, but one that is often neglected. Although it’s difficult to get on-demand experience negotiating a salary, there are practical ways to develop the skills you need. My favorites are thrift shops and sidewalk sales. Have a little fun with it. If the funky lamp that you like is $10 in an antique store go up to the counter and say you’ll take it for $1. Do the same thing at a thrift shop and this time ask $5 for another $10 item. Reflect on the impact that your starting price had on the final price and also the differences in the way both clerks negotiated.

Show them what they would be missing. Be prepared to answer: why do you deserve this? Remember that you want to have your key points down pat, but don’t rehearse so much that you sound scripted – no one likes that. Bring up the strengths that go beyond your work skills. If you provide comic relief at work then it’s certainly appropriate to crack a joke or two during the meeting.

Take another bite at the apple. “Now is not a good time for this” doesn’t have to end the conversation. At that point, you can try and prove to them that losing you would be a much bigger problem for them than giving you a raise would. People respect persistence so don’t shy away.

Lastly – remember that the person on the other side of the table has been in your shoes. Although asking for more money can be an uncomfortable moment, keep in mind that everyone does it – even the person before you. You shouldn’t feel apprehensive or embarrassed. After all – there’s a limit on how much you can spend, but there’s never a limit to how much you can earn.