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How to negotiate Your Salary at Every Stage of Your Career

By Jamé Jackson

One thing we’re always told when dealing with salary negotiations for a job is to NEVER leave money on the table. So how do you navigate the talk, especially when you’ve been at your job for a long time?

Enter Tonya Rapley, Founder and CEO of MyFabFinance.com, a leading financial education and lifestyle blog for millennials who want to become financially free and do what they love.

Why should you negotiate your salary when offered a job?
Even when the offer seems great, you should always negotiate. A lot of companies nowadays will try to offer you the minimum amount so they can come in under what their yearly budget is. What happens is a lot of people assume that the number they’re being offered is the most that they can get, when most times, there’s room to get more.

Negotiations ensure you’re getting the most money they’ve set aside for your division, but I also believe effective negotiations prove the level of respect they have for you and you have for yourself. If you can properly negotiate for yourself, they know you can advocate for things you care about. It also puts you in a position to show your tentative employer that you could become involved in the decision-making process of other company things down the road. It leaves the conversation open of what you need and what you’d like, and it sets it up for good things later.

Is there any way negotiating can be too bold?
It’s all in how you ask. You want to be tactful in the request, definitely not abrasive. ‘Professionally respectful’ is always the way to go. At the end of the day, if you do not constitute your worth, other people will set it for you. You have to advocate for your own interests.

What should a whippersnapper needs to know when going into salary negotiations?
For a new hire, do your research. Find out what that salary commands regionally and nationally in your job fields. Have a clear understanding of what your responsibilities are going to be. Internally, you need to decide what you’re willing to take to do the job and what your finances can handle. Also, you should do the research on the benefits package. What are the benefits outside of salary that are negotiable? It’s not just about salary and the base pay.

Also, know the key players when going into salary negotiations. Find out who has the power to make those decisions because you want to keep them in mind.

Aside from salary, what other benefits can be negotiated?
You have equity, 401k, vacation time, stock options and so much more that you can negotiate. These are all just as important to the package as your salary.

What are things you should DEFINITELY say during the negotiation?
You should relate the skill sets you have to the position at hand, so you can relay why you’re more qualified and deserving of the salary that you say you want. It’s not selling yourself—it’s selling your skill set to be an asset to that company. When you’re having that convo, be sure to show not how their salary is helping you, but how their properly compensating you sets them and their company up for a better outcome. Directly relating why you’re valuable is key, but walk a line. Don’t be entitled to a salary or extremely boastful of what you do. But still remain assertive.

When should you settle and how do you determine when to walk away?
Weigh the pros and cons. If you’re interested in the position and it’s beneficial for your career and goals, weigh out if the pay is worth the work. During the negotiation process, say you’re flexible and work it out. They may not have the funds at the moment, but have it in six months. Also, it’s possible to take the job and continue to look while you get back up on your feet if you’ve been unemployed. Just weigh the pros and cons and figure out what is best for you short term and long term.

What are some steps you can take if you’ve been in your role for some time and didn’t negotiate?
Request a performance review. That gives you space to open up to your employer about requesting a salary discussion. You can also go through HR and ask them, based on company culture, what’s the best way to go about requesting a pay evaluation. You may have to wait till that yearly review to ask for the salary increase, but one thing I will say: if you do get that performance review and want to talk salary negotiations, you should have by then kept a ledger with everything you’ve done since joining the company and your worth to them. You’re also in a good position to negotiate because you will have established connections in the company and will hopefully have people who can attest to your work.

For those who take a low-paying job to start, what are some finance tips on budgeting your income?
It’s not stretching your money out. It’s adapting your lifestyle to your income. It may mean you can’t dine out with your friends as much or adopting a ‘Keeping Up With the Joneses’ mentality. You could pick up a side hustle and freelance opportunities to supplement your income as well. Regardless, you can’t stretch zero. You just have to reduce your lifestyle and make the proper adjustments.

Any other negotiating tips you can add?
Don’t get so excited that you forget to negotiate. Every company is different and can have resources that are helpful to you and your career trajectory.

Jamé Jackson is a freelance writer in New York City. She loves all things fashion, beauty, and #GirlBoss related. She can be seen spreading her magic on Instagram @Theblondemisfit and her website, Theblondemisfit.com.

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