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Get a Better Salary — Secrets From a Harvard Negotiating Expert

By Heather Taylor So, you’ve just graduated from college. You’ve been sending out resumes and cover letters nonstop, going on countless interviews, and fielding questions about your future ambitions and why you’re the best fit for this job. Then, that big moment finally arrives and you’re offered a job. Woohoo! You should absolutely celebrate your accomplishment—but don’t relax just yet, young whippersnapper, because you’ve still got more work ahead of you.

You’re about to enter the negotiation phase of the process, and it’s critical to understand what this means for you in the long run. Ed caught up with Professor Michael Wheeler, who teaches negotiation courses at Harvard Business School, to find out what you need to know before trying to make a deal.

1. Think beyond dollar signs.
When students ask Professor Wheeler for his negotiation advice, he gives them a reading assignment: “Fifteen Rules for Negotiating Your Job Offer.” Written by his colleague Deepak Malhotra, it urges both post grads and established workers to avoid focusing solely on their compensation and to think about the bigger picture. That means that instead of haggling over salary numbers during your negotiation, you may want to focus on other non-monetary items, including the job’s responsibilities, work assignments, training opportunities, and promotion schedule. These areas might be more important to your daily happiness than your starting pay—and they might also be easier for a company with a tight budget to swing.

2. Stay upbeat.
It’s important to express your commitment and enthusiasm throughout the negotiating conversation, Wheeler says. A positive attitude will help you build a strong relationship with your future employer, and you’ll be more likely to get what you’re asking for. As Deepak points out in his article, “People are going to fight for you if they like you.”

3. Be ready for the tough questions.
The best thing to do during negotiation is put yourself in the position of the person conducting the interview. That means you should think about what concerns the company has and what you can do to fix them. “Rather than argue why it’s fair to pay you XYZ amount, focus on the unique skill sets you can bring to the table and how those skills can solve the employer’s problems,” Wheeler says.

4. Practice, practice, practice!
If your negotiation skills are rusty or fairly nonexistent, Wheeler recommends practicing beforehand with friends. It may feel awkward, but it will help you anticipate the company’s needs and better prepare you to advocate for yourself. Ask your friend to pay special attention to whether the verbal and body language signals you’re sending are effective or not.

Psst, whippersnappers! If you’d like to learn even more negotiating secrets, Professor Wheeler’s next online course on unlocking your value in the real world starts in September. Applications are due on September 11, so apply now!

Heather Taylor is a former entertainment writer turned brand mascot aficionado (and head writer) for Advertising Week’s Icon Blog. She shares her thoughts on pop culture at HelloGiggles and has been published in Brit + Co, The Drum, and BettyConfidential. Chat with her about anything from SNL to the Pillsbury Doughboy on Twitter @howveryheather.

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