As the year's end approaches, so does your review. If you're like most, you're dreading having "the talk" with your boss. You know you're underpaid (especially if you're a woman). You feel the cards are stacked against you, even though you're good at what you do. The job market looks so-so. You're not in the role for long enough. You have no stomach for these things. You have a family to feed and bills to pay. It's not your personality to bargain.
All of a sudden, you are sweating just from thinking. Worry not. All that you need is... PREPARATION (and a glass of wine).
Negotiation isn't some black magic. There's an established process and a language and demeanor that it takes. All can be learned without extraordinary effort.
Negotiation takes good acting. If you're convincing, then you get the thing(s) you're asking for - the role, a raise, then maybe glory. So practice, practice, practice with a friend - or better, with a coach. If needed, fake it 'til you make it.
1. Know what you're worth.
Research Glassdoor.com, Salary.com, industry databases, premium job listings on LinkedIN and other places for how much your position gets paid within your company and by its competitors. Know the industry averages for the same years of experience, education and accomplishments.
Come armed with figures and specifics of what you've delivered since the last review. Know how this compares with the others on the team and in the company. Research what salary, bonus, benefits, etc. you could command in another similar company, perhaps a competitor. Speak to recruiters about similar positions elsewhere to get this information. This process will give you the confidence to ask for what you are really worth. If you're underpaid, you will know what you need to ask for to catch up to where you should be.
Always ask for a specific number ($10K, $20K, whatever it may be that you expect), not just "a raise."
2. Understand the full impact of NOT negotiating. Then start negotiating EVERYTHING.
Missing out on a raise of $10K in your first job out of college can mean missing out on $500K over a lifetime of working just as hard. Conversely, a $10K raise in that first job out can mean earning a whole house-worth, 10 cars-worth, 100 trips abroad-worth or even more, when you compound the interest.
Understand clearly - it's ALWAYS a big deal when you negotiate. It's important the first time and EVERY time.
Practice a Negotiation Mindset with no - or low - stakes.
Bargain for cheaper apples in bulk at the farmer's market. Negotiate a 10% discount at your favorite coffee shop. Go to a Middle Eastern market and bargain hard for every item you buy (it's expected and encouraged there).
With every win, your confidence will only rise to do the same at work.
3. Know the rules. Then push the envelope.
Is your company a startup (especially one that just raised a round of funding?) or is it a large corporation? Startup founders generally have much more discretion to give discretionary raises and bonuses. Corporations often have hard and fast rules around compensation, but even these are very often negotiable.
Ask HR, your team leader or anyone else knowledgeable about internal compensation guidelines. For example, is the yearly raise capped at 3% for next year? Do top performers in the company get a target bonus of 20%? Are bonuses performance-based (fixed at a certain percent) or discretionary to your manager or CEO?
Check your signed offer letter when you joined the company, if it's within the last fiscal year. If something isn't specifically spelled out as a fixed percentage or number (and often, even when it is), then it's always negotiable. Make sure to ask a reputable source, not just listen to internal gossip.
4. Be creative. Salary's not nearly everything.
In case you didn't know, your benefits constitute up to 30% of your total compensation. Health insurance alone can cost upwards of $15K per year for you and your family. How about your cell phone ($1,200 a year)? How about commuter costs ($1,300 in New York for a year of monthly Metrocards). How about a pre-filled FSA to spend as you wish? How about a 401(k) match? Extra vacation days?
Don't get stuck on the numbers for salary and bonus. If they can't raise either of those, push for other things to be covered or paid for. There is sometimes greater flexibility on this than on salary and bonus figures, which are often pre-set by band and performance review.
5. Make it easy for your boss to say yes.
Present your case clearly. Cite specific figures and accomplishments you've had in the past 6 months or year (ex.: negotiated a savings of $300K; brought on $100K of new business; saved the team 100 hours by automating an accounting process, etc).
Quote the average salaries for people in your position in the company, then at competitors and in the industry, at large. Ask for a specific number, title.
Always remain collaborative and friendly throughout the discussion. Never appear adversarial and make it clear this is the only time you're on the other side of the table. Yet, be firm and speak with conviction.
6. Negotiate on behalf of a group, not just yourself.
Are you part of a group of underpaid women at your company? Do you feel you've been passed over for promotions and raises unfairly in the past? Are you negotiating for your family's improved welfare? You are the leader of the cause, so take the mantle and run with it! You'll feel empowered.
When it comes to negotiation, the rule is simple: if you don't ask, the answer is always no. So always ask! You will be shocked how often people will negotiate - even your boss.
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Yuri Kruman is a healthcare entrepreneur, published author and blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com, based in New York.