Step 1: Realize it’s not about winning or losing
Negotiating is simply making sure that both parties are happy. According to the best-selling book, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, a good agreement is meant to improve the relationship of both parties. Good agreements take into account the interest of both parties and are meant to be fair to everyone involved. In other words, it has nothing to do with winning or losing because everyone is supposed to win. You win because you feel like you’re appropriately compensated, and the company wins because they have a satisfied new employee coming onboard and fulfilling a need.
This one small lesson blew my mind and changed my life. From that point forward I realized that negotiating was just making sure that everyone involved, including myself, was happy.
Step 2: Do your homework
During my time as a recruiter, I saw a lot of people completely fail at salary negotiations simply because they hadn’t done their research before bringing an offer to the metaphorical table. If they were asking for too much and weren’t able to negotiate, we weren’t able to offer them a position.
Jobs and salaries depend heavily on where you are, so you really need to do your research. You may find out that you’re asking for too much money, or that you’re not asking for enough. You can start with the Department of Labor, which has data broken down by locations and industry. You can also try websites like Glassdoor to see what specific companies are paying, or PayScale , to see what you’re worth based on experience and location. Or, if you have contacts in your industry that you know and trust — say, a former classmate who graduated a year before you — you can ask them for advice about starting salaries. The more information you have on your side, the easier the negotiations will go.
Step 3: Know what you bring to the table
Negotiating your starting salary is a bit like sales. Essentially, you’re going to have to prove to people why they should pay you the salary you’re requesting.
For example, if you were working while you were in school, did you go beyond your job duties and edit photos for your employer’s website, saving them the expense of contracting this work to a freelancer? Do you have skills beyond those outlined in the job description? Numbers talk, so the more quantitative examples you can provide, the better. And these examples don’t all have to come from work experience: For example, if you tutored other students on Excel and consider yourself an expert, and if it’s an additional skill beyond what the job warrants, it can help make the case for a higher starting salary.
Stories where you had to step up to the plate also work well. I once negotiated a raise because I ended up covering for a recruiter who simply stopped showing up to work one day. At the time I was only the personnel administrator, so when my boss saw that I was capable of stepping in, I got a promotion and a raise.
Step 4: Consider benefits as part of your package
Benefits are a part of your salary, so don’t be afraid to negotiate those as well, and take them into consideration when weighing an offer. Perhaps your potential employer has an onsite gym, which will save you $50 a month in a gym membership, or maybe your employer will offer to cover your train or bus pass each month. While those expenses may seem small, they add up over time. Also, consider asking for extra benefits, such as another week of vacation or a work-from-home day each week; these personal benefits can make up for the slightly lower starting salary you were offered.
While there is a lot riding on whether or not you negotiate your first salary, it doesn’t have to be terrifying. By using these tips you’ll be far more prepared and better able to ask for what you want.