Editor's note: This is a guest post from Lisa H. (aka RunningBear) is the founder of Getting to Zen. I liked this article because negotiating can actually be fun if you have the right tools and attitude.
About 3 and half years ago I was in the awkward position of having to negotiate my salary for the position I currently hold. I say awkward because salary negotiation is often the most sensitive issue in the whole hiring process. As I have gotten older, I have become more comfortable discussing what my skills are worth, but I am not yet where I want to be.
Discussing compensation can be uncomfortable for both the employee and employer. You, the employee are trying to get the highest salary that you can for your skills, while your employer is working with a specific budget. However, with a little preparation, you can make the process of negotiating your salary more comfortable.
1. Know your skills
First you must know exactly what your skills are--not kind of what they are--EXACTLY. After all, it is your skills that your future employer will be paying for. If you have been in the workforce for a long time, it may be helpful to write them down so that you don't miss any. And yes, include those skills that are considered obsolete.
You may choose not to put your obsolete skills on your resume, but you should have them in the forefront of your mind in an interview. You see if you know exactly what ALL of your skills are you will be in a better to position to negotiate your salary.
Consider this, the skills you have that match the job description may get you to the interview; however the skills that you have outside of those listed in the job profile may get you the job.
2. Know your proficiency levels
How proficient are you in each of your skills? I don't mean how proficient you think you are (we tend to inflate our ratings), how proficient does the industry think you are. Go to a website like salary.com and look up the job title of the position you wish to hold. Usually the titles are distinguished by proficiency level. For example Technical Write Level 1, Technical Writer Level 2, etc…
Then, look at your list of skills. If there is a skill on your paper that matches a skill in one of the job descriptions, then write the proficiency level next to it. Continue to do this until you have gone through all of your skills. Some of your skills may not have a proficiency level written next to them because they do not fit into the description of the job duties. That is ok.
This should give you a good idea of how the industry ranks your proficiency. If there are skills listed on the job description that you do not have, consider acquiring those skills before leaving your current job or changing your proficiency level.
The point of this is so that you don't go into an interview with level 1 experience and try to negotiate for a Level 4 salary.
3. Do your research
Do your research. I can't stress this one enough. Use resources like salary.com to find out how much your type of job currently pays. Take your job title, level of experience and geographic location into consideration. Some parts of the country, like the northeast pay higher salaries than others. Avoid basing your desired salary on your current salary.
Consider this, not only might you be currently under or overpaid, but your current salary may include inflationary raises, bonuses or other awards you may have received. However, it is acceptable to extend your range to approximately $6,000.
This shows that you are willing to work within the company’s price range but are interested in more compensation. Once you have determined your salary range, deduct 30% from it for taxes to determine your net salary. Use this figure to decide whether you will make enough to cover your expenses and save some. If you find that you do not make enough, you may opt for a different job.
4. Evaluate other currency
Too often people go into an interview solely focused on the money part of the negotiation. Remember, there are many more aspects to consider before accepting a position. Take the commute for example. It might take you 45 minutes to get to that 1:00 interview on Friday afternoon, but what is that commute going to look like on Monday morning at 7:00.
Take the time to consider everything that will be involved in taking on that job. What do the health insurance plans look like? Will you receive tuition reimbursement? How much time off will you get and does the company have a retirement plan? Depending on your needs, you may opt for a lower salary in favor of a benefits package that suits your needs perfectly.
5. Be magnificent in the interview
The best way to become a skilled interviewee is to practice, practice, and practice. Search the Internet for sample interview questions and craft answers to them. Do mock interviews with your family and friends--preparation is key. If the job calls for skills that you lacking make sure that you have examples of how you were able to overcome challenges in the past. Asking questions during the interview also shows your interest.
6. Determine whether the job is a good fit for you
Both you and your potential employer stand to benefit from the dialogue, and you should see it as such. Understanding your needs and those of the company will help you to come to an agreement. However, if an agreement is not possible, thank the interviewer and leave on a good note. Remember, the interview is also a time to see if the company is a good fit for you.
7. Know when the negotiation is over
Pay attention for subtle and not so subtle verbal and physical cues that the negotiation is over. When it is over, avoid pushing points of contention any further. This could make the negotiation awkward and leave a negative first impression on your part. Be positive and avoid taking criticism personally. You are now in a position to either take or leave the offer.
Remember, the interview is only the first step in negotiating your salary. Once you are hired, offer your skills to the company and prove you are worth above and beyond what you are being paid.
Karl's note: I don't like to think of negotiating as painful because it can actually be a exhilarating experience. It's two people who have needs and finding a way to meet in the middle to help both sides succeed. If you go into the meeting dreading the moment it will hold you back from making smart decisions. Try to think of the negotiation as a chance to improve your superpowers of communication. When you see it as growing experience you'll find ways to enjoy the moment and more likely negotiate a higher salary.
Lisa H. (aka RunningBear) is the founder of Getting to Zen, a personal development blog featuring articles on productivity, motivation, inspiration and organization. You can sign up for her RSS feed or follow her on Twitter.
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* Steve of All Things Workplace talks about the difference between sales and persuasion. They are related, but still separate. I guess it really depends on your perspective. Click here to read the whole article.
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* Image courtesy of Pulpolux !!!
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