Negotiate Your Salary and Benefits at a New Job or Your Current One

Maybe you’ve received a job offer, or perhaps you think it’s time for a raise in your current job. Or maybe there are changes in your private life — marriage, a new child, caring for an aging relative – that will require more of your time or greater flexibility in your work hours.

Whatever the case, it may be time to negotiate your job package. Most likely, you never covered this topic when earning your advanced degree. So, if your skills are a little rusty, here are some important tools for your negotiation toolkit.

Check Out the Company
First, check the health of the company. If you’ve been job hunting, you may have already done this. If not, or if you want to improve your package at your current job, research the financial stability of the business. For publicly-held companies, check financial filings. Private companies don’t report revenue, but search for the corporation’s name with the term “sales” or “revenue” and you may find some indication. The better the company is doing, the more it might be able to afford to pay. Contrarily, when a company starts counting paperclips, it may be a sign of financial problems and a reason to look elsewhere for work.

Check Out the Market
Research your position or desired position and current pay rates for the market today. There are various resources like that will give you a general idea of where your salary should be based on factors like your education, experience and geographic market. Check out similar-sounding job openings as posted on job sites or association sites. Do a self-assessment of what you’re “worth,” meaning what you’ve accomplished at your current job, what education and credentials you have to offer and any additional skills or value you bring to the table.

Negotiate the Whole Package
Employers take into account everything they offer an employee as part of a single equation. You should as well. Salary, bonuses, titles, vacation time, sick days, continuing education reimbursement, health insurance, computer equipment, and retirement package may all be on the table. Know what is most important to you so that you can make whatever trades might be necessary. But don’t tip your hand in advance. Tradeoffs work best when unexpected.

Be the Last to Speak
Try to get the employer to state its interests or limits first. At worst, you find that they are unlikely to give you what you need. At best, pay and benefits may be better than you might have imagined. If you state what you want and it’s less than what they were prepared to offer, they will likely drop down to your range to save money. Even when a company states a range, it might low-ball the amount as a negotiation tactic, so consider asking for more in any case.

Get it in Writing
It’s great to have a warm chat with an employer, and you may walk away thinking the two of you are agreed on all fronts. Don’t head to the bank until the terms are on paper. Even though intentional deception isn’t likely, two people may misinterpret or misremember the conversation. Whether you get a formal employment contract or a detailed letter offer, you can review the deal and gain some protection at the same time.

Finally, consider reading a book or two on negotiation before you get into a discussion. The better prepared you are for the negotiation process, the greater a chance you have to succeed and get what you want.