How To Negotiate: Career Essentials

Most people who are part of the workforce will find themselves needing to negotiate with an employer at some point or another. Whether it’s for a higher salary, better benefits, more time off, or flexible hours, every person has wants and needs that are different from their colleagues. An excellent salary or benefits package for one person will be a poor salary or package for another. This is why it’s so important to go into your career knowing exactly what you want.

If you’re new to the workforce or just starting out in a new field, you might not know immediately what you’re looking for; this is normal. Negotiations can happen at any point during your career. They are not exclusive to new positions, so never be afraid to ask for more even if you’ve been with an employer for months or years. There is an art to negotiation that anyone can learn with some practice.  


1. Decide What You Want


Going into a negotiation without knowing exactly what you want is the opposite of setting yourself up for success. While knowing what you want doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get these things, having clear expectations going into the negotiation will make you more confident. You’ll be able to defend exactly why you believe you deserve whatever you’re asking for more of. It also makes you more prepared for compromise. Your employer might give you a counteroffer, such as not raising your salary but offering more vacation time instead. If you haven’t set aside the time to think about alternative outcomes, the negotiation might throw you for a loop. The outcome could be accepting an offer that isn’t great or one that you don’t really want.


2. Know Your Dealbreakers


When negotiating, it’s essential to prioritize what factors are most important to you and have your dealbreakers figured out. Is the salary most important to you? Or do things like time off, stock options, and a good retirement plan matter even more? Sometimes you can have it all, but many times you’ll have to give up something in one area to gain something else in another. If you go into a negotiation wanting it all, you may be seen as greedy or unwilling to compromise. At times, this can mean not getting anything you want. 


3. Pick The Right Time To Negotiate.


The absolute best time to negotiate is when you’re switching to a new job. However, there may be times you need to negotiate in your current position. Perhaps the company has added on even more responsibility to your job description, or you’ve been there for years without a raise. If your company is going through a busy or stressful time, it probably isn’t the right time to ask for negotiation, but you can always bring up the idea for a future conversation. Consider asking a few months in advance from when you’d like a raise, more benefits, or paid time off. That way, your employer will be expecting a conversation in the near future without having to worry about it during a busy quarter. 


4. Use Your Skills And Experience To Your Advantage


When negotiating, it’s important to emphasize why you’re asking for more. Employees who aren’t bringing much value to the company will have a harder time convincing their employer that they deserve a better salary or benefits. On the other hand, employees who have a lot to offer and are performing well within their role will be able to emphasize exactly why they deserve what they’re asking for. During the negotiation, highlight what makes you unique and sets you apart from other employees. Essentially, you want to convince your employer that you have earned the right to ask for more.


5. Be Open To Compromise

Asking for negotiation doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be walking away with what you asked for.

A big mistake many make is not being open to compromise, even though that’s exactly what a negotiation is. Remember that your employer has certain guidelines they have to abide by, such as a budget.

This may mean that even if your employer can’t offer you a more competitive salary, they may be able to give you a great benefits package. You should be honest with your employer if there is something you’re unwilling to compromise on, as should they. Honesty ensures that both employer and employee are getting the best fit. 


6. Set Fear Aside


It is completely appropriate and even expected to negotiate salary and benefits, so don’t let yourself be convinced otherwise. Of course, if you’re asking for something that’s unreasonable or isn’t in line with your skillset, then you can expect to be turned down. However, if you go into a negotiation knowing what you deserve, and why, there is no reason to be afraid or embarrassed.

The worst thing that can happen is being told no. Keep in mind that being told ‘no’ at one point doesn’t mean the answer could change down the road. If you have an unsuccessful negotiation, ask for a future follow-up and set a date to try again. The reality is that people are often successful in getting what they want, but those who never bother to ask will never get more. 

If you’ve never negotiated with an employer before, the prospect can be daunting. The reality is that it doesn’t need to be. Consider practising with a friend before approaching your employer to make the process less intimidating. At the end of the day, the more prepared you are and the more you know what you want, the better off you’ll be.

Whether you’re searching for a new job or have been in the same position for years, negotiation is for everyone. Don’t hesitate to ask for what you’re worth; the right employer will be willing to compensate you for everything you have to offer.

If you’re interested in learning how to negotiate and sell yourself, book a one-on-one coaching session.