After the pains that are job hunting and interviewing, getting an offer can naturally feel like a major relief. Yet that's not actually the end of the process, as there's still the dreaded task of figuring out the best ways to negotiate for a higher salary — because yes, you should always negotiate. A study from the Journal of Organizational Behavior found that people who fail to ask for higher pay lose an average of $500,000 over the course of their lifetimes. The good news, though, is that a Bank of America Better Money Habits Millennial Report discovered that 80 percent of millennials who’ve fought for raises in the past two years actually received them. If that isn’t an excuse to ask for what you’re worth, I don’t know what is.
“My biggest advice for young professionals looking to negotiate for a higher salary is to avoid shying away from that kind of dialogue," Kat Cohen, Ph.D., CEO and Founder of IvyWise, and author of The Truth About Getting In, tells Mic. “Whether you’re about to accept a new job and looking to bump up your starting salary or searching for a raise after years of employment, you need to initiate the conversation and then really prepare thoroughly for the discussion.”
Even if you touched on salary requirements during the interview process, you never know where the hiring manager will ultimately land, so it’s important to have both a negotiating strategy in place and an ideal number in mind. And while there’s no one tried-and-true formula for salary negotiation that works across the board, there are certain tips that can literally pay off. Here are six key pieces of advice from people who managed to successfully negotiate their salaries after accepting job offers or won raises once they proved themselves at work.
Get other people's opinions
After getting a job offer with a lower salary than he wanted, data analyst Ethan Vidensky sent the company a note saying that he was unable to take the deal due to his previous career experience and expectations for the role, but that he'd be "open to accepting a more competitive offer" if that was a possibility, he tells Mic. They responded by asking what pay he wanted instead, and after some "back and forth with my brother, parents and friends from school," Vidensky says, he came back with a number that fit his needs — and the company OKed it. Says Vidensky, "[I] definitely didn't do this all myself."
Keep a paper trail
"I was working on a huge project with a client and had taken it on at a super low rate because I wanted the experience. But then after working together for a year, I began to feel like I was betraying myself by not asking for what I truly felt the work was worth," recalls Anna Rosenfield, editor and learning specialist. "To prep for the discussion, I made a list of all of the deliverables I had worked on that year, with all of the feedback and then impact that came from them."
Rosenfield also saved emails and texts that contained positive feedback, so that she could reference them during negotiations. "This helped me get into the mindset and feel good about what I was asking for because it was clear that I had really done some great stuff," she explains.
She also "wrote out a brief script" of the planned conversation, so that she could have prepared responses to anything her boss might ask. "I also did a lot of research on what the standard rates were for my role based on experience and context, and referred to that. This gave me the confidence to back up my request and affirmed that what I wanted made sense based on where I was coming from," says Rosenfield.
Prove you're valued elsewhere
After freelance concert aid Jason Greenberg realized that he could make triple the amount of money his friend was paying him for by working with other promoters, he decided to take action. "Six months in [to working for my friend], I said 'OK, we need to talk,'" he recalls. "I told him the very minimum he could pay me was $80 because I was doing the same gig for less work and more money for other companies, so he needed to match me."
To Greenberg's relief, the friend agreed without issue: "he now respects the level of work I'm willing to put in for what I'm getting paid."
Stand your ground
"I was up for a position a little while ago that I was really interested in, but the pay wasn't great and was, in their words, non-negotiable," says Ashley Joseph, freelance writer and editor. She asked for a significantly larger salary, but the request was turned down. Yet instead of backing off, Joseph told the team "that despite being interested, I wouldn't be able to justify taking the job at that low of a rate and asked if we could meet somewhere in the middle... and they agreed."
Joseph says now that she's glad she kept going. "As women, we tend to undervalue ourselves, so I thought, 'What would a white dude with all the confidence in the world do?,'" she tells Mic, adding, "I have generally found that when I hold my ground about my value and what my time is worth, I'm met with a greater sense of respect. People who care about their work and the people who work for them will usually respond well to someone who is assertive about the kind of pay they deserve."
And as Joseph points out, the worst thing that can happen when negotiating is being told no — and, she says, "that's not necessarily the worst thing if a manager or a company isn't willing to pay you what you're worth."
Demonstrate your loyalty
Bruno Solari, public relations senior account manager, notes that in certain industries like his, there can be frequent turnover. Yet while dealing with co-workers' exits can be stressful, it can also be a good opportunity for those staying behind and picking up their slack.
After two of his colleagues left the company, Solari "decided to use the turnover as an advantage," he tells Mic. "I listed out my accomplishments and contributions to the team, while also raising concerns of the stressful transition we were about to endure. I reiterated my commitment to the firm, but did share that I had been approached by several competing agencies with attractive offers."
"Within an hour of this discussion," Solari continues, "I was offered a $14,000 raise. Honesty and transparency are key to getting what you want and deserve."
Make yourself invaluable
Although she got a raise in her yearly review, engineer Michelle Erica felt that she deserved more due to the "positive assets" she brought to her company, she tells Mic. So she told her bosses as much, reminding them that she stepped in when a former co-worker left and also that she had specific talents and experience of great use to her employers. "I showed my importance in the company," she recalls.
After hearing her argument, Erica's boss agreed to a bigger raise. She recalls them saying, "You know what? You’re right. I don’t want you walking across the street to get $5 somewhere else."
Negotiating might feel like a daunting experience, but it's the best way to advocate for yourself and signal to your employer that you know just how valuable your skills truly are.