You doubtless work for many reasons. Perhaps to help the world, or to work with people who believe similarly to you, or to improve your opportunities for future employment. Whether you’re just considering business school, or are about to graduate and facing the imminent prospect of getting your first job, it bears thinking about the reasons you want to work and how best to get them.
Of course, one of the most important aspects of your job will always be your salary. Without it, you can’t live the life you imagine … and more importantly, you may find yourself hard-pressed to pay back any loans you might have taken out in order to pay for school. How much you get paid weighs directly into your job satisfaction, so don’t underestimate the importance of taking it seriously.
If you want to get the highest possible salary, therefore, it’s critical to think through the process beforehand. If you walk into an interview or negotiation without a plan in place, you’re less likely to come out on top. And that’s the whole goal of a negotiation, right? So gird yourself against the possibility of being taken advantage of with these 11 steps.
Positivity is key. No matter how the negotiation works out, you are far more likely to get what you want if you are upbeat and friendly. Even if you’re naturally shy, introspective, left-brained or otherwise un-social, you’ve got to move past those tendencies. Once you get the job at a salary you love, you can put your head down and do the work that motivates you, but in the beginning, remember: this is about people, and making them like you is the No. 1 strategy you can employ.
Show Enthusiasm for the Job
Similarly, your prospective employers have to feel like you want to be there – not just for the people, but for the job itself. Demonstrating enthusiasm for the work you’ll perform will help your employers feel as though you’ll give it your all, and that is bound to influence their decision in your favor.
Refuse to Share Current Salary Information
Employers routinely ask you to list your current salary information on job applications. Even if you don’t have to fill out a traditional application, you can bet your prospective bosses will ask what you’re making now. If you’re an undergraduate student, it may be a bit easier to skate around this question, since you haven’t really worked yet – which puts you at a disadvantage in negotiations. If you’re a graduate business student, however, chances are very good you already have work experience and salary info. Either way, the answer is to hold your ground and say, “I’m sorry, but I’m uncomfortable sharing that information.”
Give a Range
Of course, you don’t simply tell your employer to buzz off; you have to offer different numbers in its place. Start by doing some quick research about what equivalent jobs are worth (try GlassDoor), then calculate a range. The amounts will depend on where the job is located, what company it’s at, how much travel will be involved, and what your other perks are (which we will talk about in a moment).
The width of your range will depend on what you’re currently making. If you can only command a salary of around $50,000, then your range would probably be plus or minus $5,000. On the other hand, if you’re making $100,000, your range can be more like $20,000. Most graduates of business school (even MBA programs) won’t be making this much, of course, but it illustrates the point well.
Make Sure You’re Worth It
This is a very important aspect of proper negotiation. Many business graduates are high on their accomplishments and new skills, and use them as justification for naming too high a salary. Thing is, if you price yourself out of the running right at the beginning, you’re just shooting yourself in the foot. So while you should set a reasonable range that reflects your expertise, never go over.
Be Prepared to Justify
While you don’t need to share your salary information outright, you absolutely do need to share why you think you’re worth what you’re worth. Tell employers about your experience, point to similar salaries in your field, and let them know in specific detail how they can contribute to the culture and bottom line of their company.
Ask About Perks
Perks are a huge part of your compensation package, but many people forget them. Even if you remember the big ones like medical or 401(k), you might forget the other, smaller expenses involved with working for this company: relocation fees, parking passes or train fare, or medical and dental for your family as well as yourself. Take time to consider all of these aspects before negotiations start so you can be upfront about what you need.
Talk to Recruiters
Once you have a good idea of what’s on offer, including salary and other perks, take the time to talk to a recruiter first. Recruiters spend all day, every day talking to employers and applicants about different job and salary amounts, so they have an excellent bead on what market rates are for your prospective position. Either while negotiating or once you get an offer, try to run it by a recruiter.
Get a Promotion First
If you’re moving from one job to the next, make sure you get your annual review and raise (or better yet – that big promotion) at your current company before moving on to the next one. Your worth as an employee is directly impacted by your current job title. Moreover, you can feel much more confident asking for $5,000 more if you have just received an equivalent raise. That still doesn’t mean you have to give away your current salary information; it just means the hotter a commodity you can become before negotiation, the better it will go.
Respond Immediately Upon Receiving the Offer, But …
When you get an offer, respond immediately. That doesn’t mean give an answer immediately, mind you, but radio silence is never a good idea. If you hear something, email or call back and say graciously, “Thank you so much for the offer. I’m going to take a day or two to think about it, but I will get back to you soon. Again, thank you and I’m so excited for this opportunity.”
Sleep On It
We don’t always think clearly in the moment, especially when life-changing, career-impacting decisions are on the line. While a certain salary might feel right to you when it is offered, you may realize after some reflection that it doesn’t reflect your current worth or appropriately compensate you for the duties you would be expected to perform. In that case, it’s much better to realize it beforehand. Making a rule that you will take a day or two before responding will go a long way toward cooling your momentary enthusiasm and leading to a smarter decision overall.
Despite using these steps, you may find that not every negotiation works out the way you were hoping. That’s okay; it may mean a job is not right for you, or it may mean taking a lower salary is worth it if you get to engage in work you will love. Remember, you can always use these tricks to renegotiate in a year or two, or at a new job once you have some experience. No matter how your working situation turns out, they’re always good strategies to have up your sleeve, so take the time to internalize them now, and best of luck to you.