For women in particular, negotiating your first salary -- or any salary, really -- can be difficult and more than a little intimidating. But as with most things in life, practice makes perfect: It gets a little bit easier each time. Here are five pieces of hard-earned advice for learning how to not only stick to your guns, but finally ask for what you're worth.
1. START FROM WHERE YOU ARE. Let's say you're a young woman, new degree in hand, negotiating your first job out of school -- be it undergrad or grad. First and foremost, don't constrain yourself based on where you plan to end up a decade from now. Many young women limit their ambitions based on some future notion that a husband or partner will swoop in to support them financially. Also avoid thinking of certain career trajectories as inherently incompatible with motherhood and child rearing. Hannah Riley Bowles, a professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, sees a lot of women underselling themselves for these reasons. Instead, negotiate from where you are now.
2. DO YOUR RESEARCH. In this case, information truly is power: Doing your homework is vital step to negotiating successfully. To start, find out whether people negotiate their starting salaries in your particular industry -- they usually, but not always, do. Then determine the range of pay. You may have to reach outside your comfort zone to attain such information. After scouring all available online resources ask your guy friends, not just your girl friends, to talk frankly about how much they're actually getting paid. Lastly, play out a series of scenarios beforehand. Aim for the high number, but allow for some slight wiggle room.
3. BE FIRM AND BE NICE. Once you decide to negotiate, be clear to your perspective boss that it isn't merely about a couple hundred or thousand dollars, but about how this job ultimately fits into your overall career trajectory. And keep in mind that negotiation isn't always about money -- maybe you want to negotiate benefits or vacation, or even the ability to attend certain conferences during the course of the year. And whatever you do, err on the side of pleasantness. Depending on your individual personality, the goal is to appear firm and principled, but not overly hostile or aggressive. Your future boss will respect you for it.
4. DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR A RAISE. Victoria Pynchon, the co-founder of She Negotiates, asks every woman she meets: "When's the last time you asked for a raise?" All too frequently, the answer is never, Pynchon says. She reports that while women ask for what they need, men are generally comfortable asking for the figure they want. If you failed to negotiate your starting salary, wait until you've been in the job for a year, then get into the habit of routinely asking for a raise -- even if it's only a modest increase in pay. Don't fall into the trap of believing you'll work your tail off and necessarily be rewarded because of it. You have to ask -- and sometimes, ask again.
5. BEWARE THE GENDER GAP. Equip yourself with the knowledge that you probably aren't getting paid what your male colleagues are making. Gender-based wage inequality is still very much a reality, but it's never too late to balance out the pay scale -- even after you've been there awhile. As Mika Brzezinkski writes in her latest book, "Knowing Your Value," she was paid nearly 14 times less than her "Morning Joe" co-host, Joe Scarborough, until she began a delicate balance of negotiations to even out the pay scale.