How To Negotiate The Salary You Deserve

02/20/2017 08:34 am ET Updated Feb 22, 2017

As a lawyer who spent 11 years settling large insurance claims and negotiating attorney’s fees with some of the most contentious opposing counsel, I learned various tricks and tools that helped me excel in the process and even during the dreaded salary negotiations talks in job interviews. My strategies enabled me to acquire hefty salary increases at subsequent roles and even during performance reviews. I have since leveraged that experience and skill set in job search strategy sessions with career coaching and resume clients, which have included a payoff to many in the form of $20,000 or more.

I believe that one of the key issues job seekers have is feeling that they are not getting paid what they are worth. But here’s the flip side to that: if you don’t have the experience or skill set, it’s hard to leverage that worth. As they say, you must “pay your dues” and gain the experience in order to have the leverage. So, how exactly do you negotiate the salary you deserve? Well, I want to tell you exactly how to do it through the following steps:

Know Your Strategy Ahead Of Time

Like any good negotiator, you must plan ahead and work your plan at the time of the salary talk. My top tip is always to go into the salary discussion knowing the information. That means you need to research what competitor companies are paying someone at your level, and what the fair market value is for someone at your level. This information can be acquired online easily through sites such as Glassdoor and PayScale. Remember, it’s not about what you think you deserve, but rather what companies are actually paying employees who have similar credentials and skills that you possess.

Don’t Focus On Your Current Salary Or Past Salary

Many times, career professionals will focus only on the number they are making (or were making in the past) and dwell on that number rather than looking to what the fair market value is paying. If you focus too much on your current salary or past salary, you will find that the conversation centers around negativity, frustration, and disgust. Yes, companies may ask what you are currently making, but when you give your current salary number, do not forget to add what similar companies are paying someone at your level and don’t forget to factor in the additional compensation perks (bonuses, benefits, vacation time, award earnings, etc.) that you are earning. It’s not just about your current paycheck. You need to look at the big picture of your entire compensation package.

Do Not Bid Against Yourself

This is the most important piece of advice. Never (I repeat NEVER) throw a number out there that causes you to bid against yourself. You could be giving too low of a number or even worse: a number that is out of the ball park that completely disqualifies you from moving forward in the interview process. Remember this bold statement: in business, it’s all about what you negotiate not what you think you deserve. Let the prospective employer know the range of what other employers are currently considering you for. Tell them you are open and negotiable, but also remind them of your clear objective: to have long-term growth at an organization. An important takeaway from this is that giving a range is always better than a hard number? Why? When you give a range, you are demonstrating flexibility and employers always prefer flexibility and versatility in an employee.

Consider The Power Of The Counteroffer

Like any good negotiator, it’s often expected that you will not accept the first offer given to you. Allowing the employer to provide you an offer gives you the power to counteroffer. But, don’t get into a bidding war of going back and forth multiple times with the number. Give one counteroffer and then make your decision.

At the end of the day, salary is important in a job or career, but your happiness and long-term goals are just as important. Consider all of the options, and create a pro and con list before making any decision to accept a salary offer. Remember, show your enthusiasm, but do not be afraid to ask for a few days to consider the offer. Thinking things through and weighing your options will help you make the right objective decision rather than being impulsive and possibly regretting that decision at some later point.

Wendi Weiner is an attorney, 4X certified executive resume writer, and career industry leader who has been revered as the #1 Resume Expert and award-winning career blogger. She’s a Forbes Career Coach, board member for The National Resume WritersAssociation, and she’s been featured in more than 20 news sources and online publications. Incorporating her legal mind with the highest certifications in the industry has allowed Wendi to serve as a top published authority in resume writing, LinkedIn profiles, and job search strategies. Wendi is the owner of The Writing Guru, a top resume services firm dedicated to helping executives and senior managers rise to the next level in their careers. Wendi was recently named 2017’s BEST resume writing service firm and executive career coach of the year.

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