How much are you worth? It's a touchy subject for most business professionals no matter how many years experience you have under your belt. For some reason most people find establishing one's salary with a prospective employer a difficult conversation to have. You may have negotiated multi-million-dollar deals. You may have worked with senior executives of Fortune 500 companies. You may have initiated breakthrough game-changing plans for your current employer. But you freeze when it comes to discussing what you deserve to be paid.
Why is that? I believe to some extent it's because negotiating a compensation package is a skill that we have never been taught; it's something that in the course of our entire lives we don't normally do too often. Maybe you just find it an uncomfortable, somewhat confrontational process. Maybe you've had a bad experience in the past.
You're not alone. Surveys show that at least 40 percent of people do not attempt any kind of salary negotiating in their own behalf. If this is you, you could be missing out on a huge income stream year after year. So, let's say you've nailed the interview and you've been offered the job. It's a position you really want as it is a great stepping stone towards fulfilling your career dreams--but, at the same time, you'd sure like to be well compensated. Here are some useful tips to get the compensation package you deserve.
Know Your Worth
In the first instance, you need to work out what you're worth--financially. It's pretty easy to discover the kinds of salaries that others are making across the country for the kind of position for which you've been hired. LinkedIn is an excellent resource. It has tons of job listings and many contain specific salary amounts or salary ranges. There are other websites you can check such as glassdoor.com and salary.com. Perhaps the best resource of all is people you already know in the same industry. Use your network of contacts to tell you the salary range that should be expected (and any other common benefits).
Know When to Walk
You have to start with the end in mind. Work out the minimum salary you can accept to provide the life you want for you and your family; the minimum amount that also makes sense career-wise. Be prepared to walk away from the position if you can't afford to accept the offer. There will always be another opportunity around the corner. No doubt, there may well be the possibility of excellent raises once you've started work and proven your contribution to the team. But if you don't establish your true value on day one it could mean losing hundreds of thousands of dollars over the life of your career.
It's Not All About the Money
Of course, negotiating a good salary is only part of your compensation package. It's really important to bear in mind that there are numerous and varied perks and benefits that a good company makes available to its valued employees. You should take these into account when assessing the worth of your job offer. Sometimes a company has a rigid structure with regard to salaries, but a lot of flexibility when it comes to these perks and benefits. On occasion the benefits come out of different budgets so the hiring manager may have more discretion. There may be a particular benefit which is of great value to you and, from the company standpoint, might not cost them too much. Some potential benefits to consider are: insurance (health, dental, life, disability); retirement plan; 401k; paid vacation; bonuses; profit sharing; stock options; even daycare, to name but a few.
Entire books and training courses have been written on the art of negotiation. But let me just share a couple of pointers that can make a difference. For starters, you should learn the habit of always asking for something in exchange for giving up something. For example: "OK. If you can't provide membership in the gym perhaps you could take care of my professional association fees and publication subscriptions?" If the company is having difficulty meeting your salary requirements, you could always offer to take on additional responsibilities. That displays initiative and a willingness to do more. Beware of digging in your heels and asking for something that the company just can't give, that reflects badly on you and might be a deal breaker. And one last tip:
The Best Reward of All?
Getting a fabulous compensation package is obviously a great motivator. It's an acknowledgment of your talent and experience. It's recognition of your role at a company and the contribution you make to its success. And it goes without saying that you have to pay your bills and provide for your family. At RadiumOne I'm a firm believer in generously rewarding those members of the team who are committed and who perform. Every company CEO should want and demand a rock star team and take care of them accordingly. And there are definitely times when you, as an individual, have to carefully consider your career trajectory. You might get an opportunity to become part of such a team and play a vital part in an exciting fast-paced growth environment. Perhaps the salary and benefits aren't quite what you need but the other rewards and long-term career potential can most certainly outweigh that. As I said earlier - It's not all about the money!
--Gurbaksh Chahal is CEO of RadiumOne, an enterprise advertising platform based in San Francisco.