Know Your Value – Negotiating at Work

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I was just so happy to have my first job out of the gate, that I failed to negotiate when an offer was made. I don’t even know if I knew how much the job paid nor did I have any idea what to expect. I was excited and eager to start my career but the next time I had the opportunity to negotiate I made sure that I did.

I remember the first real chance I had to negotiate was when my recruiter at the new prospective company told me that he couldn’t offer me more because someone who had been there “for 15 years longer” was only making the amount I requested. I remember thinking about it briefly and saying “well a loaf of bread cost 5 cents 50 years ago but we don’t pay that now for it either. If the person is only able to get a small raise each year you can’t expect them to be up to market value. Can you please go back and see what you can do? I bring a lot to the table and I’d really like to move forward with this but I need the numbers to be in line with what I was expecting. Commission is not a guarantee”.

In sales especially, there is a tendency to over promise as far as commission. Averages are often inflated and I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t always count on commission or a bonus for that matter. The company did come back to me with something close to what I had hoped for and also offered me a sign on bonus because I asked for that also.

We also can’t be afraid to ask for a raise after proving yourself in a given job. At many places, raises don’t come easy. I’ve worked for companies where the raise was sometimes nothing for the year and things were pretty stagnant for several years. That’s when you have to do your due diligence and find out what competitors are making and think about possibly asking for more in your current role. Sometimes people who have stayed at a company for a long time can be taken for granted. I once wrote a letter to senior management explaining that I had been called by multiple competitors (truth) and knew that newer people to the organization were making more than I was. I made a case, I did not threaten and I suggested that it may have been an oversight but I was giving them to the time to make things right. Guess what? They gave me a raise.

I know several people who have fielded offer letters from competitors with the sole purpose being that they wanted to have something to give their company to get a raise. They were hoping to get a counter so they could stay at their current job. I have never been a fan of this approach. I know that this can be part of the culture at some companies and even within certain industries this approach can be encouraged. When you make a move like that you have to be ready to potentially leave. I’m also not sure how this move sits with your employer. I never thought that I needed to receive an actual offer in order to request a raise. If my competition was paying more and fair market value had increased over time, then the case could probably be made that I was deserving of more at my current company.

A few takeaways:

  1. Know Your Value – There are many resources out there that should give you a ballpark idea of what salaries are being offered at a company for your role. If the company is pretty big you can check places like glassdoor or possibly a forum pertaining to that particular sector.
  2. Know the Environment – Are tons of people applying for this job and would you be lucky to have it and would the experience be worth it?   Have you had many interviews and not received any other offers? These may be reasons to scale back your negotiating a bit. On the other hand, are known competitors paying much more for the same type of role with your same experience?
  3. Don’t Let Your Loyalty Be Taken For Granted – If you’ve been at a company for a long time (or if you’ve accomplished something really significant) and there doesn’t seem to be much of an upward trajectory or a raise in sight, you should consider building a business case as to why you deserve one.

What has your negotiating experience been before you’ve started a job or after?



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