When you’re looking for a new job, you likely have a salary goal in mind. As you’re writing a professional resume, you begin thinking about what you’re really worth. However, when you’re presented with a job offer, you may feel like you either have to take it or leave it. However, this is not the case. With careful c-level personal branding and these tips, you can negotiate a better salary and gain the compensation you deserve.
Research Average Salaries
Salaries vary dramatically due to a variety of factors, including location, industry, education level, experience and employer budget. What you make at a position in one location may be significantly more or less in another location. Performing your due diligence can help you learn how much you can expect to earn in a given position. Consider both local and national statistics for a clearer picture. Be sure to bring this information along to show a prospective employer.
Compensation isn’t limited to what you bring home in your paycheck. There are other ways you can be compensated for your time and can help you boost your salary negotiations. If your prospective employer won’t increase your starting salary, consider asking for a performance review in six months to give you time to prove your worth. You may also inquire about:
- Signing bonuses
- Tuition reimbursement
- Paid time off
- Flexibility in your work schedule or location
These terms can bring value without increasing the salary your employer will pay.
Be Prepared to Walk Away
If you’re writing a professional resume, you are looking for a new job, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept whatever comes your way, no questions asked. Instead, you need to understand your worth and be prepared to walk away if an employer doesn’t realize that value. If you are the ideal candidate for the position, there is a chance they will offer you more once you let them know you are no longer interested. However, you need to be prepared to follow through if they don’t change their offer.
Like all other areas of life, practice makes perfect. There is value in practicing your negotiating skills with family members or a friend before you head to the negotiating table. Make sure your loved one offers some resistance so you can practice what you will say when the time comes.
Negotiating your salary can be one of the most difficult aspects of interviewing for a new job, especially for women. While you focus on your c-level personal branding when writing a professional resume, you must understand what your real worth is so you can fight for every cent you deserve.
When you are looking at a job change there are lots of variables complicating your task. One of the challenges is getting an idea of how far your current salary would stretch in another state. Living costs can be quite different and the same dollar amount may translate into the equivalent of a nice raise — or an unwelcome pay cut.
Rasmussen College has a nice tool for comparing your options. Salary by State: Where Can You Really Earn The Most? is part of their Career Research Hub and this looks like it can be useful for more than a graduating senior.
Get An Idea Of Your Living Costs
The way the Salary by State tool works is simple. First, you select your occupation from the drop down menu at the top of the page. Then, you can choose up to 5 states to compare the average salaries in that career and the average salary adjusted for the cost of living. Here are the numbers for an executive in a random selection of states:
- Connecticut: $211,850 becomes $193,647 when adjusted for cost of living
- Pennsylvania: $180,950 becomes $183,333 when adjusted for cost of living
- Minnesota: $160,750 becomes $164,872 when adjusted for cost of living
- South Carolina: $141,290 becomes $155,777 when adjusted for cost of living
- West Virginia: $96,280 becomes $108,668 when adjusted for cost of living
Those are some big variations for the same basic position of an executive, and it makes relocating a bit more adventurous because of the changes. A tool like this calculator is a good way to get an idea about what you could expect. It’s important to include any benefits offered by a potential employer in your calculations, too. Before you change jobs, make sure you are looking at all the data, including adjustments for location.
One of the uncomfortable parts of a job search is discussion of salary. Most of us don’t really like negotiations over salary and fear that putting our current wage on paper might doom us to repeat it. For the most part, you really don’t need to put salary history on your resume. At the same time, if a job posting asks you to include salary history or requirements when applying, they will be looking for that information when you apply.
Employers have various reasons for requesting salary information. They may want to screen out those who expect more than they are willing to offer or find someone who is qualified and willing to take the least amount of compensation. They certainly want to know you will follow instructions. You could comply with a request for salary history in several ways:
- attach a salary history to your resume on a separate page
- include it in your cover letter
- use a salary range rather than the specific amounts
It should go without saying that your salary history should be accurate. You will be jeopardizing your career when they check with former employers and discover the truth. At the same time, if you think you were underpaid, there’s no reason to avoid saying so if it can be said diplomatically.
Salary requirements can be handled with statements that show your flexibility and willingness to negotiate the overall compensation package including benefits. Here, too, a range can be helpful as long as it is within reasonable limits. Tools like a salary calculator help you figure out what the range for your expectations should be. Salary may not be on your resume, but it is definitely on everybody’s mind, and you need to be prepared to discuss it.
Most of the time you hear about the wage gap between men and women — and how the gap is caused by the struggles women face in balancing work and family responsibilities. But the effects of that struggle are not all bad, because the result of your efforts has given you strength as well.
This applies to both men and women. I don’t want to act like men don’t struggle to keep job and family priorities straight. But since the majority of the wage gap conversation seems to focus on how women have lower wages as a result of motherhood, it’s a good thing to consider the strengths you have when it comes to negotiating your salary.
- You have a life outside your cubicle. No matter what the result of your negotiation brings, your identity is not solely defined by the title on your paycheck or the amount written on it. This can give you the strength of perspective, allowing you to negotiate without focusing on one issue at the expense of others.
- You have a lot of experience in negotiation. How many times have you had to work out the details to juggle childcare and career? If your kids are older, how much negotiation have you done over chores and homework? You have the strength of past experience in countless encounters in figuring out compromise.
- You have a solid goal in mind. You know what the bills are and you know what your income is. If you can’t reconcile the numbers on your current salary, you need to be prepared to look for a different position if this one can’t provide the paycheck your family needs to survive. You have the strength of vision, that goal of providing for your family.
Many times, we set our goals using the wrong data. We have dreams of a certain job or lifestyle, but the steps it will take us to get there in reality are nebulous. The Job Search Resources page has a number of tools for your use, and the variety of salary calculators listed there will give you real help.
Using a salary calculator to find the reasonable expectations for what your job should pay gives you the range of salaries you can expect for that job. Location, skill set, education, and experience can be factored in. That means you can look at where you currently are and decide if there are steps you can take to get to where you want to be:
- Is this the field you want to stay in?
- Can you meet your financial obligations with your current salary? How about the top range of salary in your bracket?
- Are there other, higher paying jobs within this field (or others) that interest you?
- Do you have the skills, education, or experience to reach that level?
- What practical steps can you take today to gain the skills, education, or experience you need to reach your goals?
The salary calculator is simply a tool that equips you with facts. You can print out a graph or data sheet showing what your level of experience in your location should reasonably be paid and show it during salary negotiations. You can answer confidently when an interview question about salary expectations comes up. At the same time, you have a reality check about the job market.
Like any tool, this one is only as effective as the person using it, but the person using it can learn how to use it properly to get great benefit from it. Your goals are achievable with the right tools!
Sometimes your salary isn’t paying quite enough to cover all you wish it could. Maybe you got promoted to an exempt position that looks good on your resume but now that lucrative overtime bonus is gone. You could have been offered benefits that you truly need (medical insurance, for instance), and on paper it all looks good, but in your wallet there’s not enough cash.
This is where that “B” word — Budget — comes in to help.
All the experts start with an honest assessment of where your money is currently going. If you don’t know where your money is currently going, how can you control its flow? Write down all the ugly reality on paper so you can look it in the face and deal with it.
The problem isn’t automatically solved by a higher salary; it is solved by controlling the way you spend what you earn.
You can see this in the sad tale of many lottery winners whose huge chunks of money are gone in a few years or the way even high earners go bankrupt. This means that you have hope because you can control your cash flow by choosing to work with the real numbers instead of the dream numbers.
Look at the real numbers and come up with a real plan and follow it.
- Do some research on money management. There is so much wisdom and free advice or seminars out there that your head will spin, but the reality is you have to make it work for your situation.
- What are you willing to sacrifice to keep that steady salary or those benefits?
- When you make the choice NOT to spend, remind yourself that you are saying “no” to this thing and “yes” to controlling your cash flow. You are the boss of your spending.
- Pay the minimum on your bills if you have to, but add a little when you can. Somehow, that extra gives you a sense of power.
- Allow yourself some “mad money” that you can spend on whatever you like, but when it’s gone, it’s gone until you get paid again.
- Somehow, keep saving for emergencies. Even a little bit adds up!
- Sell some stuff and put the money on the biggest bills.
- Come up with ways to reward yourself that don’t cost money.
Keep a reminder of your plan, and your goals, in view. You aren’t “stuck” with that salary, you have chosen to stay in the position for a reason. Is your reason still valid? Can you ask for a review and a raise? Are you utilizing all the benefits you have? You may need to sit down and crunch numbers with others who are involved with your money decisions, but it will be worth the time and effort that takes to get everyone on the same team in this!
Recently, there was an article on LearnVest titled “Hello, My Name is Tom and I’m an Underearner”. It’s an interesting read about the characteristics of underearners and the presence of an AA-type support group called “Underearners Anonymous,” (Who knew such a group existed?) It got me thinking about how salary means more than money: It can affect how others see you, and how you see yourself, like a dirty window on the world.
One of the problems that can develop during a job search is a completely unrealistic idea of salary. It’s easy to undervalue your abilities and ask for too low a wage, or to assume you can demand the paycheck someone with years of experience in your field would get. If you add up your monthly bills and just ask for that much, you aren’t using all the information that should go into salary ranges.
Underearners are people who are not getting the salary that someone with their qualifications would reasonably expect. This could be because they don’t value those qualifications or are afraid to ask for a raise. It could be because they’d have to live up to their potential and they are afraid.
There are a lot of reasons why salary and self-esteem are connected. In some cases, there is discrimination causing salary issues, but this cannot be assumed because sometimes the reason for the lower paycheck is actually performance-related. You need to dig deeper to find out why that paycheck is that amount.
During a job search and interview, salary is a subject that you should be prepared to confidently discuss with a prospective employer without being demanding. The more you understand your worth, the easier it is to see that you deserve (earn) a wage that is accurate. There are two excellent resources available to you:
- Job Search Resources — this page has a wealth of information, including salary calculators and self-assessments
- Job Search Success System — this is a full course that will give you the skills to show your worth accurately to potential employers.
When you are getting the salary you should be getting, it’s like seeing your world through a clean window.
Salary negotiation can be one of the most stressful parts of getting a new job. On the one hand, it is exciting to think about a new job and the possibility of earning more money. On the other hand, it can be nerve-wracking waiting to hear what your new salary will be. Do you accept the salary offer, negotiate it or reject it? What if you make a mistake and accept a salary offer that is too low, or try to negotiate one that is too high? These events are unlikely to happen if you do your homework before you get to the salary negotiation stage.
A salary calculator can help you with this important homework. It can give you an idea how much your current salary is worth in another city. It can also give you median, low and high end salaries for given positions and industries in a geographical location. Some salary calculators allow you to compare the cost of living between two cities. You can compare the cost of living between the city you are in and the city where you have a job offer, or the cost of living between two cities where you have job offers. These calculators aid you in thinking practically about moving for a new job. Remember to factor in whether your new employer will pay relocation costs. If the employer does pay relocation costs, find out what the cap is on those costs. If you go over the cap amount, say, by hiring movers to move your grand piano, you may end up paying the extra costs.
You are more likely to get the salary you want if you go into a salary negotiation meeting with facts based on the information you gathered from salary calculators and other job search resources. This information backs up your work experience and your education. You put a great deal of energy into both, so make sure you get what you are truly worth.
The news is still full of stories about the large numbers of unemployed people in this country. However, the untold story is about people who face chronic underemployment. Not only are their skills sets not utilized fully, their salaries and salary growth suffers as well. Once a person finds herself taking a salary offer that is half of what she used to make, it is then a struggle to regain ground and raise the salary back to where it used to be.
Employers do recognize that the salary growth gets reset every time you accept a position at a lower rate than you normally would because you need a job. However, reputable salary calculators are your best defense against getting low-balled or offered a miniscule salary. Gather your information. Search several different salary calculators for your position in your geographic location. Take careful notes, or even better, print out the salary graphs you find for your particular job of interest. Make sure that the figures you will take into salary negotiations with a potential employer match your education and work experience on your resume.
You may find that the employer will not raise the salary offer even after you have tried to negotiate it. You may also find yourself in a perpetually temporary position, one with low wages and no benefits. If you have to take the temp position, go ahead and do it. However, you will need to set yourself a goal for leaving this position to find something else that pays better, is full time, and is more of what you want.
It seems rather unfair that even after submitting a great resume and cover letter you still have to deal with tricky interview questions. The salary question is one of the most dreaded of all interview questions. It’s not surprising that few people are able to answer it in a professional manner beyond the standard “I expect to be paid what I’m worth” statement. For the job hunter, you need to understand what it is that your interviewer is really asking.
When the interviewer asks, “What are your salary requirements?,” what he or she is really asking is whether or not you have a realistic salary expectation and if you are flexible about the amount. This is also why the interviewer would like you to list an actual dollar amount.
Finding out what you are worth is easy enough. Visit one of the websites that offer salary ranges and see what you can expect. Be sure to account for your education and experience. Location is important as well; salaries in New York City are generally far higher than in Trenton, Tennessee. Once you have that information you are ready to respond.
How should you respond to that question? Don’t shout out a number, but state that based on your education, experience and responsibilities of the position that $60-65,000 (or whatever amount you found) would be reasonable. Mention that you are flexible and would certainly consider benefits.
While it is important to be seen as flexible and as someone who can be negotiated with, don’t settle for less than you can honestly afford. Most companies will be fair simply because if they aren’t you will move on to one that is and they have time invested in you. Still, find out what you are worth before your next interview and you will be prepared for this tricky question.