Last week, we talked about budgeting (oh, did we ever!), but this week, we’re going to rewind a step and look at one of the two major factors involved in budgeting: what you earn. Earning is a topic over which you may feel you can exert little control, but that’s not true. Even within most given fields, levels of education, location, and experiential tiers, there is room for negotiation on your salary. A number of things can influence it: let’s take a look.
My handy-dandy DailyWorth guide tells me that earning is governed by five laws:
- Always ask for more.
- Extend your reach.
- Say less.
- Know your market value.
So what are they talking about?
#1: Always ask for more. It’s true. Whenever someone offers you a job, sits down with you for a performance review with any possibility of asking for a raise, or discusses potential contract or side work with you, do yourself a favor. Make them make their offer first (never be the first party to quote a figure), and then counter with a higher offer. This goes for fees, payments for services rendered, bonuses, salaries, hourly rates, whatever. As one friend who works in tech told me, “Women need to stop being so polite and accepting. Salary negotiation is NOT the place for this.” And as another friend, in academia, put it, “I have found that, in the workplace, I have to fight for myself. No one else will.”
Even in a salary freeze there may be other things you can ask for that have monetary value. In a situation in which your company is officially not giving raises to anyone, try a few of these on for size: Are you using your cell phone for work? Ask them to cover part or all of the bill. Does your company cover or reimburse any part of your commute or work travel fees? Ask for a better (more realistic or competitive) mileage rate, or for a subsidized public transportation pass. Haven’t been able to update your work wardrobe in ages due to tight funds? Pitch them a small but regular wardrobe budget, on the merits of image being essential to your position. You’d be surprised how many positions image is essential to. Or ask for subsidized childcare coverage, or improved health/dental/vision benefits, or a higher matching rate for your 401K, or a better (or any) life insurance policy. In short, if they won’t raise your salary you can still find ways to get your income higher. But a lot of the time, they will raise your salary. Which leads us to
#2: Extend your reach. The old sales wisdom is that 100 cold calls = 4 warm leads = 1 actual sale. This is absolutely true for those of you in sales, but it’s also true for anyone job hunting or even schlepping ideas around. That means when you’re applying for jobs, 100 applications = 4 call backs = 1 job offer. And you don’t have to take the first job offered, I hope. It’s a good idea to occasionally apply for jobs you’re interested in, even when you’re happy with your current position, just to keep your resume up to date and, in the case of offers that trump your current position, to keep your employer aware of your value. This way if you ever hit a speed bump career-wise (getting laid off, etc.), your hand is already in the pot, and you’re already half-way to finding that next position. It means you can be pickier, too, which helps you to exert just a tiny bit more control over your earnings. And once you have the offer in hand?
#3: Say nothing. Well-placed silence is golden, literally. I think when we’re talking to our professional superiors it’s sometimes difficult to keep from justifying every detail of why we deserve that raise, or going into over-verbose detail about why we’re such a great hire or why we need more money (cost of living, student loans, expensive city, you’re so worthwhile, etc.) There’s such a thing as overselling yourself, to the point that you sound uncertain. Don’t do that. Go into that job interview or performance review confident of your contributions, state your case as succinctly as possible, and then shut up. And if that number isn’t high enough, usually a simple answer (“I’m sorry, that’s rather below the figure I had in mind”) followed by respectful silence is better than a frantic declaration of all the reasons why you think you deserve more. You ever hear of the strong, silent type? Of course you have. It works for women, too. Of course you can’t make that succinct, to-the-point argument on your own behalf unless you