By Diane Domeyer
Throughout my career, I have attended and spoken at conferences and industry events on topics of hiring and career management. One question I am asked often is, “What is your best piece of career advice for women?” This is a subject I am passionate about, and there are always several tips I like to share, which I have learned from others and through my own experiences. However, the most significant piece of advice I can offer women is this: Learn how to negotiate effectively, especially when it comes to your salary.
To have a successful career, women (and men) need negotiation skills. We negotiate every day with our teams and clients on ideas, projects, deadlines, contracts and more. Asking for a higher salary during negotiations can be one of the more intimidating conversations, yet it’s absolutely necessary for advancing your career.
Two separate surveys from Robert Half found that about half of both men and women feel they are underpaid. But only 45% of women said they tried to negotiate higher pay in their last job offer, compared to 68% of men.
Women must be as bold in asking for what they want, need and deserve as their male colleagues. We bring so much to the table, but some may not be as confident in salary discussions, or may be willing to settle on a lower figure.
Well, there are many hesitations people have when it comes to negotiating starting salary or asking for a raise, like the fear of rejection, lack of preparation or not knowing the right way to ask.
And in some cases, women are concerned they will be perceived negatively when they are direct and persistent. Yet you need these traits to successfully ask for higher compensation. Perhaps we don’t want to open up a conversation that could be uncomfortable or tense. Or maybe we don’t want to jeopardize our current opportunity by appearing ungrateful with what’s offered.
Yes, negotiating can be nerve-wracking whether you are a woman or a man. But my advice is to believe in the value you bring to an organization and work on your confidence. It’s unlikely that you’ll regret asking for higher pay, and it’s a perfect way to demonstrate that you’re a self-assured professional.
If you’re nervous or reluctant to ask for more money, preparing a thorough and fact-based business case can help remove emotions tied to the request. Whether you’re negotiating salary for a position you’ve held for a while, or you’re asking for more in a job offer, here are some essential steps to requesting higher pay with confidence and clarity.
1. Do your homework before negotiating
Your first step in negotiating pay is to do some research to better realize your value. What is the market rate for your position in your area? What are other companies offering their employees in terms of salary, benefits and perks? Gather information from a variety of resources, like Robert Half’s Salary Guides, to share with your manager or potential employer.
But don’t stop there. Look at the cost of living in your area, your commute and, most importantly, your career path, when evaluating your current salary. Once you’ve compiled all this information, decide on a number that you’d like to present to the employer. It should be reasonable, but – and here’s the key – it should also be a bit higher than what you really desire.
2. Prepare a business case
In today’s economy, professionals have some negotiating leverage, as skilled candidates are scarce and employers want to hire you or keep you on their team. Making a strong business case can really show your employer how valuable you are to the organization.
Never assume others are as aware of your accomplishments as you are. Create a list of your recent successful projects and positive feedback you’ve received as evidence of your excellent work. If you can articulate a return on investment for the company in terms of revenue, cost savings, productivity gains or improvement in customer experience, that will be all the more valuable. Simply put, be bold in promoting your accomplishments.
3. Time it appropriately
Of course, the best time for a job candidate to negotiate salary is right after they receive the initial job offer. For an employee, the timing is a bit trickier. The ideal moment to ask is soon after completing a successful project or receiving great feedback from a leader.
Avoid asking when your team or company is struggling, and don’t surprise your manager with the request and expect an immediate response. Rather, during a one-on-one meeting, mention that you would like to find a time in the near future to discuss your latest accomplishments and career goals, including compensation, and try to schedule a meeting within a week or so.
4. Communicate confidently
When you meet with your manager or potential employer, demonstrate confidence and poise throughout the discussion. Remember, this isn’t a demand; it is a strong request, and your research and business case will support your proposal.
After highlighting your recent achievements and mentioning the unique skills you bring to the team, propose the number you’d like and expect to negotiate back and forth before landing on a final figure. (This is why you added a bit extra to your anticipated salary in the first step.)
5. Have a backup plan
If the conversation doesn’t go the way you want, don’t be discouraged. Before the meeting, prepare for a possible “no” by considering other perks or benefits you can negotiate beyond salary. Would you be more satisfied in your role with a few more vacation days or a flexible work schedule that could improve your work-life balance? You can also request a follow-up meeting to see if a raise would be possible at a future time.
Learning to negotiate is crucial career advice for women to advance their earning potential and professional success. Avoiding salary negotiations can hold you back in your career, so take time to prepare for these conversations and build your confidence.
Diane Domeyer is executive director of The Creative Group. When she’s not managing operations for TCG’s locations across North America, you can find her on a bike or spending time with her husband, five kids and grandchildren.
As a 25-year veteran in the staffing industry, Domeyer is a noted career and workplace expert. She has spoken at events such as Adobe MAX and HOW Design Live, and has been interviewed by publications such as Adweek, Business News Daily and Fast Company. Domeyer was named to Staffing Industry Analysts’ 2018 “Global Power 150 – Women In Staffing” list and was awarded “Forever Influential” status on the San Francisco Business Times’ “Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business” list.