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Boost Your Salary In A Tough Economy: A Career Coach Weighs In

Boost your salary in a tough economy

In the “game of negotiation the first offer is often not the employer’s best offer...there could be more in it for you,” advises Jennifer Murray, Senior Consultant and Career Coach at Knightsbridge Robertson Surrette.

An HR practitioner for 18 years, Jennifer discovered early on that she’s at her best when she sees “people shine”. Her areas of expertise include: compensation management, leadership development, and career coaching.

So how do you win the game of negotiation? Coach Jennifer shares her precise steps with us.

But first, let’s talk about why...

Why Negotiate Your Salary?

According to Aon Hewitt’s 2015 Trends in Global Employee Engagement, there is a “consistent, statistically significant relationship between higher levels of employee engagement and financial performance”. In fact, they found that a “5% increase in employee engagement is linked to a 3% increase in revenue growth”.

Want to boost your salary? Download the PDF version of this step-by-step guide.

Problem is: employee disengagement is wide-spread.

It doesn’t help that, according to Aon Hewitt’s research, only 46% of global employees think that they’re fairly compensated. What about the 54%?

Relief may come in the form of a steady paycheque. But employees long for more.

In his book Drive, Daniel Pink asserts that employees need autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Autonomy is our need to “direct our own lives”. Mastery is our “urge to get better at stuff”. Purpose inspires us to be and do our best.

Disengagement solidifies when our need for autonomy, mastery, and purpose are repeatedly shut down.

Negotiation empowers. When you negotiate, you disrupt disengagement because you start being the driver. You put your future back in your own hands.

But, is it worth risking the steady paycheque?

Let me ask you this: can your employer give you a 100% lifetime job guarantee?

If not, then investing in your growth and taking charge of your career are no longer nice things to do - they’re necessary.

What’s more?

Both sides win when you negotiate. We’re engaged when we feel empowered. And engagement leads to better performance. Companies win too.

Ready to take charge of your career?

Here’s what a trusted career coach has to say about salary negotiation.

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3 Roadblocks and What To Do About Them

What prevents us from negotiating?

People often don’t realize that they play a significant role,” observes Jennifer.

Here are the three most common roadblocks, and what we can do about them:

1. Fear

A powerful yet (often) irrational emotion.

Fear can cripple us, if we let it. And we all have it...for better or for worse.

But when it comes to negotiation, Jennifer urges us to:

Look at it as a business transaction.

She observes that “emotion becomes a roadblock” because we’re not used to representing our best interest. Negotiation then becomes “an emotional event”.

Let the emotion die down,” advises Jennifer and look at the task as logically as we can.

Plan for the worst case scenario. Beyond the “no”, what reasons could they give you?

Are there performance issues? If yes, what have you done about it? Can you show measurable improvement?

Tough economy? If so, are you prepared to wait and re-visit the discussion later?

Will your job be at risk just by asking and speaking up? If so, “have a Plan B in your back pocket,” is Jennifer’s advice.

2. Lack of knowledge

Do your research and find out what you’re worth. Get the facts on what the market is paying for your skills and level of experience. Jennifer suggests to use these sites:

Knowledge is power only when applied. 

3. Lack of confidence

Often “we’re most confident when we’re equipped with knowledge,” says Jennifer. Although in some cases, that may not be enough...

After doing our research, the next step would be to “practice with somebody,” advises Jennifer. Role-play with a trusted friend, a spouse, or someone who’s skilled at negotiation.

The virtue of practice can’t be overstated.

The best speakers practice their speeches. Law students have mock trials to “practice and improve their oral advocacy skills”. Elite athletes, like Canada’s Steve Nash, have regular practice routines.

Practice helps us prepare to perform at our best. And when we’re prepared, we feel ready to go.

5 Tips to Negotiate Your Salary During a Job Interview

How do you negotiate during a job interview? Here are five tips from our Coach:

1.Don’t give your current salary away,” cautions Jennifer.

When you’re asked for your current salary or salary expectation, “hold this information tight” at the start of the interview process.

When you give away your number early on in the game, you limit your negotiating power.

Jennifer’s advice is to keep your message focused and let your prospective employer know that you’re “interested in the job...and in the company”.

Jennifer adds a critical caveat...

2. Some companies legitimately need your salary expectations to determine if they can afford you. They don’t want to waste their time nor yours.

Her advice: do your research before the interview. Find out what the market salary range is for the job you are applying for, given your experience level.

If you feel forced to reveal your salary expectations - then provide a salary range. Assert that you expect to be at the higher range because of what you bring to the table.

Expect to receive a counter-offer, so add some cushion in your range. Likely, you’re expected to make a concession as well and may need to meet in the middle.

3. Timing is everything.

Like a well-choreographed dance, negotiation is a well-timed series of steps. Make a move at the wrong time, and you’re out of step. Jennifer’s advice?

Negotiate after you receive an offer when they love you, they want you...that’s your best chance.

4. If you know you’ve maxed out negotiating your salary, turn your focus to other items such as:

Negotiate an extra week [of paid vacation],” advises Jennifer.

Benefits are often deferred for several months,” says Jennifer. Negotiate to have your benefits start sooner.

Jennifer adds that “for senior roles, negotiate for a higher signing bonus”. Managers are often less intimidated by a higher signing bonus because they’re not compounded year after year. Use the signing bonus to close the salary gap.

5. If you have an employment gap, be ready with a “strong and confident explanation why that gap exists,” counsels Jennifer.

Did your employment terminate because of “poor job fit” or “performance issues”?

Those things happen all the time,” Jennifer assures. Just be sure to position your story professionally. Also have references to vouch for your skills and work ethic.

Understand that the value that you bring with or without a gap is still the same,” reminds Jennifer.

5 Steps to Position Yourself for a Raise

Negotiating for a raise has similar elements to negotiating during the interview process. Here are five things to keep in mind:

1. "Put a case together: do your research and build your case," says Jennifer.

Get your facts straight. Know how much you’re worth. Do your research.

List your key contributions, the milestones you’ve achieved over the years, the projects you’ve completed, the accounts you’ve closed, etc.

2. Anticipate resistance and possible responses. Your best antidote to resistance is being prepared to handle objections.

Like you and me, organizations want to minimize their costs - but sometimes, to save money in the long-term we need to spend invest money now.

But why should your organization invest in you?

Prove your worth. Be prepared to articulate the value that you bring. It’s costly to hire someone new, allocate resources to train the new person, not to mention the time lag until the new person is fully functioning in their role.

Most managers don’t want this hassle. It’s still more cost-effective for organizations to keep good employees. Use this card when tough economy and budgetary constraints are mentioned. Here’s the bottom line:

You have to manage your career,” Jennifer reminds us.

A hint of urgency is helpful, though you’d want to be cooperative and not adversarial. Be sure you build a strong case with a list of significant performance accomplishments.

And have a plan B ready...more on this later.

3. Practice and get feedback.

Build your confidence and ease of execution through practice.

Even elite athletes develop their training routines so they can perform at their best. Every area that can influence their performance are covered.

Mere mortals like us need all the practice we can get.

We need to assess where we are right now - and then define where we want to be. Preparation and practice help get us there.

4. Have a plan B ready.

Let’ face it. Even the best laid plans go berserk.

No matter how prepared we are - some things are just out of our control. So leading up to your meeting - explore what plan B may look like. This could be:

  • A follow-up meeting in 3 - 6 months to revisit your ask, and any outstanding items discussed during your initial meeting.
  • If your manager brings up performance concerns you were previously unaware of, discuss training options. Companies often provide additional training opportunities to their employees. Maximize these training opportunities as a way to invest in yourself and expand your skill sets...for free. (As well, clarify your manager’s performance goals to ensure you’re on the same page.)
  • Put feelers out to your network to see what other opportunities exist outside your organization. If you don’t have a strong network - work on that now, before you’re forced to need one.

5. Meet with your manager.

After you’ve built your case, prepared for resistance, completed your negotiation training, and identified your plan B … you’re ready to meet with your manager.

Jennifer’s advice is to book a “career discussion” with your manager. In-person meetings are best.

Start with small talk to quickly establish rapport and ease between you and your manager early in the meeting. Then present your case.

Jennifer recommends to “show the research that you’ve done, the resources that you’ve used [so you can] prove that you have real information”. Discuss your performance supported by data and results.

Based on your research, Jennifer advises to disclose that you’ve “looked at the market, and there are opportunities in the market with [your] skillset”. You want to achieve a hint of urgency, without being adversarial...

Be sincere and vocal in your appreciation for opportunities given to you so far. But the bottom line is that you’re here to manage your career, as Jennifer pointed out.

According to Jennifer: the standard raise is 1.7%, the average raise is 3%, and larger raises are 5% and up.

If you’re looking for more than a 10% raise for example, Jennifer suggests that you “map a 3-year plan to spread it out” as a potential counter to your manager. Again, preparation is paramount. Be prepared to defend why you deserve the raise and be ready to counter with an alternative solution.

Schedule a follow-up meeting with a specific date. This is just the start of an ongoing discussion.

Final Thoughts

The onus to manage our career rests on us.

As a career coach, Jennifer works with her clients to “help them build their confidence, hold them accountable, provoke their learning, and challenge them to think outside the box”.

For many of us, we rely on ourselves to strengthen our confidence, invest in our learning, direct our focus, and reach our goals.

Courage isn’t the absence of fear. Remember that you’re in the driver’s seat…

So go ahead, grab the wheel. Drive.

Let me know what you think...leave a comment below.

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En's picture

I like the option of negotiating an extra week of paid vacation or having the benefits start sooner. Great post!

April 26, 2016 @ 7:30 pm
Maria Weyman
Maria Weyman's picture

Thanks for reading En! Appreciate the feedback

April 27, 2016 @ 11:00 am
Stella 's picture

I'd like to know more about how one can improve their education and skill set to boost salary.

October 11, 2017 @ 1:16 pm

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