Tips for Negotiating on Your own Behalf

Negotiating on your own behalfNot every job provides you the opportunity to negotiate, sometimes for entry level jobs it’s in your best interest just to get your foot in the door, but after that first gig is in the books it’s time to make a case for something more than what is being offered.

Most of us are workers, not professional negotiators, so our comfort zone is more in line with proving worth through actions and experiences, not by skillfully crafting a message geared towards gaining additional benefits.

I’ll admit, early in my career I was just happy to be wanted and I was worried how I would be perceived if I asked for something more, so I never did.

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That is the pitfall, most job seekers self-censor during the interview process, afraid to upset the apple cart and be labeled as someone who ‘isn’t a team player’.

Here are some simple tips to help guide your salary negotiation, or maybe it’s some other benefit like extra vacation, gym memberships or a company car, either way, you have to learn how to ask and that’s what we are here to help with.

Dig into the Data First

According to Time Management Ninja there are 29 main ways people waste time throughout the day, ranging from the obvious, surfing the internet (Hello Facebook!), to the less obvious, hanging out with negative people and absorbing their bad energy.

Time to shift away from these time wasters and do something more productive, like research!

Sounds boring, but which thing has a better chance of actually improving your life – getting to a new level of Angry Birds, or discovering the industry standard for jobs in your niche?

Research leads to confidence. Confidence is noticeable and respected by employers.

Here are three great ways to use research to your advantage:

  1. Research salary numbers for comparable positions in your market. Once you start gathering the data, validate it by checking your network of contacts to see if there are any people you know, or maybe one of your contacts knows, in the same field that you can talk to. It sounds weird, but I received a call one time from a News Director at a different TV station acknowledging the awkwardness, letting me know our shared connection, explaining he was in the midst of a salary negotiation and wondering if he could ask me a few questions. I actually had no problem speaking with him and helping him in his cause.Remember, most employees like to help each other in the quest to stick it to the man. This type research that helps you understand your industry deeper will give you confidence when you approach your boss for more money, or when you are interviewing at another company.
  2. Jim Hutchison, teacher of the online course ‘How to Negotiate a Raise or Promotion’ has another suggestion of how research can help:
    “If you get an offer that includes $3,500 in moving expenses, it’s one thing to say “That feels a little low.” You’ll have more confidence if you can say “I took the time to get quotes from three different moving companies, consulted the federal government’s mileage allowance guidelines for vehicle reimbursement for moving expenses, and factored in the cost-of-living difference for both cities, and the number came out to $4,934.”

You might wonder – is that being pushy or presumptuous? NO! That effort shows how you will be as an employee; data driven, detail oriented and thinking ahead. If anything you’ve just shown your true skills and why they should hire you.

Practice, Practice, Practice

All of this data you’ve researched doesn’t mean a darn thing if you sit across the desk from your prospective employer and talk too fast, or read these details like a robotic script.

This has to be a natural conversation, and the only way to be natural and confident is to practice.

There are many effective ways to practice:

  • Use a webcam and have someone ask you questions off camera. Now you can record how you respond and watch yourself critically. This will also help you maintain eye contact, since you need to look into the eye of the camera or else you’ll look silly when you watch it back.This technique can be very uncomfortable (watching a recorded version of yourself is awkward) just remember this is exactly how someone across the desk sees you. If you look awkward on camera, you’re going to look awkward to them too. Awkward is not convincing.
  • If you don’t have a webcam, practice in front of the mirror and try very hard to make eye contact with yourself. Clear your mind, don’t think actively about how you look, focus on the data and making it sound conversational.
  • If you’re preparing for a phone interview, practice on the phone with a friend. You want to understand how the quality sounds, what the delay is like and how well you can hear. Once you feel comfortable in the quality of the transmission, then you can concentrate on content.
  • More and more job interviews are happening on Skype, it’s important to prepare technically and practice that style of engagement. It has a different feel to it, so practice is vital in these instances.

Never Accept the First Offer

A recent study by Carnegie Mellon University and published in the Harvard Business Review indicated that 93% of the women graduating from their MBA program accepted their future employers initial salary offer, while 57% of the men negotiated for a higher salary.

negotiating salary on your own behalf

“Never accept the first offer, it makes people crazy,” Stanford Business professor Margaret Neale

The result: the men on average walked away with a salary almost $4,000 higher.

Their theory behind this negotiation gap was three-fold

  • Women are socialized not to promote their own interests and to focus instead on the needs of others.
  • Many companies’ cultures penalize women when they do ask – labeling them as ‘bitchy’ or ‘pushy’. (If the Harvard Business Review can print ‘bitchy’ so can I)
  • Women in business often watch their male colleagues pull ahead, receive better assignments, get promoted more quickly, and earn more money. Observing these inequities, women become disenchanted with their employers. When a better offer comes along, rather than using that offer as a negotiating tool, women may take it and quit.

It doesn’t really matter of you are a man or a woman, you should never accept the first offer. Use the research you gathered in step 1 to confidently ask for more.

There is actually a psychological component to negotiation as well, both sides of the table should expect some back and forth and if they don’t get it, they often feel disappointed.

“Never give anyone their first offer; it makes them crazy,” says Margaret Neale, professor of organizational behavior and director of two Stanford graduate school of business executive education programs in negotiation.

I tried negotiating with a real estate agent once to lower their commission, and their response has stuck in my mind for years. They said, ‘If I can’t negotiate my own behalf, how in the world could you expect me to negotiate for you on your behalf’.

Their answer didn’t upset me; it actually gave me confidence in them!

The same thing goes if you are asking for more money from an employer, if you are organized, have data to support your requests, and practice your technique, they will respect you and know that you are the type of employee they want to have.

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About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.