By Jordan Quigley, North American vice president for Robert Half’s administrative and customer support group
From agreeing to your starting day to signing off on your retirement package, your negotiation skills can play an integral part in your professional life. The ability to negotiate effectively can help you get the pay and promotions you want, settle differences with coworkers, and advocate for things that are important to you, such as moving up the career ladder.
Before we get to the negotiation steps you need to take for career advancement, let’s look at the various stages of this dialogue, beginning with the offer to join a company after your job search and interviews.
Negotiating a job offer
The key to negotiating your starting pay is to do your research. The latest Robert Half Salary Guide makes it clear there is a shortage of skilled professionals, which increases competition for top talent and drives up salaries. Many candidates are getting multiple job offers in today’s hyper-competitive hiring market.
Using the Salary Guide, choose your specialization and find the projected salary by job title and experience level. Then select the city nearest you to adjust salaries for regional cost of living, talent availability and other factors. That gives you information to compare with your salary offer — and it can help you tactfully and confidently ask for something different.
Of course, the job offer isn’t just about money. There are a variety of perks and benefits to consider, as well, including remote work, perks and benefits, signing bonuses, paid time off, work hours and vacations.
Read these posts for more negotiation tips:
- How to Negotiate a Salary After You get a Job Offer
- The Job Seeker’s Guide to Understanding Employee Benefits
- How to Write a Letter Asking for a Raise.
How do you negotiate career advancement?
In the bigger picture, your negotiation skills will become even more critical while you’re on the job. If you’re going to advance your career, you’ll likely need some tools to move forward, such as professional development, support staff or leadership opportunities. As you gain tenure with the company, you may want a higher salary, more benefits, or different tasks and responsibilities.
I often refer to the saying, “It’s easier to hit the ball when you swing the bat.” How do you swing the bat? Consider these guidelines to ask for what you want, and negotiate, to get that home run.
Find out more about the latest hiring and employment trends with these resources:
10 negotiation skills to boost your career
Figuring out what you want. Make a list of what’s important to you, and set your priorities ahead of time. You should enter a negotiation with clear goals and prepare to adjust your expectations during this give-and-take process.
Doing your research. Is it a promotion or a better compensation package you’re focused on? You can strengthen your position by supporting it with current market data from the Salary Guide, such as how much employees earn in similar positions, industries and geographic regions. Are you looking for more flexibility? A tight labor market with a shortage of skilled professionals can make employers more open to concessions when they’re struggling with staffing and employee retention.
Focusing on the value you bring. You were hired for a reason, and knowing your worth can give you the confidence to successfully negotiate for career advancement. Calculate your potential contribution by showing how you can help the company increase its profits or lower costs. Build your case with a list of your unique and transferrable skills, industry experience, accolades, and leadership and collaboration capabilities. If you’re in an entry-level position, you may have classes, internships or mentorship experiences you can use to highlight your achievements and skills.
Practicing and role-playing before you negotiate. The key is to get yourself in a confident mindset. Compile a list of talking points so you can deliver a compelling argument for what you want. It may help to rehearse the conversation with a mentor and to imagine your negotiating for a friend.
Being humble, assertive and practical. Ask, rather than demand. Express your opinions while respecting the other side’s perspectives. Take a fact-driven approach to negotiation. Review your job description and consider anything extra you’ve done outside of your list of responsibilities, such as cutting costs or adding to the company culture.
Demonstrating active listening skills. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason, and you should make an effort to get the other person to speak so you can listen as much as possible. To reinforce your interest in what the speaker has been saying and to gather useful information, ask relevant questions. Some examples include: “What leadership opportunities could grow from this role?” “What has made someone successful in this job” or “How do you see my role evolving?” Listening isn’t just useful for elevating a conversation; it’s also recognized as a valuable skill set that companies and hiring managers are looking for.
Strategizing what to negotiate beyond salary. Be prepared to discuss topics that are important to you, such as a signing or retention bonus, flexible work schedule, remote vs. hybrid vs. onsite work, maternity/paternity leave, childcare and tuition reimbursement, your job title, upward mobility options, and the scope of work you’re performing. Review your strengths and weaknesses to plan a realistic course of action. Also, use this strategy: Ask for more than you want to give yourself some wiggle room; it never hurts to start a bit higher, especially in this market.
Realizing the conversation doesn’t have to end with the negotiated offer. Some people describe this as the never-take-the-first-offer approach. You may find it appropriate to conduct a second round of negotiations if the offer wasn’t what you were hoping for.
Knowing your bargaining power. Whether you’re a job candidate at your second interview or an employee looking for something more, you should know that the company has already invested in you. And, in today’s job market, workers are feeling increasingly empowered.
Viewing rejection as an opportunity to learn. Your negotiation shows your assertiveness, which is an in-demand skill in the workplace. Even if you don’t get what you ask for, it’s likely this experience has taught you something about yourself and the company, and about what you might do differently the next time, all of which are positive outcomes.
Whether you’re just starting out, in the middle of your career, or near retirement, negotiating can be uncomfortable. Having an alternative offer, whether it’s internally or from a different company, can give you bargaining power. Consider what matters most for your professional and personal life, and do your due diligence to negotiate these topics or issues.
Regardless of the outcome, you should know that negotiating with confidence can help you develop your career, earn you respect, build relationships, increase job satisfaction, improve your company and earn credibility in your career. With practice, your negotiation skills will improve, and you will reach your career goals.
Follow Jordan Quigley on LinkedIn and check out other posts he's written:
- How Companies Can Build a Remote Work Culture
- 10 Tips to Build and Grow a Successful Remote Administrative Team.