5 Steps to Increase Your Salary

By Claire Wasserman, Founder and Author of Ladies Get Paid and Host of John Hancock’s Podcast, Friends Who Talk About Money

Taking command of your career means asking for more. Whether you’re negotiating your salary for a new job or asking for a raise at your current gig, don’t let your fears keep your bank account small. What you make today compounds over time, so don’t just think of this year’s paycheck, but the wealth you’ll generate through investing that money, whether it’s the stock market, a high yield savings account, or a 401(k). 

If you’re asking yourself if you can still negotiate even though we are experiencing a global pandemic, the answer is yes. Acknowledge that you know times are tough, but that you’re confident in the value you bring. If you’ve gotten far enough in the interview process where the company is ready to give you an offer (or if you’ve worked at the company long enough to be up for a promotion), remember that the company wants it to work. Losing you cost them money. That being said, having a financial safety net is a must because those with the ability to walk away are the strongest negotiators.
Here’s what you need to know to get the money you deserve:

#1 – Determine your market value

Do your research. Keep in mind that the salary has to be rooted in your situation: the size of the company, location, industry, your level, special skills, etc. Also, you’re not looking for one golden number. Most companies calculate salaries within a range aka a “pay band.”  Look for three numbers within that range: top, middle, and low; i.e. your bottom line. When you negotiate, begin with the top number, and expect the company to counter with something closer to your bottom line. Most likely you’ll end up somewhere around that middle number. 

#2 – Get advice

Looking at job sites like Payscale and Glassdoor is a good start, but the best research you can do is by talking to real people. If you’ve listened to John Hancock’s podcast, Friends Who Talk About Money, you know that talking about money can be awkward. Keep in mind that everyone needs to negotiate at some point, so if you’re the first to bring it up, you’re normalizing an important conversation that will help more than just you. (Check out Episode #1: Just Between Us, to hear how Carena and Dorothy have helped each other navigate money throughout their careers.) 

Still feeling uncomfortable? Here are two ways to ask someone in a similar role about their  salary: 

  1. “Here’s the research I’ve done. Am I off-base?”

  2. “What’s the ballpark you make?” 

#3 – Look beyond the salary

Happy with your number? Don’t say yes quite yet. The base salary only accounts for about 70% of employee compensation. It’s likely your offer includes benefits like 401(k) matching, life insurance, and assorted perks like gym memberships. Make sure you are decoding the offer letter to better understand the total compensation of the job. You have the right to ask them for 24 hours to consider the offer and respond.

#4 – Talk about your accomplishments 

Take some time to write out your story. A good framework to work from is called the STAR Method.

S = Set the scene. Give some context; the who/what/when/where/why. 

T = Task. What you were asked to do.

A = Action. What you did. Also, include how you did it; for example, if you produced an event on a small budget with a quick turnaround time, what did it take to accomplish that? Talking about your strengths (attention to detail, collaboration, resourcefulness, fast learner), is also a way of showing your uniqueness. 

R – Result. This is key; don’t just say what happened, but what the impact of it was. Try to quantify it as much as possible. That includes time, money, and resources saved since all of that demonstrates your impact on the business’ bottom line. 

#5- Plan what to say

The worst thing you can do is wing it. Use these three sample questions to prepare for your conversation. Your manager may ask:

“How much do you want to make?”
Don’t be afraid to be the first person to say the number; just cite your market research. You can also ask for more information surrounding their current budget. 

“That’s too high for us. We were thinking something closer to x.”
Your response can be simple: “That’s a great starting point.” The goal is to get them to work with you to find creative ways to get closer to the compensation you want. For example, benefits like 401(k) matching, insurance options, more vacation days, stock options or more equity, and career development. Pro tip: have three of these in your back pocket. 

“I’m sorry, we just can’t do that.”
Gather more information from them, for example:

  • When do you expect the budget will be open again?

  • Is there a good time to revisit this conversation?

  • What do you need to see from me in order to get closer to the requested number?

Whatever the timetable is (say, in six months), set up a meeting in three months to make sure you’re still on the same page. 

Additional resources

Want to learn more about negotiating? Check out our course on salary negotiation as well as check out John Hancock’s podcast, Friends Who Talk About Money, where you’ll get inspired to start talking about money (and asking for more.)

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