Money & Career

8 steps to the salary you deserve

Author: Canadian Living

Money & Career

8 steps to the salary you deserve

When you start out on any long trip, do you fill the tank only halfway? Three-quarters? No. You top that sucker off with as much as the tank will hold. Why? Because you want to get as far on that trip as you can on one tank; you're not really sure when you'll come across that next filling station, are you?

When you start a job, you have to think in terms of filling that salary tank to capacity. We can't tell you how many of The Girls Who Call Us started new jobs thinking, "Well, the salary isn't that great, but when they see what a hard worker I am, they will adjust my salary upward to make it right and fair." Nope, nope, nope.

J started a job and shortly thereafter found out that she was making far less than another equivalent senior executive who was hired around the same time. J marched right into her boss's office to request a salary bump to even it all out. No fuzzy dice. J's boss pointed out that J's salary was a reflection of the deal she herself had negotiated when she signed on. He told her that he wouldn't even discuss a raise until it was time for J's yearly review. "Take it or leave it," he said.

In most cases that initial salary is negotiable even though the hiring party will try to make it seem like she's locked into a fixed price. But don't worry about seeming greedy for more: negotiation is expected.

No matter what business you are in, no employer will give you more than the market rate. If you ask for $80K as a starting salary when your skills are typically more in the $30K range, it truly does reflect unkindly on your sobriety and sanity. However, negotiating reasonably shows that you are a good negotiator, and the interviewer will increase her perception of your value because you know your own worth. So, to prepare to competently negotiate a salary:

1. Find the going salary in your region for the job title. Go on monster.com and select "Salary Centre" on the home page. You will find the salary wizard, so you can run the numbers. If you know people in the industry, you can also ask them about salaries. Don't, however, ask people for their personal income number; that's tacky and taboo. Rather, ask people, particularly people you know who are frequently involved in the hiring process, about the current market trends.

2. Pick a number that will make you happy. Seriously, so few people think about this part. It's not just about taking what you are given. You are signing your life away here -- what's it worth to you? Then add 10 per cent to your Happy Number. Your final number should fall somewhere within the salary range uncovered by your research. If not, it's the Breathalyzer for you, sister.

3. Figure into your analysis any other costs associated with this job. Is it a longer commute? Add $$$. Will you require a fancier wardrobe that needs dry cleaning? Add $$$. Figure in any changes you can anticipate, such as added meal costs -- add breakfast $$$ if your old company provided bagels, and if there is no office coffeepot, add $$$. Daily javas add up, Caffeine Queen.

4. Determine your bottom and middle numbers. Lock your bottom, middle, and Happy Numbers in your head before you go in there to negotiate.

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Excerpted from The Big Sister's Guide to the World of Work: The Inside Rules Every Working Girl Must Know by Marcelle DiFalco and Jocelyn Greenky Herz. Copyright 2005 by Marcelle DiFalco and Jocelyn Greenky Herz. Excerpted with permission from Fireside Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.

 

5. Recalculate your current salary. If the interviewer asks you the old "What's your salary now?" question, know that she is looking to keep the offer as low as possible. What she will do is figure out a percentage bump, based on your current salary, that she thinks will satisfy you. If you can't sidestep the salary question, round up: add in what you would guess would be your raise in the current year, plus any bonus, and use that number to reflect your current salary. It's not lying. It's projecting. It is kosher to reasonably estimate up based on your anticipated income. One of The Girls Who Call Us recently got a job offer after revealing her actual salary to a prospective employer. Before she accepted the offer, she got an unanticipated 10 per cent salary hike at her current job -- and now the salary at the new job was lower than the old one. But don't go nutty inflating your current salary. If you overinflate, it will be as obvious as double-D breast implants. Hint: never reveal your actual current salary to a headhunter, no matter what they say; they will report it to their client! If asked, say politely: "I'm looking for something in the $50K range."

6. If they ask you for a number, try not to give it. We've both hired people who spat out a number that was well below -- as much as $20K -- what we were authorized to offer. We though, "Great: they're happy, we're happy. Problem solved." If asked what salary you are looking for, say, "Well, I've done some homework on this, and the range seems to be between $2 [your bottom number] and $5 [your Happy Number + 10 per cent]. What's the range you have budgeted for this position?"

7. When they make an offer, don't accept immediately. Thank them for the offer; don't show disappointment or glee. Tell them that you will go home, crunch some numbers, and get back to them. Usually they will give you a deadline. Chances are the number will be lower than what you want. Be prepared to go back and tell them your Happy Number. Use common sense -- if your Happy Number is 40 per cent higher than their offer, you are not in the same ballpark, and you might have to counter with your middle number plus 10 per cent wiggle room. They will tell you they need "to crunch the numbers" and will come back again to you with something probably five or 10 per cent lower than the number you gave them.

8. Be prepared to walk away if they don't come close to your deal-breaker number. If you are not happy with your salary, you will be anxious and unhappy -- never a great place to start a new life. But before you walk away from a job you think you are dying to have because they are offering you less than you currently make, ask about the other benefits that might make up for a lower salary: bonuses, health insurance, flex spending, pension plans, profit sharing, car allowances, moving expenses, stock options, and salary reviews at intervals of less than a year. At that point, feel free to ask for the moon -- you've got nothing to lose.

Money isn't everything. Don't leave a job you are really happy with for $5K or $10K more unless you are sure that the new position is one you really want. It might sound like a lot of money, and so it is, but if you divide it by 12, the financial impact isn't worth leaving a job you adore. Conversely, to not take a job that you think is perfect for you because it pays less than the job you have currently and feel lukewarm about is equally self-defeating. You can't put a price on day-to-day happiness.

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Excerpted from The Big Sister's Guide to the World of Work: The Inside Rules Every Working Girl Must Know by Marcelle DiFalco and Jocelyn Greenky Herz. Copyright 2005 by Marcelle DiFalco and Jocelyn Greenky Herz. Excerpted with permission from Fireside Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.

 

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8 steps to the salary you deserve

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