As tampon start-up Cora cofounder Molly Hayward knows well, not only can negotiating an initial salary offer lead to having more cash in your bank account — a win in and of itself — but it also can contribute to an overwhelmingly positive mind-set when starting a new job because your worth has been validated. Still, getting there can be tough — talking about money requires a strong sense of confidence — so when the 29-year-old asked for 50 percent more than what she’d been offered, she was wracked with nerves.
“Though I was confident in my counteroffer and my worthiness, I was terrified,” Hayward says. “I was certain I was going to be shot down — laughed out of the office, in fact.”
Instead, the opposite occurred: Hayward got the salary she’d asked for.
“My preparation and ability to articulate my experience and what I wanted to bring the organization clearly impressed them,” Hayward, a San Francisco resident, says now, “but more important, this showed me the value of knowing what you are worth — and not depending on others to set that value in your favor — and having the confidence to ask for it.”
Yet despite this example that shows exactly why we should all negotiate our salaries, a surprising number of women don’t even try. When we don’t, though, we’re leaving money on the table. And even if it’s your first time asking for more, you can do it — with these tips.
1. Say not what a raise will do for you, but what you will do for the company. Your boss may care about your well-being, but he or she is also in charge of the company’s bottom line. If you can explain why a salary bump for you will also benefit the company, you’re setting yourself up for a successful negotiation, says Sharlyn Lauby, founder of HR Bartender and author of Essential Meeting Blueprints for Managers. “The better you are at articulating the value proposition for them, the greater the chance you will get what you’re asking for,” Lauby says.
2. Know your worth. Whether you take to the Internet or check in with a mentor in your industry, Monster’s career expert Vicki Salemi says you shouldn’t start a salary negotiation without knowing what others are making, both in your field and in your city, so you don’t sell yourself short — or ask for something wildly unreasonable, which can result in an employer not taking your requests seriously. “It will help your confidence to you know what you’re worth,” Salemi says.
Elaina Ransford, a content strategist in San Francisco, knows that. She was just 21 when she first negotiated her salary. “I was still in college and pretty naive about the business world…and I was really excited to be making more than minimum wage,” she says. “I ended up massively undervaluing myself and worked for a year on a ridiculously low salary.”
The next time Ransford walked into a salary negotiation, she didn’t make the same mistake. “The best tactic is simply to reference statistics on the average salaries of people with your title in your city,” she says. “I use Comparably when negotiating for a new position. It’s also a good idea to have a number that you cannot go below.”
3. Ask for more than just money. Of course you want to add a little extra to each of your paychecks. But asking for more cash is just one part of any successful salary negotiation. “There’s more to salary than what you get on your paycheck,” Lauby says. While “sometimes organizations can’t give more in terms of a starting salary, they can offer perks and benefits like additional vacation, parking allowances, etc.”
When 27-year-old Ke’Andrea Ayers, a radio cohost, negotiated her first offer, she snagged a salary bump and some extras: The Los Angeles resident got the company to pay for a hotel while she found her new apartment, plus she asked for a staff position rather than the freelance offer the company had extended. “I also received medial benefits and a 401(k),” she says.
4. Create a mantra. Negotiating your salary is intimidating. That’s why you need to talk yourself into bulletproof confidence before you enter your boss’s office. Salemi’s advice? “Focus less on how you’ll sound and how uncomfortable it feels and more on that feeling that you’ve got this,” she says. “Create a mantra that works for you. It could be something like, ‘Because I’m worth it. I’m worth it. I’m totally worth it!’”
5. Practice with a friend. Don’t pick a softie who will grant you a fake raise just because you asked for it; find a friend “who will push back a little,” Lauby instructs. You should role-play with this friend and have her present the challenges you anticipate you’ll face. “Salary negotiations aren’t easy, and you need a practice partner who will really make you work for it,” Lauby says. Alternatively, if you’re still in school, chances are your college has a career office staffed with employees ready to go through a mock negotiation with you, Salemi says. “You will start building that confidence muscle the more you practice and realize it’s simply a conversation,” she says.
6. Get comfortable talking about money. Money is often a taboo subject, even with our closest friends. So before you broach the topic of money with your boss, why not first get comfortable talking money with your BFFs? “Start openly talking about money and finances — how much dinner cost your boyfriend last weekend and how much your new laptop will cost,” Salemi suggests. “The more you talk about money in everyday terms, the less foreign and daunting it will seem when you ask for more money with a job offer, regardless of how good the first offer may sound.”
7. Give your boss time to think it over. It was tough enough negotiating your salary, and we know asking you to wait for an answer seems like sheer torture. But after you make the ask, “do not expect an answer immediately,” Lauby warns. “In fact, it’s a good sign if you don’t get an answer right away, because it’s possible that the person will have to get approvals. So play it cool and give the other person the space to consider your proposal.”
Samantha Rubenstein, 32, says she couldn’t wait the first time she negotiated a raise. “I tried to maintain eye contact, while confidently stating what I was asking for,” the Brooklyn resident and current account executive describes. “However, I was nervous, so I also talked too much and told him I understood if he could not give me a raise — without letting him respond first.” And in doing so, Rubenstein gave him an out to say no. “Now I ask for what I want, and then don’t say anything and let the other person respond,” she says.
8. You’ve got a plan A — now get a plan B. Your goal is to get more money than what you’ve been offered. But you need to figure out what you’ll do if you don’t get what you want. “Before entering any negotiation, be prepared to deal with ‘no,’” says Lauby. Will you accept less money? Will you ask for other perks? Or will you walk away? “This isn’t something you need to bring up at the onset,” she says. “That will sound like an ultimatum, and no one likes ultimatums. But anytime you are negotiating, ‘no’ is always an option, and you should be prepared to address it.”
When Kim Kohatsu, 37, first negotiated an offer — she asked for a more flexible work schedule, not more money — she learned the hard way that a hard “no” can come in many forms and leave you with no choice at all. The company rescinded its offer of employment. But the Los Angeles resident hasn’t given up negotiating. “I honestly believe that as women, it is our responsibility to ask for more and do our personal part to try and close the wage gap. However, my experience made it clear that the workplace doesn’t always reward such ambition, especially when it comes from a strong woman,” says Kohatsu, who now owns her own business, a marketing agency.
“In the long run, though, I believe that it’s better I never worked for that company, even though it wasn’t my choice. Now I negotiate fees with potential clients all the time and feel empowered to do so.”