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The Dos and Don’ts of Negotiating Your Salary

The idea of negotiating our salary sounds nerve-wracking to many of us. But if you never try, you may never receive the rewards your hard work deserves. If you’re struggling to work out how to obtain that raise (or to get the right salary if you’re starting a new job), read on for some ideas on how to approach the situation.

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The Dos and Don’ts of Negotiating Your Salary

Know your value 

Knowledge is power, and the best thing you can do for yourself in a negotiation is to go in knowing exactly what you’re worth. Do some research in advance: how much do people in your position and location earn on average? And how do you compare with the average – how much do you bring into the firm each year? 

Get tips from recruiters

If you’re not sure what the typical salary is for the job you’re going for, why not ask some recruiters for tips? Companies like Legal.io know the market well and will be able to offer some data and legal industry advice.

Focus only on the value you’ll add – not your circumstances 

Avoid talking about your personal circumstances: don’t say, “My childcare costs have increased a lot recently, and now that my husband/wife is out of work we’re struggling with our mortgage”. It’s not your employer’s responsibility to consider your personal finances, and they couldn’t do it for every employee. Even if your manager is sympathetic, do you really want your relationship to be based on favors?

Instead, focus on what you bring to the company, and why you actually deserve that salary – purely on commercial merit. 

Plan the timing

If you’d like a raise, don’t wait until your annual performance review to bring it up. By then, the firm’s budget may well have already been decided. You should plant a seed in the mind of whoever is making the decision three or four months in advance. Why not initiate a casual chat with your manager about your goals and how you see yourself progressing? It’ll help you get a handle on their thinking, and it’ll mean any request you make doesn’t come out of the blue.

Use a precise number

A 2013 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology showed that people who used a specific-sounding number in their first offer (opening with, say, $61,250 instead of $60,000) were more likely to end up with a figure closer to their target. The reason postulated is that a precise number implies you’ve done your preparation and carefully researched the market, while a round number suggests a best guess or a moveable target.

Don’t use a range

If you say that you’re looking for a salary somewhere between $60,000 and $70,000, then what you’re really saying – and what the other side will hear – is that you’ll accept $60,000. Ranges don’t help you – keep to specific figures.

Ask for more than you’ll accept

You’re in a negotiation. That means that you’ll probably end up landing somewhere between the positions within the two sides. Don’t be afraid to start off higher than you’re willing to accept to give yourself some room for maneuver. You might balk at suggesting a number well above what you’d expect to receive – but be confident! Your employer will most likely be impressed with your ambition.

You’re allowed time to think

Decisions are difficult in these situations and there’s a lot to think about. Don’t be afraid to thank the employer for their offer, and ask for a day or two to consider it. 

With a bit of confidence, advance planning, and strategic thinking, you’ll be able to get past the numbers you’re offered, to the ones you merit!

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