Successful Salary Negotiation Techniques and Mindsets

by Alison Elissa Cardy

Think back to your last salary negotiation. What were your feelings around this conversation?  

When I poll my audiences, some of the common emotions I hear are discomfort, anxiety, and stress, along with a general lack of confidence. For most of us, salary negotiations are rare occurrences, so it’s easy to get rusty on the skillset that’s needed to handle them. In addition, these conversations touch on two topics that can be highly charged: our money and our self-worth. It’s no wonder we feel uneasy when it comes time to face our annual review or negotiate our salary at a new job!

Increase your confidence in your ability to handle your next salary negotiation by reviewing the following concepts and strategies.

Get clear on what you want.

We all generally want more money, but there are circumstances where our top priority is actually something different. It might be more work/life balance, more responsibility, or a better office. Take a moment to pause and consider what you’re most wanting before going into your negotiation. Your negotiation strategy will depend on your end goal, so it’s important to get clear on what you want ahead of time.

Research and prepare.

Take the time to research and prepare an argument for why you should get what you want. This could involve benchmarking common practices at comparable firms, preparing a list of goals you’ve helped your employer achieve over the past year, or noting reasons why you’ve become a more valuable asset, like further education or community involvement. Get clear on how your presence benefits your employer, and be ready to articulate your case.

Don’t ask for what you want. Ask for more.

The first number mentioned in a negotiation anchors the remainder of the conversation. If you’re upfront about what you actually want you will reduce your ability to get more and increase the likelihood that you’ll get less. Therefore, ask for more than what you really want, which will give you room to negotiate. This strategy could also help you to achieve a better deal than you anticipated.

Put more on the table.

An employer may not be in a position to give you the raise that you’re looking for, but if you also ask for a better health insurance plan, support with continuing education, or more vacation time, you will be more likely to achieve at least one of those goals. Putting more on the table also gives you room to make concessions. You can drop one of your requests as a means to boost the likelihood of getting what you really want. 

Look at your mindset.

A quick trick to improve your mindset is to write down all your thoughts around an upcoming negotiation. Pull out one of the ideas that causes you the most stress. Look at its impact. How are you likely to feel and act while thinking that thought? Next, consider a new perspective. This should be something that you believe that also feels better. For example, you might switch your mindset from “My boss will be annoyed by my request” to “My boss will respect my initiative.” You can take this one step further by finding examples of how your new perspective could be true, which will help anchor the attitude in your mind. 

Practice ahead of time.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to practice your negotiation ahead of time. Grab a friend or family member, explain the scenario you’re facing, and do a couple practice runs of the upcoming conversation. You’ll be able to test out and revise the language that you want to use. You’ll also think through different paths the conversation could take before you’re actually sitting in the more pressured environment of the real conversation. You’ll feel much more prepared by taking the time to practice in a low risk environment.

Salary negotiations often produce discomfort because we’re caught off guard. You can feel calmer and more confident in your next negotiation by taking the time to research, strategize, prepare your mindset, and practice ahead of time. Best of luck with your next negotiation!

Alison Elissa Cardy is a professional career direction coach who specializes in helping people get unstuck and onto satisfying career paths. Over the past five years she has worked with hundreds of people to improve their careers through speaking engagements, workshops, and one-on-one coaching. Alison’s work has been featured on Monster.com, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and the Chicago Tribune. You can find her free “Career Direction Quiz: featuring the 10 Categories of Stuckness” on her website, www.alisonelissa.com.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of their employer or Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.

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