For most people, negotiating is one of the most intimidating parts of their career. Others find it exciting. After polling the Visions of Vogue Facebook group, it seems like most of you fall into the first category. As someone who enjoys negotiating and does it every day for my day job, here are my tips for negotiating.
Most of us negotiate every day… with our friends, with our peers, and with our children. Whether we realize it or not, we’ve all had experience. It just might not take place in the workplace. While negotiating with coworkers is a little different, don’t sell yourself short by thinking you’re not qualified. You are. Here is how to negotiate like a boss.
1. Know what you want.
We can’t have it all. When it comes to your career, there are 4 things we as humans value: money, title, flexibility, and quality of work. It’s rare that we find all 4 of these things in any one job. Identify the one or two things that are most important to you and fight for them. In every situation, there are different levers that can be pulled to get you to a point where you’re satisfied. Remember that life isn’t all about money. Money is a nice thing but it’s not the only thing. The science of what will make us happy in our next job isn’t cut and dry which can be frustrating for some people. Learn to be comfortable with it. It will make you a better employee. After you identify which of these 4 values is most important to you, figure out what that looks like for you. If money is truly what is most important, figure out the salary that you want. If it’s flexibility, figure out how many vacation days or what a flexible schedule looks like. It’s going to be different for everyone so you need to figure this out. Once you have your ideal scenario, this is going to be your starting point in any negotiation, at minimum.
2. Avoid making the first offer.
Making the first offer means that you could potentially price yourself out of the conversation by coming in too high or sell yourself short and leave something on the table. Avoid making the first offer if possible. Most times, this isn’t possible like when you work with a recruiter or apply for a job online where the salary is listed. I find this to be more feasible when you’re negotiating for a promotion or merit increase in your current job. However, you never know and it’s always worth trying.
If you have to make the first offer, make sure it’s at or above your ideal scenario (which you figured out above). My best advice is that you should feel slightly uncomfortable with what you’re asking for. Just slightly. If you feel extremely uncomfortable, you’ve asked for too much. If you’re extremely comfortable, you’ve likely left money (or whatever you value) on the table which means you might become regretful or resentful in the future.
3. Identify your base scenario.
There’s a bare minimum for all of us. That minimum may change at any point in our lives as we are constantly evolving. Identify your base scenario and write it down. If any negotiation dips below this point, you know it’s time to walk away. Take all the feelings out of it. This is business, not personal.
4. Do your research.
Learn as much as you can. Ask as many questions as you can about the job you’re getting into. Pay attention to details. Take notes of verbal and non-verbal clues. Study your interviewer or whoever is across the table from you. Know the limit of what they can control, what makes them tick, and the challenges they face. Sometimes, they might not be able to give you everything you want so get creative with it. Can you ask for more “give” elsewhere? For example, if they aren’t able to meet your salary offer, can they bump up vacation days instead?
5. Know your value.
You know your skillset and your experiences. Do a little prep before any interview to refresh your memory. You’ve done a lot and chances are it might take a little jogging of your memory to be reminded of that. Since we live day to day, sometimes we are too wrapped up in the details to know exactly how much we are worth! If it helps, write it down on a piece of paper. You’ll be impressed.
6. Make sure the other side knows your value.
Last year, I listened to an audio book called Never Split the Difference. It’s a good listen if you are into audio books. There are a lot of negotiation tips in the book but the one I found to be most valuable is making sure the other side knows your value. This needs to be done clearly. The goal is to get the person sitting across from you to feel like they can’t live without you.
If you’re negotiating for a promotion, this might look more like listing out past deliverables or performance. It might mean subtly dropping hints to your boss about how much they need you (if you have a relationship like that and in a professional way). Right before you go on vacation is a great time to do this especially if they’re freaking out. I might be speaking from experience on this one! If you’re starting with a new company, you’ll be describing your past experiences with other employers and how you’ve gone above and beyond. Whatever it is, talk through it making sure the other side is understanding clearly.
I’d also recommend making it seem like a dialogue versus a monologue. Talk through the value you bring or the tasks you’ll be responsible for in a way that is conversational, positive, and pleasant. Make it seem like you’re just looking for clarity. Not like you’re trying to prove something. Sometimes, this is all the other side needs because they might not be aware or might not have recognized the full value. Negotiation is an art. Not blunt force. It takes practice.
7. Be confident.
By knowing your value and that you’ve done it right if you’re slightly uncomfortable, I’m hoping that confidence comes naturally. Even if it takes a pep talk or two before the negotiation, think positive and boost yourself up. You are worth it. If they don’t see that, walk away. There will be another opportunity. I promise.
8. Remember it’s just business.
It’s so easy for people to take things that happen in the workplace and make them personal. Especially for females. Remember that we are all just trying to do our jobs. 90% of the time, it’s nothing personal. If something doesn’t work out, it wasn’t meant to be. Don’t hold it against anyone (yourself included). There will always be another job.
9. Don’t be afraid to walk away.
Sometimes, the fit just isn’t right. If both sides coming to the table can’t agree or you’re reaching your bare minimum, it’s probably not the right fit. And that’s totally fine.
Do you have any negotiation tips that have really worked for you? Anything you can share?