Salary Negotiation: 4 Myths We Tell Ourselves
August 30, 2021
Congratulations! You’ve gone through a series of applications and interviews and you’ve landed a job offer. But it turns out that might be the easy part. What can be harder is negotiating the salary you want.
People often say that the best time to ask for a raise is when you get the job—not least because your starting salary will likely be the baseline your new employer uses to calculate future raises. But let’s face it, it’s also a tricky time to start lobbying for more money. You’re new to the company. You barely know the people hiring you, and they don’t know you that well, either. Besides, aren’t they already giving you a job? Isn’t it pushy to ask for even more?
These might seem like legitimate reasons to simply accept whatever compensation you’re offered. But the idea that, as a new employee, you shouldn’t advocate for yourself is rooted in some common misconceptions about negotiating.
“Negotiating is a skill, and an important one,” says Jacquette M. Timmons, founder of Sterling Investment Management, a behavioral-based financial coaching firm. “It’s about approach. Are you demanding something? Or are you coming at it wanting to find the sweet spot that’s beneficial for both parties?”
Ahead, Timmons shares some common negotiation myths we tell ourselves, and gives us tips for overcoming them.
Myth: “I don’t have the experience.”
This is a refrain that runs in a constant loop in the heads of those who are just entering the workforce. But it is surprisingly common even with seasoned professionals with long résumés who are new merely to a specific job or company. “You may not have experience with the job you’re interviewing for,” Timmons says. “But that doesn’t mean you lack experience.” Take a hard look at your work record and even your education. “Be creative in drawing a connection between the experience you do have and the job you’re applying for,” Timmons says. “Explain how that experience has given you skills that will help the company achieve its goals—and why your salary should reflect that expertise.”
Myth: “I don’t want to seem greedy.”
You’re already being offered a job, so it’s understandable that you’re worried that asking for more is ungrateful. “But you’re bringing something to the table, too. Don’t diminish that,” Timmons says. Remind yourself that the company has hired you for a reason. You’re filling a need for them, and solving a problem. That has value. Besides, the ability to advocate for yourself (without being arrogant) and to negotiate a better deal showcases skills that most employers find highly valuable.
Myth: “Money is the only thing I can negotiate.”
“The discussion doesn’t have to be limited to dollars,” Timmons says. If the salary is unbudgeable, perhaps you can ask for more paid time off, flexible hours, or other extra perks or benefits. Timmons even suggests looking at the timetable for future raises by suggesting a shortened probation period or moving up your annual review.
Myth: “They will say no, and I will look bad.”
Fear of rejection is nearly universal, and the last thing anyone wants after getting the big “yes” of being hired is hearing the new boss say “no.” But the notion that negotiation will reflect poorly on you is just not true. While they may say no, Timmons says that just by asking, you’re opening up a dialogue with your new employer— about compensation, your abilities, and what you bring to the company—that can be constructive. It can also allow them to explain what you might need to do to get that raise in the future. “View this as an opportunity for you to engage with them,” she says. “Ask them why they said ‘no.’ Is it the budget? Is it the lack of experience? Who knows where that conversation might lead? A ‘no’ at this point doesn’t end the conversation. It’s an invitation to continue.”
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