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How To Negotiate Your Pay

Jul 8, 2019

What should my salary be? How do I go about start a negotiation about your salary? How can I be sure my compensation is fair?

The majority of the U.S. workforce avoids the uncomfortable conversations where they have to negotiate their pay. This can happen when they have a job offer and are working to negotiate fair compensation, or when they want to negotiate with their current employer to raise their salary.

It's important as a candidate for a job, or as a current employee, that you not limit yourself or sell yourself short. You need to accept that you can make your career go anywhere you want it to with the right attitude. You have limitless opportunities and should always remember what you are worth. This attitude will help you when you try to negotiate your salary, and can help you accept the outcome as well.

Whether you've just graduated from college and are ready for a raise because of your new credentials, or are nervous about how to approach a potential employer about compensation at a new job, this guide can help.

Salary stats.

Just shy of two in five individuals venture forward to re-negotiate an initial salary offer for job offer. The percentage of those who ever ask for raises in their field is only slightly higher.

Here are some statistics that might surprise you about salary negotiations:

  • For the roughly three in five (57 percent) who have never asked for a raise, their most common reasons include: 

    • Being offered a raise before needing to ask for one (38 percent). This is common because many jobs offer cost-of-living raises or something similar every year. Each year you spend with an employer usually means you have more experience, and therefore would be a candidate for a bump in your salary. Similarly, changing job titles or getting a promotion usually will mean you get more compensation, without having to go through a salary negotiation.

    • Discomfort with negotiating pay (28 percent). This is a situation where being too uncomfortable to make a move could be a problem. While it can seem uncomfortable to pursue a negotiation for your salary, if you don't ask, you're not likely to get one. While some organizations offer changes to compensation packages regularly, some do not. And if you feel you are excelling in your career, are taking on new responsibilities, or haven't had a change in your salary in a long time, you need to get over the discomfort and go for it.

    • Don't want to be seen as "pushy" (19 percent). While it can be scary to think of how your employer will perceive you during a salary negotiation, it's important to note that negotiations are professional and necessary. If you are worried about seeming pushy, remember that many employees go in and ask for a pay bump regularly, and it's accepted by employers as a win-win for everyone involved.

  • Not surprisingly, employees who receive higher performance ratings most often get the biggest raises, to the tune of about 70 percent more than the employees with average ratings.   

  • Slightly more than half of employees with lower job satisfaction (54 percent) will be more likely to request a raise than those with higher job satisfaction (just over 40 percent). Interestingly, only 19 percent of those with low job satisfaction receive the pay bump they ask for, while 44 percent of those who are more satisfied at work get the raise they want.

What am I worth?

You should ask yourself the question, "What am I worth?" and then do your research to find out, accounting for your experience as well as for where you live. Recognize that getting a degree will likely increase your worth in the eyes of employers. Statistically speaking, your salary will be higher if you have a bachelor's or master's degree. You should factor your education in when considering what you're worth. Your experience, salary history and job title should also be factored in when you're considering what you're worth.


Utilize your network to your favor before you get into the negotiation zone. Ask people in jobs similar to yours what their salary looks like (in a respectful, polite way) and find out what is acceptable in your industry. Utilizing your network can give you real-life examples to bring to your negotiation, and help you feel confident that you're asking for something fair.

Scheduling the meeting.

The first big rule of thumb for negotiating your pay is to never do any salary negotiations via email. If you are negotiating your money at your current job try to do so in-person, or if you have gotten a job offer that you think needs negotiation, talk with your prospective employer over the phone. These methods will help keep the conversation fluid and open-ended. But you can set up a brief meeting with an email.

Schedule your brief meeting or phone call, and plan on 20-30 minutes at the most. If you are speaking to a potential employer, be sure to et them know you're enthusiastic about their offer and that you just have a few follow-up questions. If you're going into negotiation with your current employer, just let them know you'd like to have a brief meeting regarding your position.

Negotiate your salary.

Time to get your negotiation hat on! Keep your approach professional, polite, factual, direct, and don't be afraid to let an awkward moment or two go by while your employer considers your responses.

If you've just been offered a job.


Do your research. Your "going price" is based on different factors, including your experience, skillset, and job market demand for your position where you live. Having a degree from an accredited university is a surefire way to increase your worth to an employer. Start with a salary calculator or guide to make sure you know what to expect.

Be transparent. A frequently heard rule of thumb is to defer talk of salary until the very end, though you may avoid disappointment down the road and save everyone involved some time if you're more open about your expectations up front.

Ask good questions. You should never go into a job interview process or salary negotiation without solid questions you're ready to ask.

Most companies aren't just playing hardball with you when they tell you there isn't wiggle room for a boost in pay. But there may be other benefits you can negotiate, including:

  • More vacation time/PTO

  • More flex time/working remotely

  • Stock options

If you're asking for a raise.

You can boost your own marketability by upping your professional game, continuing to learn new skills, and pursuing additional accredited education.

You don't want to get a reputation as a job hopper, but many HR professionals will tell you that getting promotions and going from one company to another is how you will see your best pay increases.

Here are some guidelines to follow when asking for a raise:

Do your homework. Again, have your request backed up by research, especially when it comes to your industry and local area.

Be open to feedback and be transparent about your goals. In an assertive (not aggressive) way let your manager know you want to excel at your current position, but that you want to keep progressing in your career.

Take on more responsibility, and without boasting, share your successes and wins. Success always breeds more success. Be vocal about challenges you overcome, and about how you are moving forward.

Focus on how you add value to your company. Taking on more responsibility and learning new skills makes you more marketable. Be ready to explain why you deserve the money increase that you're requesting.

Talk about your future with the company and how invested you are in it. Prove you're a team player. Volunteer for any assignment you can.

Sell yourself. Anticipate questions. Be prepared to hear "no," and be ready to move forward gracefully. You may consider looking elsewhere if you learn that you're worth more than what you're getting paid.


A salary negotiation can be a stressful situation, but you're more likely to get what you're looking for when you're willing to take the bull by the horns, and get your negotiation game on.


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