Money is a tricky topic for many people, especially in the Black community.
Many of us don’t feel comfortable talking about it openly, let alone navigating complex salary negotiations. As a consequence, too many folks agree to salaries that just don’t match up with their worth.
And I'm not just talking about cash money. I'm talking about the whole benefits package: retirement plans, stocks, time off, sign-on bonuses, relocation, and any other form of compensation.
I'm going to share a few words of advice based on what I've learned through various salary negotiations over the past five years, in the hope that you will find the confidence to nail your next negotiation. It worked for me, and I'm sure it'll work for you.
1. Keep a list of your deliverables on hand
This will help you with your case for why you deserve the amount you're asking for. If you’re negotiating a salary for a new job, don’t just present them with your resume and a list of what you did in your previous position as evidence. Tell them how you made your old company better, and back up your statements with numbers. How did you increase revenue? How did your everyday tasks add value to the company? Keep a list, and include as much data as possible.
Remember, this company is making you an offer based on what you can bring to the table professionally. Degrees are nice, but results are better.
2. Never give your potential employer a number first
Most companies have been trained to ask you for your salary range. This is a tactic, so do not answer their question! Always ask them first: what is the range for the position? See where your prospective employer comes in first and go from there. If you’re asked directly what you’re looking for, say that you’re open depending on their range.
If their range doesn’t meet your standards, there’s no need to continue the interview and waste time on both sides. I've seen so many people make it through the interview process just to end up lowballed. Wish them luck, and move on. That brings me to my next point...
3. Money should be talked about upfront
I know this sounds scary. Talking about money feels taboo for many people but setting your standards early saves everyone a lot of time – and prevents you from feeling like you should accept anything because of that time wasted.
Asking about money early on doesn’t mean you aren’t intrinsically motivated; it means that you know your worth and you respect your time – and theirs too. I always think it's best to ask during the phone interview, preferably at the end.
4. Ask for what you want
Always aim high. Of course the company may not be able to meet you there but you can always negotiate if that’s what you’re willing to do (see how I make it all about you? It’s your wants and needs that matter!). So many people go into interviews asking for what they think they ‘should be asking for’, but avoid this trap. Instead, ask for what you want. You never know what they’re willing to offer unless you ask.
5. Don’t forget to negotiate benefits
Perhaps you’re willing to settle on your salary if they offer additional vacation days (these are extremely valuable...I'm currently running out of them), access to stocks, sign-on bonuses, or other kinds of benefits. Remember that all of these are part of your payment. And if you have children or travel a lot, time can feel more valuable to you than money.
Never stop asking. If a company won't meet you at the salary you want, ask them about other benefits. I negotiated a big sign-on bonus at my current job. I know friends that work at automotive companies who get company cars, and others who don't have to pay car insurance. Be strategic about your overall package and ask, ask, ask!
6. Be willing to walk away
This one is so hard but essential. Not enough of us are willing to walk away. Of course, that might be due to circumstances out of your control, and I understand it’s a huge privilege to be able to turn a job down. But companies can smell desperation and will leverage that against you. It’s much easier to walk away if you know your worth. Always go in with a clear understanding of the number you want, and the number you plan to walk away from.
7. Don't depend on Glassdoor to know your worth
Glassdoor and other salary management websites are really helpful when you’re trying to understand your industry’s standard salary range. But don’t stop there. Make sure you’re asking people that are in your position how much they earn or, if they don’t want to share exact numbers, what range they would be comfortable with. You never know if the information on Glassdoor is accurate and up-to-date so it's important to leverage the real world too.
Salary negotiations can feel awkward and even scary, but they’re also great opportunities for you to assert your own worth. I hope these tips will help you to feel more confident and prepared for your next negotiation so that you can get the compensation you deserve.