Negotiating your salary can be awkward, but it's necessary.
Not negotiating from the very beginning of your graduate career can have a snowball effect, as employers typically consider raises as a percentage of your salary at the time. A small pay increase now can have a significant impact on your financial future, and incremental salary increases ensure you earn more across your lifetime than those who didn't start negotiating from the outset of their careers.
There are, however, common pitfalls people fall into when negotiating salary. With the help of Lee Woodward, a Retail Marketing Recruiter at POSability Recruitment Agency, we've put together a guide for how to approach salary discussions.
Here are 5 things you need to know before you negotiate your salary with your current employer.
1. Pick your moment.
Most companies will have regular performance reviews, whether they're monthly, quarterly, or annually, and each annual performance review should also be a designated time for a salary review. "This is the perfect time" to ask, Lee says, because your employer is expecting it and will have budgeted for potential salary increases across your department.
So, if you've not been at a company long, or your pay review is a couple of months away, it's best to wait. With one exception: Lee says you can negotiate a raise off the back of "a successful project where there is a great ROI (Return On Investment)." If you have recently delivered exceptional results that have a significant impact on your company, it may be worth initiating a discussion.
"If they suggest it's not a good time," Lee says, ask your employer "to commit to when is a good time" and resume the conversation at that later date.
2. Prepare your evidence beforehand.
Do not enter a salary negotiation without data and examples that tangibly show your performance to be outstanding. Look over your job description to find ways that you've not only done what's expected of you, but exceeded those expectations. What are some stand out examples of times you've really helped the team? Can you quantify the impact your efforts have had on the company, in terms of sales figures, website views, or other appropriate metrics?
It will also strengthen your case to bring exciting future plans and ideas to the table - but Lee says to be wary of focusing too heavily on the future.
"If the list [of successes you've had for the company] is vast, always focus on that. The term 'actions speak louder than words' is key here... people want to invest money in what they can see."
Lee continues, "You may not be the only one vying for a pay rise and the department will have a wage budget."
So, make sure you go in with evidence and any supporting documents to demonstrate your track record with the company.
Lee adds that "any further training you've undertaken also adds weight," to your case for a pay rise.
3. Do your research.
You should always have a specific number in your head when you enter a discussion about pay - you may not achieve that exact amount, but it's essential to know what you're worth and, as a result, what you're aiming for.
Lee advises that the number you negotiate towards "has to be reasonable, especially if your wage is the going rate - a 10% increase is more than enough for a pay rise." If you're currently being paid £20,000 per year, it's reasonable to aim for a 10% pay increase to £22,000.
To find out "the going rate" for your role, research is everything. Websites such as PayScale.com are a great place to start - their Salary Survey allows you to anonymously input your employment information and compare your pay to people with similar levels of experience in your industry. You can also browse jobs sites for an indicator of the salaries companies are offering grads with your skillset.
If you find you are being paid around the average rate, you can still negotiate. But, Lee says, "you must understand what you do that's more than the 'average' and present your case on that basis".
4. Keep it objective.
Your rent has gone up, you need to move flats, you've got a holiday coming up, or you've dipped further into your overdraft than you'd like - these are all reasons why you may feel you need a raise, but they definitely should not come into a discussion with your employer. Focus only on your professional achievements.
As Lee says, you should "keep emotions out of it... emotion and negotiation have no place next to each other, that's where mistakes happen."
Keep away from phrases like "I feel" or "I think", and focus instead on why a pay rise makes good business sense right now.
Lee also advises it's really important not to bring other people into the conversation - "especially if you don't fully know their contribution". A pitfall some fall into is comparing their work and salaries against their co-workers'. Avoid this at all costs, it'll suggest you're negative, or airing a grievance, rather than opening a positive dialogue about your own contribution.
5. Project confidence.
Talking about money with your boss and learning to negotiate is something many grads find scary. The best way to overcome your nerves is to write yourself a script and rehearse it; when the real conversation comes around, you'll feel more prepared having heard yourself state your case aloud previously.
Lee suggests that, from his experience, grads get nervous about discussing a pay rise "because [they] don't feel worthy of it."
"Some people aren't worthy of it, and some people just don't give themselves enough credit," he continues. "If you're the type of person who is quite timid in these conversations, let your stats do the talking."
If you're not the most confident person, that is OK. A negotiation is not an argument, it's a business discussion in which you and your boss can reach a decision together. There's no need to be pushy or aggressive in order to get results.
Instead, focus on the following: don't apologise for asking, speak slowly and calmly, and make sure you are prepared with the key facts and examples you want to bring up. You'll seem confident, even if you aren't on the inside.
Remember, you are doing nothing wrong by asking. As Lee says, "If you're doing a good job, you deserve to be paid for that."