Recently, PayScale spoke with Dawn Rosenberg McKay, a career development specialist, to get her take on the worst career advice ever given. (Hint: today’s hot career is tomorrow’s professional dead-end.) At the end of the interview, McKay threw in a bonus: the worst salary negotiation advice she’s ever heard. And it’s a doozy.
“Several years ago, a publisher hired me to update a career-related book someone else had written,” McKay said. “They said I just had to update facts and figures, and resources. As I read the book, I realized the author gave a lot of bad advice. I have forgotten a lot of it, but one thing stands out in my mind. In a chapter about negotiating salary, the author advised readers to tell their boss how much money they needed based on their expenses (rent, bills, etc.) rather than telling them to talk about their value to their employers.”
Why Is This Such Terrible Salary Negotiation Advice?
In short, salary negotiation is about what you can get, not what you need — or even, sadly, deserve. Your value on the job market doesn’t have anything to do with your personal expenses. (Neither does it reflect your value as a person. Keep that in mind, if you get frustrated with the process.)
So, how much are your skills worth on the job market? PayScale’s free Salary Survey can give you a salary range in 10 minutes or less. But, the bottom line is that your “worth” in a salary negotiation is determined by factors like experience, skills and education — plus the demand for people with those things in your industry and geographic area.
Salary negotiation is about what the market will bear, not about what you need to make expenses.
How to Get the Best Possible Salary Offer
- Understand the market. Again, when it comes to salary negotiations, it’s all about what the market will bear. Come to the meeting with salary data in hand, and base your request on that.
- Negotiate with data. Having the right information isn’t enough; you have to know how to use it. In PayScale’s Salary Negotiation Guide, Mark Dyson of The Voice Of Job Seekers offers a five-step plan for using your research to get a higher salary.
- Prepare to change tracks. Although you obviously want more money, it’s a good idea to come to the meeting prepared with a few other things to ask for, in case budgets are closed. Would extra benefits make a difference to your bottom line, or occasional telecommuting privileges boost your work-life balance? Sometimes, it’s easier to score an extra week of vacation than it is to get more money. Think about which perks would make a difference, if a raise is off the table. (Understanding, of course, that you can’t eat an extra week of vacation time — so start negotiations with the cash portion of your compensation, and work from there.)
Tell Us What You Think
What’s the worst salary negotiation advice you’ve ever received? We want to hear from you. Tell us your story in the comments or talk to us on Twitter.