Your work begins before your first day at a new job. When you get a job offer, it’s up to you to do your homework about the job title, responsibilities, employer and total compensation if you want the best package available. A single data point isn’t going to tell you the answer—you need multiple sources of information. Here are five things you can do before you begin the negotiation process that will increase the likelihood of you being satisfied with your salary package long after the glow of the job offer has worn off:
- Understand how the position aligns with roles outside of the company: In every field I’ve worked in, there’s been wide disparity in responsibilities and compensation for jobs with the same title. I was promoted to product manager at my first post-college job after just one year, and yet, I needed several years of experience and a graduate degree to get promoted to the same title in a much larger organization. Companies vary wildly in terms of compensation and responsibilities for roles with the same title, even if they are in the same industry and city. Leverage your network to make sure that the role you are applying for is the right role for you. LinkedIn can be a great resource to benchmark your experience with others to determine the appropriate level. While number of years of experience is not the only determinant of title, multiple people’s career paths can bring clarity. I realize we’re talking about salary, not titles, but your title and responsibilities will be one of the biggest drivers of your salary.
- Ask around: I am not suggesting that you ask what they are making. You can, however, get some guidance on compensation without violating any sense of common decency. If you have a former colleague at your targeted company, ask them how compensation, work/life balance, promotion schedules and corporate culture compare between the two. Don’t hesitate to reach out to alums from your alma mater for their advice if they work at the company either. If you attended a school that has a career center, see if they have any salary information about that company. And most importantly, check out online resources like PayScale.com.
- Build your case: You need to have a substantiated argument for your salary requirement. If you are moving to a more expensive city, calculate the cost of living adjustment so you know how far your money will go there. If your new role translates into a promotion or a switch in industries, you will want to avoid temptations to base your salary off of what you make today. You should be paid based on the value you bring to the role you are moving into, not your previous salary plus X percent. If you are negotiating with a company that pays less than your current employer, you can decide to use your current salary as a data point for leverage.
- Think about your priorities: There are many reasons why you might be interested in this new role, and salary is just one of them. What other components of total compensation are important to you? Hiring managers might have more flexibility on things other than base salary, including signing bonus, performance bonus targets, relocation and vacation time, that give you what you need to be satisfied without rocking the boat.
- Don’t be afraid to ask: If you accept an offer without any counter-requests, you may always wonder what you left on the table. I’ve learned that most people don’t take offense when you ask for something politely. The worst that can happen is that they say no.