You got the job! But the salary stinks. Sound familiar?
Negotiating your salary can be challenging, but it’s especially important for young professionals. Your first 10 years in the work force will likely determine your earnings for your entire life, according to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Here’s how to ask a potential employer for the money you want.
1. Stop worrying
Talking about money with a future boss can be nerve-wracking. That could be why nearly half of Americans don’t negotiate their salaries, according to a survey by CareerBuilder.
“A lot of people are just happy to have a job offer in an uncertain job market and don’t want to rock the boat,” explains Angela Smith, the founder of career coaching firm Loft Consulting.
It can help to put the conversation in perspective.
“I’ve never heard of a hiring manager who has retracted an offer because a candidate wanted to negotiate a salary,” Smith says.
Many employers actually offer slightly less than they can afford to pay because they expect candidates to negotiate, adds career coach Maggie Mistal.
2. Schedule a meeting
Experts generally recommend discussing salary after you’ve been handed a written offer.
“After they offer you the job, they’re not thinking of anyone else but you,” explains career coach Robert Hellmann of Robert Hellmann Career Consulting. “Suddenly you have all the leverage.”
Hellmann suggests reviewing the offer with your prospective manager a few days after receiving it. This way, you have the opportunity to devise a game plan.
3. Do your research
There’s a time and place for feelings, and the negotiating table isn’t one of them.
Take those few days before meeting with your prospective manager to research the job and determine your value based on facts, says Hellmann.
Career sites like Glassdoor and PayScale can help you figure out the salary range for the position based on your industry and geographic location, adds Smith. You might also weigh your education and experience level when determining your desired figure.
Entrepreneur Molly Hayward once asked a prospective manager for 50% more than she was offered — and got it.
“There’s no black and white answer” when it comes to how much more you should ask for, says Hayward, who is now the founder and CEO of organic tampon company Cora. Still, Hayward says young professionals should only ask for what is reasonable.
Once you know your market value, you can decide whether the salary you’ve been offered is fair. Be sure to examine the entire offer, including any bonuses and 401K benefits, says Hellmann.
If you’re not sure whether the benefits package you’re offered is fair, Mistal recommends talking to employees at the company to get details about common packages.
4. Be a team player
When making the case for a higher salary, remember to be sensitive and thank the employer for offering you the job.
“You don’t want to come across as entitled” explains Mistal. You might also approach the conversation as a team effort.
“You always want to try to make it about we want, not about what I want,” says Hellman. Ask, “What can we do to bridge this gap?”
If a hiring manager asks how much you made at your old job, you may not need to answer.
New York, Massachusetts and Philadelphia have all passed laws barring employers from asking about an applicant’s salary history. More than 20 states are considering similar legislation.
These laws are designed to help combat the gender pay gap by giving applicants the chance to reset their salaries at a new job.
Experts also recommend negotiating terms in addition to salary, such as stock options or the ability to work from home.
“This way, if you don’t get one thing, there are other levers you can pull to improve the overall offer,” Smith explains.
5. Be prepared to back down
You made a case based on facts, but your prospective boss just wouldn’t budge. Now what?
“If you’re being offered far below industry standards, make a decision about whether you’re willing to take the cut in pay [in exchange] for a good experience,” says Smith.
You could also ask for a salary review in six months, says Mistal.
If you do decide to walk away, be careful not to burn a bridge with the employer.
“You may be able to help each other down the road,” says Hellmann.