Should I Even Bother Negotiating?

Photo courtesy of nick@ on Flickr creative commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) "Arm Wrestling" https://www.flickr.com/photos/nic1/3498727510/sizes/m/.

Photo courtesy of nick@ on Flickr creative commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) “Arm Wrestling” https://www.flickr.com/photos/nic1/3498727510/sizes/m/.

You can always negotiate. However, your chances of getting a desirable result depend on how prepared and educated you are. The point of negotiating is not to battle for power or the upper hand and it is not to squeeze the employer for every last ounce of compensation from their budget. The point of negotiating is to come to a win-win solution where each party gets equal value.

If you have not tracked your accomplishments in measurable terms, consult with an expert (like me) who can ask you the right questions to help draw out these details. Your accomplishments act as justification of your value both with the hiring manager and their finance department or executive leadership. Either or both may ultimately have to approve the budget.

Salary is a price at which an employer purchases you and your abilities. In a “buyer’s market”, employers drive prices. As the economy recovers, so do rates and salaries. We are heading toward a “seller’s market.” (This will not be true of all jobs/industries, but will be true generally.) As with all financial cycles, prices correct themselves and there are opportunities to re-negotiate salaries.

Regardless of the market, settling for the first offer can be perceived as naïve or passive. You are essentially training your employer for future negotiations, so it is worth practicing some advanced negotiating skills, even they don’t result in a higher offer now, but instead set you up for a better offer in the future.

You need to understand your market value so that you can identify a fair offer. If you are wondering what a general range for an acceptable offer would be in this market, niche recruiters are usually the most knowledgeable on current market value. If you have built relationships with a niche recruiter it can be much easier to have them make the time to share this information with you. Keep in mind that this will usually be general information and may not account for the unique value that you have to offer, which an expert can help you understand better. Other resources, such as salary websites (salary.com and government websites) are useful to gather some data as well.

A troubling trend that I see building momentum today is candidates undervaluing themselves. They believe employers will not be able to see their value or pay them for their value, even if they do demonstrate it. In the end, instead of trying, many candidates give up and allow themselves to be undervalued. Until you execute an optimized career campaign, which means executing all 7 steps of a career transition with complete integrity (both structurally and morally), you can’t truly determine if you need to settle for less or be more flexible.
The seven steps of a career transition are:

1. Discovery – determining what you want
2. Marketing materials preparation – resume, profiles, cover letters, biographies, etc.
3. Prospecting – determining criteria and identifying target companies
4. Distribution and follow-up – usually outside of an online portal
5. Networking – nurturing your network while you train them to generate qualified leads
6. Interviewing – is more about who you are not what you say
7. Offer negotiation – start out as partners

Too many people are skipping the career steps or falling short of mastering them. Rather than building momentum so that they can choose from multiple attractive opportunities, they feel forced to accept what they can get, thereby passing up great opportunities for success.

Employers know that candidates tend to get desperate. They can see this as an opportunity to take advantage of those desperate candidates and get cheap talent. Beware – these employers usually foster an environment where they teach you that you are fortunate just to be employed. They use the economy and mental abuse to keep people retained in awful jobs and morale is generally very poor. Over time, some employees may accept the situation and it becomes a bigger challenge for them to get back on track. Once you undervalue yourself, even good employers will start to do the same.

Progressive and attractive employers seek out the candidates that are clear with their motivations and who know their value. They want to offer these candidates an opportunity that matches their qualifications, career goals, and salary requirements. Employers do this so they can retain these valuable candidates even in an up economy, and these companies eliminate candidates that pursue “anything and everything” and who undervalue or overvalue their experience.

On the other end, overpricing yourself puts you at great risk. Layoffs are determined by various factors including utilization versus overhead costs, so negotiating the highest number possible is not the best long-term strategy. Though it may make you feel financially secure, you can put yourself on the chopping block if you do this. The only true job security that you can have in this cyber age is your ability to successfully transition.

As in any time, you will need to know your current market value for both your general skills and your unique value and offer justification, which has little to do with your circumstances and everything to do with the value that the company will realize from hiring you. If you prove you are indispensable and ask for a fair amount, you will get a raise, even if it is not what you originally requested. If the employer does not keep up with market prices, then they risk turnover and increased difficulty filling vacant positions, which costs them money.

Almost always, they expect that what you ask for is negotiable just as they expect you to negotiate their offers, even if they tell you it’s non-negotiable! There may be budgetary limits, and you can consider what benefits and perks would have monetary value to you to make it a win-win situation, which is the END GOAL. Negotiation at its best is not about power or sacrifice. You do not have to settle for less than MARKET VALUE, which is a constantly changing number, or concede what is important to you just to have a job. Success in negotiation is reached in the middle, where you and the company get equal value.

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