Jen Nash has been in business for over two decades as a Creative Director and senior strategist for Fortune 100 companies, and has additionally built a multi-million-dollar real estate company for herself. As Chief Money Instigator, Jen's philanthropic initiative is focused on inspiring grads to negotiate better starting salaries at their next job. This week, she brings us four concrete tips to help you negotiate what your worth, even early in your career. Here's Jen—
Congratulations. You’ve found a company you actually want to work for. No small feat in a world that includes crappy clients, ego driven bosses and poorly run accounts. Being excited about a firm, your future team, your boss and your accounts is fantastic. There’s just the pesky matter of nailing down your compensation and getting your agreement signed.
Sheesh! I know. It’s daunting.
In fact it’s really, really hard. So hard in fact that almost no one likes talking about money, negotiating their salary and even seasoned pro’s with decades under their belts try to avoid this conversation. (Thank goodness for recruiters!)
But until you’re at the point where a recruiter is fighting to get your more compensation, you’re going to have to handle this yourself…and here’s how.
Tip #1: DO YOUR RESEARCH
Start by knowing the range of what’s reasonable.
Find out what others are paid at THAT agency as well as other similar agencies. Do you know another junior writer, art director etc.? They are going to be a huge resource.
Ask them flat out: “What do junior writers at your agency typically make? Give me a range? I am job hunting and really need to know what’s realistic.”
Ask men and women. They aren’t always paid the same, so know what the other sex is making so you ask for the higher number.
Go online and do your research there as well. Check out the following so you know the salary ranges:
Tip #2: ASK FOR THE HIGHEST SALARY
Now that you know what others are making you can decide what you think is fair. You’re probably an amazing talent, top of your class… ahead of all others. So expect to be paid at the high end of the range you’ve just defined. Next, when HR asks to know what salary you’re expecting—you have two options. You can either tell them:
A) I am excited about this position and I’m sure my needs are within budget. Do you have any idea what your budget can swing?
B) Based on my research for a “your future title,” I know I can expect compensation that includes a salary between $??,000.00 and $??,000.00
Why go A? There is a theory that if you say the first number you may have missed a lot of money. So by letting your future employer throw out the first number you can get a better sense of where they are at.
Why go B? The agency knows where you stand, and if they can’t pay you the correct range… you know early and can continue looking at other options. Your time is precious.
SIDE NOTE: It’s important to remind HR of all your advantages when you talk money with them. Remind them of things like:
You have client specific experience
That you’ve worked with this CD before and are well liked
That you recently won the “x award”
Tip #3: BE READY TO NEGOTIATE – IT’S IMPORTANT
Did you get an offer that’s lower than you would have hoped? No big deal. Most companies are hoping you’ll just accept whatever they offer. That’s how they save money.
But if you’re a great fit and they’ve made you an offer? It’s time to negotiate.
When they call, respond positively by saying something like: “Your offer is a good starting point. But based on my research it’s $7,000 lower than industry standards and where I was hoping to land.”
ALWAYS PAD YOUR ASKING so you have room to come down. This is a fundamental part of negotiating. What does padding your number mean? Well make sure you inflate the number you tell them you need – because often they’ll come back a few thousand below what you told them.
So if they offered $55k but you want $59k… you ask for $62k or more when you go back to them. That way you’ve got wiggle room when they come back and say they can only come up $4k.
Tip #4: SALARY ISN’T EVERYTHING – GET CREATIVE
If your future employer really insists they don’t have the budget to pay you what you know is the going rate for your future position, and you really want to work there then it’s time to get creative.
Here are some great ways to make more without necessarily costing your future employers more:
Can they give you a signing bonus? This is common when companies don’t want to have a monthly expense of higher salaries on their payroll.
Can they give your more paid vacation days?
Or more unpaid time off?
Will they support a charity or non-profit you support with a donation in your name? (Tax write off for them, psychological win for you)
Can they give you a parking spot? Or cover your monthly subway pass?
A semi-annual compensation review (Get this in writing!)
DON’T SKIP ASKING FOR MONEY JUST BECAUSE IT SEEMS UNCOMFORTABLE.
At the end of the day, you lose 100% of the battles you don’t fight. And in the same way you will miss out on $100,000’s of dollars if you don’t ask for more money right out of the gate, early in your career.
So do your research, and don’t be afraid to ask for what you know is the going rate. Keeping an open mind and being flexible will go a long way to helping position for professional and financial success.
Find more negotiating know-how from Jen at jennash.com and on Instagram.