For years I had a hard time figuring out how much I should be paid—and then asking for it. Yes, I struggled with confidence issues and imposter syndrome, but I mainly just didn’t know how to calculate what I was worth, and then make my case.
In theory, compensation is based on “objective” factors like seniority, years of experience, and the responsibilities of the job at hand—but who’s to say how much any of those things are actually worth?
Nobody’s going to go out of their way to give you money. At the end of the day it’s up to you to make yourself attractive to an employer. Easier said than done, though, right?
I’ve tried a lot of negotiation tactics.
- I’ve named random numbers I thought were ridiculously high, only to be laughed out of the room—or worse, paid that much (clearly, I could have asked for more!).
- I’ve agreed to a low offer with the promise of a raise “in the near future,” based on my performance in the role.
- I’ve accepted the initial number, afraid that the offer would be rescinded if I countered. (In reality, 90% of hiring managers say they’ve never retracted a job offer because a candidate asked for more money.)
These tactics left me feeling powerless, and at the end of the day I still felt uncertain about how much I deserved to be paid.
When a company decides how much to pay you, there’s one root question they’re asking themselves: how will your work affect their bottom line?
Is it possible to estimate a number like that?
I can’t guarantee that my content marketing plan will increase this company’s social following by 300%, and it feels disingenuous to promise something like that.
After completely bombing a salary negotiation for a summer internship, I stumbled across the solution. I spent the entire interview talking about what I hoped to accomplish that summer and why I was excited about the role.
This turned out to be a mistake, and that conversation got me nowhere.
Even though it seemed counterintuitive to focus on the past in a discussion about the future, I realized it would have been a whole lot more effective to spend that time proving that I could generate results.
And the best way to do that? Show them that I already had.
Today, I frame the salary conversation around the impact I’ve already made. Two tactics have been particularly effective:
Use numbers and specifics to prove impact.
There’s a big difference between saying “I ran the Twitter and Facebook pages for xyz company,” and saying “I grew our Twitter following from 500 to 3,000 in six weeks by designing and launching an image-centered marketing campaign.”
Phrase your impact as: “I accomplished xyz result by doing xyz.” To fill in those “xyz’s,” ask yourself:
- Which of my projects have been most successful, and what were the results—short- and long-term?
- Do I have a track record of completing projects ahead of schedule, under-budget, or under tight deadlines?
- How has my work compared with colleagues’ or peers’ at other companies?
- Had I created any time- or money- saving processes or systems? How much time had these processes saved?
Write down every example you can think of. Then, whittle down the list to focus on the results that are most relevant to the negotiation at hand.
Keep track of your daily accomplishments so you have plenty of examples to work with.
Track the impact of your day-to-day work in a spreadsheet. At the end of every day, write down the exact projects you worked on, what the results were, and if you received any praise.
Now, when it comes time to negotiate a raise or look for a new job, you can just pull up your spreadsheet, search by keyword, and select the most relevant examples for the negotiation.
These two tactics have consistently impressed my bosses, recruiters, and potential team members. Negotiating one freelance contract, these tactics helped me negotiate 50% more work for 50% higher pay.
Asking for money because I’m a results-driven, accomplished professional comes across as a lot more reasonable than because I had worked there a while, or because my coworker was paid more.
When I’m armed with proof that I’m a good investment, I’m less likely to back down in a negotiation. I’m an investment, an asset—not an expense.
I know my value, and I can prove it, too.