You’ve heard that you really should consider negotiating your salary before accepting a job offer, but for some reason, you never do.
Does that sound like you? There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Besides not really knowing how to negotiate a salary, many people are just scared to do it.
So, let’s break it down. Here are three common things people often feel about negotiating and some simple facts that’ll help assuage your fears.
Fear #1: Asking for More Money Is Inappropriate
In Reality: You’re Just Asking for Fair Market Value
For some reason, talking about money makes people uncomfortable—and it gets especially weird when you’re asking for more of it—but that’s not really the best or most accurate way to think about it. The truth is, when you successfully negotiate for a higher salary, you’re just getting the fair market value of the work you do. If you ask for something unwarranted, you won’t get it.
Take the Friends cast for example. They famously negotiated a one-million-dollar-an episode salary for the final season, and what does
Joey Tribbiani Matt LeBlanc have to say about that?
If you’re in a position in any job, no matter what the job is—if you’re driving a milk truck or installing TVs or an upholsterer for a couch—if you’re in a position to get a raise and you don’t get it, you’re stupid. You know what I mean? We were in a position and we were able to pull it off.
We can’t all be as bold as Joey, but we can try to think a little less about the fact we’re ultimately looking for a higher pay and more about how this is just the way the job market works. You’re not trying to be greedy; you’re trying to be fair.
Fear #2: They’ll Think I’m Demanding
In Reality: You’re Showing That You’re Confident in Your Abilities
When you’re starting a new job, there’s always the desire to make a good first impression. With that in mind, negotiating seems like a bad way to start a (hopefully) long relationship. What if you come off as demanding or arrogant?
While that’s not an unfounded concern (it’s why you want to read up on how to do it right), it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, negotiating can help you make a stronger first impression by showing that you’re fully aware of what your skills are and that you’re confident in your abilities.
Sure, you’re setting a high bar for yourself, but that actually helps you succeed. Studies have shown that when teachers have high expectations for students, they end up doing better in school and vice versa. So, not only can negotiating help you make a better first impression, it can even help you eventually succeed on the job by giving your manager higher expectations for you.
Fear #3: It Won’t Work Anyway
In Reality: People Who Negotiated Increased Their Salary $5,000 on Average
Ultimately, one of the biggest deterrents for negotiating is the assumption that it probably won’t work anyway. Why risk your reputation and cause such discomfort when nothing will come of it? Actually, according to researchers Michelle Marks and Crystal Harold, people who negotiated their salary boosted their annual pay an average of $5,000.
Not only are people much more likely to successfully negotiate for a higher salary than they believe, it also has a much greater impact than the initial salary bump. As Margaret A. Neale, professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, points out, a $7,000 pay raise won’t just be $7,000 in yearly gains, it’ll be the base from which future raises are adjusted. Not negotiating when you start the position could mean years before you catch up to peers who do negotiate.
Negotiating isn’t fun (for most people), but if you take a moment to think through the anxiety it induces, you may realize that after some levelheaded thinking and a quick pep talk it’s worth it to give it a shot. Go on. You deserve it.
Lily Zhang serves as a Manager of Graduate Student Professional Development at the MIT Media Lab where she works with a range of students from AI experts to interaction designers. When she’s not indulging in a new book or video game, she’s thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author