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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Money

Negotiating on the Job, Part 2: Getting Prepared

This week, our negotiation expert Victoria Pynchon is tackling a reader's tricky question: Can you negotiate without leaving your current job? Check out the first part of her answer, then read on for tips on preparing for negotiation!


As you’ve probably guessed already, there’s considerable work to be done when it comes time to prepare for your compensation negotiation. It’s not hard work though, just work.

Here are the steps:

1. Review your current job description.

2. If you, like most employees over the past four years, have taken on new duties, make a list of them.

3. Update your job description for your own use.

4. Go to a site like or seek information from others in your industry to recharacterize what it is you’re actually doing. Is your current job title really reflective of those duties?

5. Use or your contacts in the industry (or even an anonymous question on LinkedIn) to ascertain how much your employer would have to pay a new employee to do the job you’re doing now.

6. Write down the following:

  • Your job description, including the title that best suits your current duties
  • The range of salaries and benefits people like you report earning and the range of salaries and benefits companies like your own are currently paying
  • Three or more possible promotion, benefit, and raise scenarios. These might include:
        1. The highest compensation package you could possibly rationalize
        2. A compensation package better than you actually want
        3. The compensation package you’d be satisfied with
        4. Your bottom line compensation package
          • All of the benefits your current employer is enjoying as a result of your employment. (If you’re having any trouble, check out our list from Monday of all the reasons your employer would have a harder time replacing you than you think.)
          • Any additional benefits you believe you could provide to the company that would make you even more valuable in the future
          • Now, without intending to ask for a raise or promotion, ask your superior out to coffee or lunch. The purpose of this meeting will be for you to learn what her greatest job challenges are, what her needs and desires are, and which of those goals your employer has prioritized in the immediate, short, and long term. Don’t ask for anything. Just listen. And afterward, write down everything you learned.

            Your next step is to schedule a meeting with someone who has the authority to grant your request for a raise. If there’s more than one person with that authority, then schedule a meeting to discuss your request with the person most likely to approve it. I’d set this meeting up as a “check in” meeting rather than as an “asking for a raise” meeting because you’re still in the preparation and information gathering stage of your negotiation plan.

            Begin this meeting by asking your bargaining partner about the greatest obstacles to success that your company is facing. Talk about the many ways in which you can help your company achieve those goals in the coming years. Talk about how you’ve already helped the company achieve the goals it set for itself in prior years—and use concrete examples. In other words, praise your own work as modestly as possible.

            You can start the negotiation conversation then and there, or you can take the information you gained back to your advisors (your friends, co-workers, significant other) to sharpen your plan based upon the information you obtained.

            The final step is the actual negotiation. This is the most difficult task for most of the women I work with. Not because it’s all that difficult, but because we’re unaccustomed to negotiating and we’re afraid that people will get angry at us if we negotiate on our own behalf.

            In all likelihood, no one has ever given you a script to start a conversation about compensation that’s likely to lead to a satisfactory agreement. No one until now. So check back in on Friday, and that’s exactly what we’ll provide to you. In the meantime, start doing your prep work!

            Photo courtesy of Planet of Success.