This post also appears in my Work In Progress blog for Forbes.com:
Here are 3 examples of real people negotiating for better salaries. It’s inspirational to see people’s accomplishments. It’s also instructive to see what other people have done that has worked. The names and companies are disguised, but the details are accurate:
Henry was underpaid at $60,000 in his current role as a project manager (essentially an internal consultant) to a large consumer products company, like a Coca-Cola. He received an offer at $90,000 to be an internal consultant for a large pharmaceutical. But the job actually typically paid $120,000, and Henry knew that. He reiterated his interest to the company but assertively asked for market. It took a few back-and-forth discussions, but he got to $120,000.
Lessons for you? Know your market; a 50% pay increase as big as it sounds still might not be fair, if the market is paying more. Stay positive – Henry always spoke as if he was joining the company and happy to be there. Don’t stop at the first No – this negotiation took several rounds but Henry stayed upbeat and professional the whole time.
Diane was offered $12 per hour for an editorial internship at a digital hub of a global media company, like a Viacom. This was a solid offer as many media internships are unpaid. Still, Diane had another offer for a manufacturing company that paid $25. She acknowledged to the company that the offer was good but asked if there was anything more that could be done. She reminded the company of her digital skills and the competing offer, and she got up to $20, which she happily accepted.
Lessons for you? Don’t assume that there is nothing more a company can do – Diane knew her first offer was solid for a media company but didn’t let that stop her from asking for more. Salary is industry-specific – Diane didn’t wait for the media company to match the manufacturing company because that wouldn’t be realistic for this particular role. Look at the totality of the offer – Diane wanted to be in media so the lower compensation for now makes sense given the experience and contacts she would gain (PS. she ended up staying with the company longer than the initial internship).
Ted was offered $175k base, plus bonus for a senior position at an entertainment company, like a Disney. He had a competing offer for $215k base but no bonus. He preferred Disney so asked them to meet the other base. Disney countered with $200k. Ted knew that for this company the $200k base was more than they anticipated paying for this spot. He also knew that the bonus metrics were reachable, and he could easily surpass the competing offer with the bonus. Finally, Ted enjoyed a great deal of flexibility in his previous job and wanted to ask for that here when he was settled. So he happily accepted the $200k base without further negotiation.
Lessons for you? A competing offer is great leverage – Ted would likely not have gotten any increase in the base without it. Look at the details of the offer – Ted counted on the bonus to make up for a lower base because he looked at how it would be calculated and felt he could fairly reach this. (Sometimes a bonus really isn’t compensation if the target isn’t realistic, but in this case it was.) Not all deals need to be made – don’t keep negotiating just to get your initial request. At first Ted was thinking of pushing to $215k since he was more than halfway there. But he realized that by leaving something on the table now, he could generate goodwill that would be more useful later.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine helps people find fulfilling and financially-rewarding career paths, as the co-founder of SixFigureStart®, career coaching by former Fortune 500 recruiters. She is the co-author of “Six Steps To Job-Search Success” 2011, Flat World Knowledge and of the best-selling “How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times” 2010, Two Harbors Press. She is also a stand-up comic with Comic Diversity. Caroline welcomes your comments and questions.