Negotiating your compensation package does not have to be an arm wrestling match, but it does require you to think strategically and fully understand how to communicate your value. While you may be great at what you do, if you cannot find a way to communicate that to a future employer they will not be able to determine your value.
One of my favorite quotes:
We work not only to produce; but, to give value to time. -Eugene Delacroix
To be truly satisfied with a new position you have to get what you need coming into the job. Compensation isn’t just about money;it’s about the trade-off – how much you can get for what you are giving.
I have had many clients, colleagues and friends tell me stories about how they don’t get paid enough money in comparison to all the work they do. My response is simple: “Well, that is what you agreed to!” Or as my kids always say, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset”.
If you are stuck in a situation where you don’t see growth potential in terms of compensation, it’s time to make a life choice. Either you are willing to tough it out because you love the work or you need to find a company that will pay you what you’ve considered to be sufficient enough to support your lifestyle. Compensation is a personal choice. It’s the bare minimum terms and conditions you are willing to accept before you take on a new position.
So what should you consider when negotiating a compensation package?
I cannot tell you what is best for you; only you can decide that. Things that may be a priority in your life may not be a priority for someone else. However, here are many things to consider while negotiating your compensation package.
Remember, compensation is not just about money and I believe most everything is negotiable (maybe that’s because I try to negotiate everything), especially when starting a new job so here are my picks:
Minimum desired salary (of course!).What you absolutely must have to meet your financial obligations, retirement, and leisurely spending. This should consider the work you are expected to do and your anticipated duties (you know, the stuff they will add on without paying you for it!).
Retirement benefits. Find out what the retirement package looks like and how much your employer contributions are. Ask about when you will be eligible to participate in the plan. These areas can often be negotiated and can also supplement your desired salary.
Health benefits.Your health is essential to your happiness at work. Find out details and terms of the health provider and when your benefits will start after your hire date. Again, this can be negotiated.
Vacation time/Sick leave. You need to know how much time will you receive and when can you begin to accrue or use it. To negotiate, try asking if they can bump you up a week or two in paid vacation time if you can’t get your desired monetary salary. You may be a person who likes to travel a lot, so think about adding that into your package.
Social responsibility. Does the company give back to any charitable organizations? Are they involved in the local community? Does this matter to you? If yes, add it in! Consider the image of the company you will work for. If their reputation is negative, that’s leverage to consider when negotiating. Their brand affects your brand and vice versa.
Flexibility. Is the company respectful of your family time requirements? Do they respect family commitments outside of work? Basically, can you leave work at 5pm (or whatever time works for you) to go pick up your kids, rush to class, etc., without feeling like you are going to be fired? Do they care more about the hours you work or about the work being done and the quality of work delivered? Can you work from home or are you required to finish your work only during working hours at the office? This flexibility could be just what you need to secure happiness in your new workplace.
Expense/Reimbursement requirements.Ask about the corporate expense policy and reimbursement for business related travel expenses. Find out the reimbursement schedule and requirements.
You may want a corner office or dry cleaning services instead of a big retirement package or vacation time. The key is to find what is important to you and consider that when negotiating your compensation package.
What should you do during your interview to help with the offer?
Be confident.There’s no reason to ever feel like the company you are interviewing with is doing you any favors. It’s a two-way street! They need you just as much as you need them; otherwise, they wouldn’t be advertising the position and you wouldn’t be interviewing for it.
Keep your confidence level up when interviewing. Reiterate to the interviewer how valuable you are and continue to describe the quality work you are capable of delivering. The goal is to make it clear that you are worth the investment. Discuss big projects you’ve closed which caused significant profits for your previous employer(s). You want the employer to look at you and say “I’ve got to have this person work for me!”
Ask about growth opportunities.Find out what, if any potential career development programs are in place. Asking this tells the employer you’re not a fly by night kind of worker. You want to continue to build a career with them. This matters in terms of return on investment (ROI).
The most important part of negotiating salary is being reasonable.
You can’t expect an employer to pay you what you want after you are hired. It’s a done deal! Once you sign that dotted line, negotiating time is over. What you get is pretty much what you will get paid unless you happen to get a raise/promotion after your first year. And even IF that raise/promotion is significant, you may be simply catching up to what you actually needed when you started rather than reaping the benefits of the increase.
Bottom line. Don’t expect an employer to pay you an outrageous sum of money if you have never made anywhere near that amount in your previous work history. Remember, your employer knows the industry and knows what the going rate is, even though they may consider your experience and work history as well. It’s important to remain respectful, confident, yet stern in your negotiations.
At the end of the day, if you are not happy with your compensation then you are not helping the employer and you are certainly not helping yourself.
Final thought: If you don’t know how to communicate your value it cannot be measured in compensation.
*This post is also featured on LinkedIn Pulse. You can find it here