Jim Hopkinson @SalaryTutor is an author, teacher, runner, and digital media guy living in New York City. His book Salary Tutor: Learn the Salary Negotiation Secrets No One Ever Taught You, is focused on career development for the new economy, and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Yahoo Finance. Jim is a former marketing director at Conde Nast Digital, where he oversaw the online marketing and social media strategy for Wired.com.
If You’ve Never Negotiated Your Salary Before, Where Do You Begin?
It starts with a mindset. No one ever teaches you these skills; most people don’t learn from their parents, money can be a taboo subject among friends, and your boss surely isn’t going to teach you how to ask for more money! But once you have a mindset that it’s OK to negotiate, you can go in with more of a game plan.
How Can People Who Are Modest or Shy Better Prepare Themselves to Negotiate?
A lot of people think that a negotiation is a confrontation, but it’s really not. It’s a business decision, it’s a discussion. I think the key is psyching yourself up for this opportunity that doesn’t come around very often.
This involves practicing, role playing, and being prepared. The two things you want to come away from a negotiation saying are, “I was prepared,” and “I did everything I could.”
The one word you want to avoid is “regret.”
You Talk About Knowing Your Value in the Marketplace. Can You Explain?
Your value in the marketplace is not what you made in your last job, and it’s not what your friend makes.
For example, I was talking to a woman who was a public defender, and she said, “Good news! I just got a job at a private law firm, and they gave me a $20K increase over what I’m making now.”
So I said, “Did you make a counter-offer?” And she said, “Weren’t you listening? I got a $20,000 increase!”
I was so curious about this that I did some research and learned that the average starting salary for a public defender, nationally, was $55K. The average starting salary at a private law firm in a big city could be as high as $120K. So even though she got an increase, it’s likely that she left a lot of money on the table. She clearly hadn’t researched her value in the marketplace.
How Do You Research the Going Rate in Your Field?
On my website, I’ve listed the five areas you should research to find out how much you’re worth. The categories are:
- Salary information sites
- Job board sites
- Industry salary guides
- Internal networking
- External networking.
Should First-Time Job Hunters Do the Same Research?
Yes, it’s still important to find out what the market is for someone with your skills. While you might not have as much leverage to negotiate your salary as you will later in your career, you can still try and make sure you’re near the top of a given range. Early in your career money is less important than choosing a job where you are learning as much as possible and setting yourself up for future success.
What Do You Say If an Interviewer Asks You What Salary You Want?
If this happens very early in an interview, you’ll want to say something like “I’ve done some research regarding the salary range for this position, but right now I’d really like to know more about this position.” This isn’t just a strategy, it also happens to be true. What if it turns out that the job requires super long hours and lots of travel? What if this turns out to be your dream job? You really do need to know more about the job to know what salary you would accept.
So You Recommend Taking a Positive, Proactive Attitude
Definitely. I was just on Amazon and saw that the top two selling books in 2013 were Strengths Finder, and Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg. I thought this was a great combination. The first book talks about leveraging the strengths that you have and focusing on those, instead of trying to improve other areas. For example, if you’re really good at math and you don’t know anything about sales, then leverage your math skills, and hire someone to help you with sales. Lean In talks about “taking a seat at the table” and getting paid what you are worth.
How Can People Learn More About This?
My website Salarytutor.com is a great resource.
In the last year, I’ve taught more than 10,000 people how to negotiate their salary. I have a free online course called “The Negotiation Mindset” that’s both entertaining and informative, with instructional video and scenarios with improv-trained actors. It’s a new way of learning… students can view it on their own time and at their own pace, on a laptop, iPad, or even your phone.
I also have an advanced course on how to get a raise or a promotion. [Note from Jezra: Watch my newsletter to see how you can win a discount for Jim’s course!]
Any Final Advice for Job Hunters?
Negotiating is such a great skill that you can use not only in your job, but in other parts of your life.
But in the end — in spite of the importance of getting what you’re worth — it’s not just about the money. Quality of life matters, too. Do you have a good boss and mentor? Do you have an easy commute? Do you get along with your co-workers? Are you doing something worthwhile? Is this your dream job?
Money is just part of that equation.
Want More Help with Job Interviews?
- Check out my book Interview Like Yourself… No, Really! Follow Your Strengths and Skills to Get the Job. It has detailed advice, concrete steps to take, and insights from 64 HR professionals.
- This job interview checklist will help you prepare and practice efficiently and manage your energy throughout the process.
- And if you’d like my help with interview prep, just contact me for more information.