Tips for Getting the Salary You Deserve: How to Negotiate Compensation with Your Current Employer

She makes what?! But she has the same job as me! You’ve all probably experienced this moment of truth. The moment you realize your co-worker or someone you know — a woman or man who holds a job quite similar to your own — makes a significant amount more than you.

You might have gone through the seven stages of grief upon this realization — shock (there’s no way she makes more than me! She leaves at 6 p.m. every day!); anger (admit it, you hid that stapler from her); sadness (do I really do such a bad job?), etc. Let’s hope you’re now at the “hope” stage. Hope that you can make as much as she does or at least get a significant bump in pay. And if you play your cards right, you probably can. Here’s how:

Prepare for the Salary Negotiations

Assess your job performance

1. Take a 360 evaluation of your job performance from the quality of your work to the quality of your relationships with colleagues. Some criteria to think about: job knowledge, productivity, dependability, attendance, adaptability to change, organization skills, problem solving, decision making, communication, relationships with others, leadership and teamwork. Be honest with yourself.

If you feel that you do a good or great job in most of these areas, you’re ready to proceed to the following steps. If you could work on many of these areas, you should make a concerted effort to shape up — or risk not getting that raise.

2. Put together a portfolio of your best work

It’s easy for your boss to forget how valuable you are — especially when she’s faced with giving you even more money. So, be prepared with a portfolio of the great work you’ve done. It will help convince her that not only are you a valuable employee, you’re also very serious about getting this raise.

3. Know the salary range for your position

There are many free tools available on the Internet to show you what people in your position make. Salary.com is a great resource, giving you the basic salary range of thousands of jobs for free. If you are at the lower range of this bell curve, you will have a good argument for your boss.

4. Make an appointment with your boss (don’t just grab her in the hallway)

Make sure your boss knows you have something important to discuss — and you want her undivided attention when discussing this issue. Make sure you set aside adequate time to discuss all the elements you want to go through — the last thing you want is to have two minutes to make the case for your raise.

5. Prepare what you’ll say in the salary negotiation

Rehearse the points you want to get across in the salary negotiations: know how much of a raise you want and the specific reasons you deserve it. Prepare what you’ll say if your boss says no. You want to be calm and collected in this meeting, so running through the meeting should help prepare you.

During the Salary Negotiation

6. Make your desire for a raise specific and clear and make a compelling case for why you deserve it

Let your boss know why you called the meeting right up front and present her with compelling evidence for why you deserve a raise. Show her your portfolio, list your stellar skills and accomplishments, show her that you’re at the low end of the salary range. Give her whatever information will convince her you’re worth the raise. This is not the time to be shy about how great you are — if you want this raise, show your boss you deserve it.

7. Be the first to throw out the number

Make sure your request for a raise is specific (and reasonable) — and make sure you throw out the amount of the raise before your boss does. You want to be the first to suggest the number, as this number is usually the anchor of the negotiations from then on.

8. Ask for more than you’ll accept

Ask for a larger raise (within acceptable limits) than you’re willing to accept. For example, if you will accept a $5,000 raise, try asking for an $8,000 raise. (Don’t go pie in the sky here — use your good judgment without underestimating yourself.) Your employer will probably try to negotiate downwards, so if you are willing to accept less than you asked for, this will likely work in your favor.

9. Do not let the negotiations become emotional or hostile

Keep the tone fair and unemotional. Even if your boss says “no,” do not become overly angry. Keep in mind that the goal of this negotiation is a win-win situation –you feel good about your raise, and your employer feels that they’re keeping you happy so you won’t leave the company.

10. Ask for an explanation of a “no”

If your boss says, “no,” ask her why — and listen carefully to her reply. Make sure you understand what it will take in the future for you to get a raise. If the climate seems right, you might want to ask your employer if there is anything else they can do to reward your hard work (another week of vacation, for example).

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