How to get paid well for what you do, from Robin Ryan, author of What to Do With the Rest of Your Life: America’s Top Career Coach Shows You How to Find or Create the Job You’ll LOVE.


1. Research and Determine Your True Market Value

All salary negotiations must be based on facts, not assumptions. This step — often the most difficult — is essential for success. You must know what is a fair price for your services. Search the Internet, business magazines, and association websites and journals to locate the salary surveys and data you’ll need.


2. Effectively Communicate Your Value

Use the interview as a time to continuously reaffirm your value to the employer. Use proven examples from your past to demonstrate how you can be a key contributor. This focus on how you’ll meet the employer’s needs entices him or her to want you more.


3. Never Mention Salary First

In this power game, you tip your hand if you volunteer your salary expectation before the employer tells you the range or exact figure the job pays. You should always speak in ranges, never exact figures. Employers equate salary with level of duties and can dismiss you because your “lower salary” means you weren’t performing skills at the level they seek — even if you were. So refrain from ever mentioning a figure.


4. Never Tell an Employer Your Old Salary

This gives you the best leverage when it’s time to negotiate. If you do tell the employer, you will usually live to regret it. One national sales manager who hadn’t looked for a job in eighteen years took a W-2 to her first interview after her layoff. She “proved” she was well paid. Too bad the new company’s manager discounted her as a high-level candidate — her figure on the W-2 ($102,000) was significantly lower than his range so he rationalized that she was not as good as she claimed based on what she was paid before.


5. Quantify Your Worth

Once the offer is made, ask the employer why you were selected. Listen closely, then center your salary demand arguments on what you’re told and everything else you’ve learned in the interview. Focus continuously on how effectively you’ll meet the employer’s needs and excel at the job. Reassure her you’ll be up to speed and productive quickly, stressing that in a short time you’ll be a contributor. Resell her on exactly why she offered you the job in the first place. The interviewer may need to go to a higher authority for approval of your request for a higher salary.


6. Use a Win-Win Approach

Realistic expectations and the willingness to “settle” or “compromise” allow both parties to end negotiations happy. Showing you’ll come down a little if the employer goes up a little can often be the key to success, as it allows both parties — you and the employer — to walk away feeling as though each has won.

7. Know Your Bottom Line

Some organizations will negotiate salary. The higher your position, the more likely it is that salary will be negotiated. Other employers may predetermine the dollars they can spend to have a job done and will not (and in most cases don’t have the budget to) pay more, no matter how good you are. City, state, federal, and many nonprofit jobs often have a pay scale that indexes job experience into a salary, with little more than a $1,000–$2,000 leeway.

Your decision must take into account the whole picture. Company atmosphere, growth potential, stress level (and lack of), coworkers, training options, commute time, flexible hours, benefits, perks such as cars or free day care — all must be considered as you make your decision. You know what is most important to you — perhaps a few extra dollars weighed against a two-hour commute every day isn’t worth it.

Predetermine the lowest offer you’ll accept and be willing to pass on lower salaries. Sometimes a person’s financial situation forces him to accept the first job offered. Then it’s not long before he’s back trying to plan out a way to get a promotion, raise, or new (better-paying) job. Many of my clients turned down low offers and in just a few weeks had the right — and better paying – job come along.

8. Never Bluff

Ultimatums can result in offers being withdrawn. Don’t lie. Never fib or bluff an employer. “I have other offers” might get the response, “So take them.” Unless the offer is concrete and real, don’t go down this road.


9. Promises Are Not Guarantees

Many employers have both selective memories and ever changing budgets. Promises of future bonuses and raises often disappear once you’re on the job. The promise of a bonus after six months is negated when a companywide letter saying “No bonuses this year” arrives in month three, leaving you with few options. Negotiate hard to get the money, benefits, and perks up front. Then get it in writing. You can ask the employer for this letter of employment or write it yourself and have the employer countersign it. It’s a simple statement of facts that guarantees exactly what all parties agreed to.


By Robin Ryan on


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