A staggering number of millennials are hesitating when it comes to negotiating salaries, and it’s costing big bucks in the long run. Here’s how to avoid that early misstep.
One thing we’re not so sure about? How much money we should be making early in our careers. According to a recent survey conducted by Business Insider, 82 percent of millennials said they didn’t negotiate their first salaries because they either didn’t feel comfortable or didn’t know they were allowed to.
That’s a whole lot of uncertainty. And considering women stand to lose up to half a million dollars over the course of a 40-year career on average due to the current pay gap (and it’s even higher for women of color), well, that uncertainty represents even more dire consequences.
So, where does one start when it comes to being equipped to negotiate your maximum earning potential? Alexandra Dickinson, founder and CEO of negotiation education platform Ask For It, breaks it down into a few key steps you need to complete before you even sit down to the table with your bargaining chips.
“82 percent of millennials said they didn’t negotiate their first salaries because they either didn’t feel comfortable or didn’t know they were allowed to.”
It goes without saying that you need to know things about yourself in order to make a case for yourself, but Dickinson stresses that it’s about contextualizing your very specific strengths in your prospective work environment.
Within that, there are a few components to how you put together said evidence.
Establish the value that you create
“Depending on your situation, this could be at your current job, your last job, or even projects you’ve done in college or internships,” Dickinson says.
“Now, I say ‘value,’ but that’s not necessarily revenue or sales. Think bigger picture of value that you created—maybe you launched a new initiative and put your company on the map, or you revamped a program that made your team more efficient.”
Establish the value that you’ve saved
Reflect on anything you’ve done or have the ability to do that will save the company you’re hoping to work for time, resources or money. If the value you create is your ability to play offense, this is your chance to explain why you’re also adept at playing defense.
“This could be something like when your co-worker got another job and you picked up the slack. You took on additional responsibilities because the company wasn’t able to re-hire immediately,” Dickinson adds.
Identify your superpower
Everyone has an exceptional strength, and though it may or may not factor into the actual job description of the role you’re hoping to land, explaining how this is a huge asset regardless will work in your favor.
“When you think about Wonder Woman,” Dickinson says, “you think about all the amazing things she can do, but we don’t really ask why. It’s just her superpower—we don’t question it. What is that thing for you?”
Become an expert on your role in the marketplace
Your initial instinct to look up salaries on the internet (as a starting place) isn’t wrong, but Dickinson stresses that you have to take it a few steps farther if you’re serious about establishing an accurate base pay for your role.
“My advice tends to make people a little uncomfortable, but here it is: If you want to get real data that’s actually going to help you and give you the confidence to ask for what you want to get paid, you gotta ask people how much they’re getting paid.”
Oof. Talking to people IRL about real-life money? Dickinson stresses that it only seemsintimidating, and that it really just requires a courteous, straightforward approach:
“What I advise people to say is, ‘I’m doing research to apply for a new job, and I think you have some info that can help me. Would you be willing to share a ballpark salary with me?’”
Beyond that, Dickinson goes on to emphasize that it’s essential to ask at least six people, and—here’s the important part—an equal number of men and women.
“You willfind out men are making more,” she adds. “I’ve given this advice to literally thousands of people and I’ve never had anyone come back to me and tell me everyone’s making the same.”
But there’s at least one way to shine that turd and potentially, incrementally, help close the wage gap: “Use men’s numbers [when it comes to your base negotiations.]”
“Practice makes permanent”
Dickinson isn’t much of a believer in physical manifestations of confidence or “power poses” as a means to give yourself a big boost of confidence so much as good ol’ fashioned practice.
“Practice makes permanent. Get a friend, partner, or colleague and ask them to role play with you. I know it sounds awkward, and it is! But so what,” she says. And then she brought out the hammer: “How much are you willing to pay to avoid an awkward conversation?”
She goes on to explain that it doesn’t needto be torture. “Tell your partner what you’re most worried about answering. If you practice responding to things out loud even a couple times, it can give you that muscle memory so you have a better idea of what to say when the moment comes.”
Got that bit down? There’s a next level, if you’re really serious about making that cash: “After that, one of the best things you can do is role-play as your boss or your prospective boss. Because actually stepping into the other person’s shoes gives you a shift in perspective to think about what matters to them, and what they do or don’t care about.”
Take, for example, the faux pas of justifying your request for a raise with your own personal financial need. “If you step into your boss’ shoes, it’s like, ‘I don’t care that your rent is going up. What does that have to do with anything?’” It really gives you a wake-up call as far as putting your most compelling case forward,” Dickinson says.
Got all that? Now go forth and follow up with these six steps to take once you’re actually seated at the table with money on the line.