Law profession and numbers aside, might this sound like your first job?
Luckily, for him, his story doesn’t end there. His professor not only scoffed at the figure, but he pushed the lawyer to ask for $80,000. After researching entry-level earnings for someone like him in his city, he found his professor was right: Some of his colleagues were making as much as $85,000. When it came time to discuss figures with his new employer, he used his salary research and qualifications to bargain for more. And he got it: $78,000 — less than the figure his professor threw out, but much higher than he initially would have taken.
This is called bracketing, says Alison Elissa Cardy, a Washington, D.C.,-based career coach. It’s when two parties, an employer and applicant, meet in the middle of a suggested salary range. She shared this true story at a salary negotiation workshop hosted by YEP-DC last week to demonstrate the power behind negotiation skills in maximizing one’s earning potential. To reach the higher end of a salary range, Cardy offered the following suggestions:
- Don't “anchor” the conversation by giving the first number. Otherwise, all future discussions will revolve around this figure, leaving little room for negotiation. But what does one do when put on the spot and pressured to give the first number? Cardy advises applicants to postpone the answer as long as possible or to deflect it back to the employer by saying, "I'm sure we can work it out — what number are you thinking?"
- Ask for a higher salary than would you would actually settle for, knowing that the employer will counter your request with a lower number. This goes back to bracketing, which is present in nearly any job scenario.
- Know your bargaining power. If you have other job and salary offers or possess niche skills that other applicants may lack, use these to increase your bargaining power and help determine how much you can feasibly demand.
- It’s not strictly monetary. As most education professionals are aware, sometimes organizations and schools have budgetary restraints that make salary negotiation conversations almost impossible. In these cases, negotiate for better benefits: extra vacation days, bonuses, tuition money, tax breaks, or professional development opportunities.
- Work on your interpersonal skills. Impress employers with your qualifications so they are willing to get you that increase in salary or vacation days. Put yourself in a favorable position by asking the following questions during an interview: What are the biggest issues you are having with this position? Who was the best employee you had in this position? Use these opportunities to better identify the employer’s needs and explain how you can address them.
"People who want a better deal get a better deal," Cary told YEP-DC'ers at the workshop. "Just practice, be prepared — and best of luck."
Francesca Duffy is a communications and advocacy specialist at a national association for school superintendents. She can be reached via email or Twitter.