Cultivate The Right Attitude Before Negotiating Your Salary

Salary negotiation is perceived as a display and exchange of communication and power. Depending on the economy, we typically assume that the employer has all of the power and the job candidate is lucky to get an offer, unless, of course, the job candidate is especially impressive. In that case, the job candidate has all of the power, and the company is shuffling to make an appealing offer.

In reality, neither of these stereotypes are a good way to run a salary negotiation. Effective negotiation is not one perfect and desirable opportunity or person dominating another. It’s two parties exchanging a clear understanding of what each wants, what each has to offer and where the two can meet in the middle.

Negotiating Early In Your Career

When you first get started in the job market, pressing financial concerns or student loans might drive you to adopt the motto, “Must accept a job… any job will do!” Or perhaps, as I experienced in my first career as a teacher, just the joy of being picked was enough to say “Yes!” on the spot (of course, it helped that the salary and benefits for a state employee were non-negotiable).

In both of these situations, the attitude of the job seeker may leave money and benefits on the table. There’s such a clear imbalance of power that the employer has the opportunity to take the lead. The salary is a clear cut offer that isn’t questioned, and the job candidate feels lucky to get the job.

When Negotiation Evolves

Over time, as you save money, gain skills and understand the marketplace, the goal is for you to graduate from this mindset of desperation into a mindset of maturity and equality. Your interviews should become less of a stressful “Will they call me back?” experience and more like equals meeting equals.

While my second career transition out of teaching and into editing was still unrefined, my third transition into marketing felt a lot more like evaluating my options and carefully selecting an opportunity than any other. This gave me the confidence to not only negotiate a higher yearly salary but also a starting bonus and the possibility of a flexible schedule in the future.

Cultivating the Right Attitude

Is an attitude of equality a disrespectful or entitled one? Definitely not. In fact, I would argue that the more powerful you feel in a negotiation, the more you are able to be generous, thoughtful and considerate to the person across the table. The difference is that now you are showing that generosity toward both sides of the table rather than just deferring to the employer.

It wasn’t until I was laid off from my marketing position and started my own business that I truly felt like I was the equal to anyone sitting across the table. Now, when the time comes to discuss the financial side of business or employment, it is a factual conversation in which I can compare the employer’s needs with my own and reach an honest conclusion about the fit. Between that feeling of confidence, financial security and my genuine interest in the person across the table, I’ve been able to zero in on the right opportunities and avoid the wrong ones.

Cultivating the right attitude for salary negotiations is essential in transitioning from that entry-level perspective of taking what you can get to intentional and strategic career growth that delivers the best fit for employers and employees alike.

How do you approach your job interviews and salary negotiations? What do you think it would it take to reach a higher maturity of attitude and confidence?