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Salary Negotiation 101   

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If you are looking at a new position:

You will be offered a starting salary. This will usually be a lowball offer. You may then ask for a salary slightly above what you hope to achieve.   Usually, they will then offer you a salary slightly higher than the first offer, which you will either accept or counter with something between their your proposal and their latest offer.

If you are negotiating changes in your current position:

You will offer market information about salaries related to comparable jobs, and argue that your skills and experience put you in a range higher than where you really fall.  They will analyze the figures and may conclude that you fall below that mark and will usually make an offer for less. You may either accept the offer or provide supporting information to justify a number between your first proposal and their latest offer.

Make sure you leave wiggle room for this negotiation process.  If you start out by throwing out the least you will take, negotiations will move downward from there and you won't get what you want. Start off with realistic figures a bit above where you hope to be so you can negotiate down to the salary you are really looking for.

A Word of Caution

Salary negotiation is a very delicate process. As discussed earlier, it's important to approach it at the right time.  It's also important that you keep the right tone in your discussions - friendly and businesslike - this is not a "me against you" conversation.

You have something of value (your skills and experience) and you want to get fair market value. That's it. You may also need more money for to pay for your daughter's braces, but this is not something that has a place in the negotiation.   Never talk about the money you want or need - it's irrelevant.  The discussion is about what you have to offer and what the proper market value is for that offering.

In order to succeed at the salary negotiation game, you will need to learn when to fold.  One counteroffer from an employer is standard, and two may still be within the norm, but make sure you don't stretch your welcome too thin.  If you take things too far you may talk yourself out of an offer or out of the door of your present employer.  It's important that you understand that some employers will simply be unwilling to pay you your true market value, despite the fact that your skills, experience and contributions justify the salary or increase.  If things start getting tense or you hit a brick wall, stop immediately and take the best you can get.  If you do find that you need to look elsewhere for the salary you deserve, you'll have some great experience that will help you negotiate an even better deal for your next position.

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