All The Way Up: How to Negotiate Your Salary

Before we worked at theSkimm, neither of us had ever been very good at negotiating salaries.

Negotiating is actually a generous term for what we did. When we were told a salary we didn’t agree with, we would either A) pout B) say ‘thank you so much!’ C) say ‘I was looking for more,’ without properly explaining why, or D) do a combination of A, B, and C and never have a healthy conversation with our manager about it.

Being on the other side of the negotiating table has given us newfound sympathy/embarrassment for our 25-year-old selves. But also a good read on what people do wrong in these moments.

  1. Know what’s important to you.

Is it cash? Equity? Benefits and perks? You rarely get the ideal in all three, so whether you are negotiating your salary at a current job or at a new one, make it clear to the hiring manager what you care most about. That will make his or her job easier, and the outcome for you even better.

  1. Never, ever, compare yourself to someone else.

If you work somewhere already, do NOT say ‘so and so moved up, when is my turn?’ or ‘I know so and so makes more than me.’ This ends up doing the exact opposite of your intention. It makes you look small and gossipy, and it does not inspire goodwill. We both did this at our previous jobs, and we both found ourselves in tears because we ended up just embarrassing ourselves.

  1. Know when to negotiate.

Negotiating your salary is incredibly nerve-wracking. It may make you want to throw up. We get it, we’ve been there. But as much as you may be dying to get it off your chest, make sure you choose your moment wisely. If you’re asking for a raise at your current company, do not ask right after your boss did something nice for you, right after your boss gave you critical feedback, or when the business appears to be under unusual stress (like the launch of a new product, closing a sales cycle, or raising money).

If you are applying for an entry level role, this is also not the right time to ask for more money — unless you have data that indicates that the offer is off-market (more on this later). No, it doesn’t sound fair. But to lean in, you have to first have something to lean on. Once you get that first job, then you should negotiate for your next one, or for your next promotion or annual review.

  1. Know your data

Whatever industry your potential job is in, know how a salary offer compares to the market rate. There is a lot of third-party data you can get from sites like PayScale, Glassdoor, and Salary.com. You can also get involved in networking groups. If you’re a new grad, try your college’s career center. Anyone in a position to make a hiring decision will want to respond to data that you present to them. Pro tip: make sure you are getting your information from roles at similar companies in similar stages. Also remember to not compare apples to oranges. If you are leaving a big, corporate company, you may take a pay cut. We once had a candidate coming from a very large media company apply for a more junior role and request a salary more than 3x the market rate. We didn’t give her the job, but did we give her friendly advice on how to negotiate in the future.

At theSkimm, we are always looking at third-party data to make sure we can make competitive offers from a cash and equity standpoint. At different points in our company history, we have leaned more generously on either of those. But these aren’t metrics we make up: they come from market data.

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