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Millennial Money: 5 tips to negotiate pay in a tough economy

Last Updated Feb 23, 2021 at 4:17 am PST

The pandemic-related recession has altered many job descriptions. For Haley Jones, a 24-year-old resident of Michigan, the coronavirus changed the needs of her company, and as she adapted to meet them, her responsibilities were no longer confined to her marketing specialist role.

“I graduated with a marketing degree, no medical experience at all, and I ended up having to scrub in at our surgery centre and help patients get prepped for anesthesia,” Jones says.

After adding those kinds of new hats, Jones felt that her responsibilities had outgrown her entry-level salary and position, so she requested more compensation.

Your role may also merit a salary discussion, even in uncertain times. Here are some strategies to help you achieve the ideal salary.

RESEARCH THE MARKET

Understanding the market for your job is critical, according to Lindsey Pollak, author of the upcoming book “Recalculating: Navigate Your Career Through the Changing World of Work.”

“You can look at websites like Glassdoor, Salary.com and PayScale and see what’s standard,” she says.

These websites offer a minimum and maximum salary range that you can reference to give your boss a realistic request. Pollak also suggests networking with professional associations in your industry and asking about the appropriate salary range for the job in your particular city.

TALLY UP YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS

If you’re working remotely, Pollak suggests being more self-promotional about big wins. With many distractions in the pandemic, your boss may not know the extent of your contributions.

Jones created a slideshow presentation with links to her work, a list of tasks completed and her overall impact on the company. Her boss shared the presentation with others weighing in on her salary request.

“If you want someone to do something for you, make it as easy as you can for them to say yes,’’ Jones says.

Dive as far back into your contributions as is necessary or gather evidence up to the last annual or midyear review. And be as specific as possible.

LAY THE GROUNDWORK FOR THE CONVERSATION

Be strategic as you plan the conversation. Gauge your level of confidence at every step.

— Put it on your supervisor’s radar. Give your boss a general but serious reason for the meeting. Pollak suggests saying that you want to have a “career conversation” about your role and future at the company.

— Time it right. Don’t plan such a conversation after the company announces a terrible quarter or when your boss is in a bad mood, says Joel Garfinkle, executive coach and author of the book “Get Paid What You’re Worth.”

— Practice until you’re confident. Jones built confidence by rehearsing in front of her mirror and loved ones.

— Be intentional with your environment. If it’s a video call, use sticky notes to remember key points. In an office environment, Jones leaned on slides and hard copies to move the conversation along.

If you need further guidance, Pollak suggests connecting with a college’s career centre for advice, whether that’s your alma mater or a community college. Even if you never attended college, your local community college may offer resources.

MAINTAIN CONTROL OF THE CONVERSATION

Don’t allow emotions or nerves to steer the conversation away from your goal. Remember three key points for your discussion:

— Lead with gratitude. Jones began by thanking her employer for many learning opportunities, then pivoted to her excitement about the company’s future and her role in it.

— Know when to stop talking. Get comfortable with silence. “Say the amount you want and then stop talking,” Pollak says. Don’t negotiate against yourself by saying that you’d like a $15,000 increase, but you’re willing to settle for $8,000.

— Focus on the value for your employer. Don’t phrase your request around reasons why you need a raise or promotion. Be aware of economic impacts to your company and its priorities, and keep the focus on how you’re saving the company money or contributing to its bottom line.

BE PREPARED FOR THE RESPONSE

If your employer can’t meet your request this time, all isn’t lost. You have promoted your work and carved out the path for the next conversation, according to Garfinkle. You can also consider negotiating for non-monetary benefits.

“Maybe it’s a title change, or they’ll pay for an executive coach, or they’ll provide some training, or additional benefits or retirement contributions,” Garfinkle says. “There are other things you can get that might be beneficial for you.”

If your employer is willing to offer a pay increase or an alternative, get it in writing. Send a thankful email to your boss summarizing the conversation and alert them that you’ll be following up on the next steps.

In the case of a firm “no” or “not right now,” let your boss know that you would greatly appreciate the chance to revisit the conversation in the future.

Following up is key with any response. Jones followed up twice in a month, once via email and another time in person. Eventually, she was promoted to marketing director and received $5,000 more than the maximum amount she requested.

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This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Melissa Lambarena is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: mlambarena@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lissalambarena.

RELATED LINKS:

COVID-19 and Your Money: Our Guide to Managing Your Finances During Tough Times http://bit.ly/nerdwallet-managing-finances

Melissa Lambarena Of Nerdwallet, The Associated Press