By Lisa Rabasca Roepe | The Muse
Let’s say you’re conducting a job search and aiming for an annual salary of $100,000, but a company you’ve interviewed with offers you $87,000. You could grudgingly accept it, walk away, or try to negotiate.
You decide to negotiate and tell the hiring manager you’re looking for $100,000 to start, but the hiring manager clearly states that’s out of reach based on their pay range. Again, you could grudgingly accept it, walk away, or continue to negotiate.
You decide to continue to negotiate but instead of repeating your original request, you change your tactic and ask the hiring manager if they could go up to $95,000 plus give you an extra week of vacation. This time the hiring manager comes back with a yes. While the salary isn’t exactly what you’d hoped for, you’ve still successfully put more money in your pocket—just in a different way.
Strong negotiation skills are critical to your success—not just during a job search but also on the job. And there are actually several different skills you need to draw on to negotiate successfully. With practice you can strengthen them—and make them work for you.
What Is Negotiation and Why Is It Important in Your Career?
People are often intimidated by negotiation and wrongly believe that negotiating is akin to being confrontational. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Rather than going into a negotiation determined to win, it’s important to focus on finding a resolution that benefits both sides. That’s truly what negotiation is.
“When you go into a negotiation saying, ‘This is my hard line,’ then you aren’t negotiating, you’re just demanding,” says business and career coach Jackie Ghedine, cofounder of The Modern GenX Woman, who’s coached hundreds of women and some men on how to increase their success and wealth.
Persuasive negotiation skills can help you accomplish your goals and get your work done in an environment where people inevitably have different ideas, opinions, and priorities. These skills can help you build better relationships with your boss and coworkers, avoid conflicts, and lead you and your teams to better solutions.
And they come in handy not only when you’re discussing compensation for a new job, but also in a variety of other situations: when you’re asking your boss if you can work from home several days a week, when you’re building your case for a new title or promotion, if you’re asking your manager or leadership team for the budget and green light to hire an additional employee to work on your team, or if you’re working on a project across teams or departments and navigating various interests and priorities.
In any of these scenarios, rather than focusing on whether you’ll “win” the negotiation, you should focus on building a case that makes it easier for someone to say yes because the outcome also benefits them and others, not just you, Ghedine says. So let’s say you want to continue to work from home sometimes. You could explain to your boss that while the team will need to adjust to you being away from the office three days a week, that arrangement would give the team the flexibility it needs to deal with clients in other time zones because you could start work earlier in the morning than if you had to commute into the office.
Keep in mind that a negotiation is a conversation, not a monologue, says executive coach Anne Shoemaker, who’s worked with hundreds of women on how to negotiate career changes and higher salaries. It also doesn’t have to be resolved in one conversation. “It might be an issue you want resolution on but your boss or colleague needs time to think about it,” she says. That means you might have to leave it be and then come back to the conversation a few weeks later.
For some roles, such as sales or account management, negotiation is particularly fundamental to the job function. Think about how an ad salesperson might propose an advertising schedule and budget, talk through how that particular plan would help the client achieve their organization’s specific advertising goals, give the client some time to think the plan over, and discuss ways to tweak it before finalizing the deal.
However, no matter your role, developing strong negotiation skills will benefit you as well as your manager, colleagues, and organization in the long term by helping you to find better solutions and take action to achieve individual and collective goals.