Sure, salary is an important aspect of job negotiation. Everyone wants to make more money than their last job in order to support their families and grow financially. But is salary the MOST important item a person should consider when negotiating their next job?
In my opinion, and through and my own experiences, money shouldn’t be the driver behind whether you take your next job. There are many factors one should consider before jumping on the next opportunity such as in-person vs. virtual work, overall benefits offered, the challenge or interesting nature of the work, and for me the most important, company culture.
When I graduated college I had a certain salary in mind. I had done some research and “knew” the amount I should get for the degree I obtained in the city I was looking to work. However, after going through multiple interviews and receiving several job offers, I soon realized that the number in my head was a lot higher than companies wanted to offer. I had to understand that while I had a degree, I didn’t have any work experience in the field. I was also trying to find a job during a period of time where unemployment was high and there were several qualified resources looking for the same type of work as I was.
I ended up taking a job in human resources which felt like a good fit, at the time but after working in human resources for a year, I understood that salary wasn’t everything. I began wondering what other things a company could offer would make me happy. Many friends and family members encouraged me to research other factors that allow an employee to not only love their job but the company they work for.
I found that companies that offer multiple weeks of vacation, bonuses, a fun company culture, the opportunity for occasional remote work, and the potential for personal growth are key reasons for employee satisfaction. While the human resources position offered a competitive salary, they trailed in these other areas so I began to look for other jobs that could fulfill these needs. These criteria helped reshape my expectations of what to look for in a job and became key discussion points in subsequent interview and negotiation periods.
Once my expectations had been modified, I ran into an amazing opportunity with my current company (Arrowhead Consulting). They offered unique benefits like free snacks, a game room, an onsite gym, and my personal favorite, “Friday Follies”. Every Friday, the team takes time to unwind at the end of the week by playing games as a team. This could be a four-person battle in Mario Kart, a 9-ball tournament on our logoed pool table and/or a spirited game of Cards Against Humanity. I had never experienced anything like this and my expectations for a collaborative, fun, team environment were certainly exceeded. This was something I wanted to be a part of, and I realized for me, these were as important to me as my salary expectations. It was time for negotiation.
When someone understands their expectations, they can prepare for negotiations. Additionally, knowing your expectations will provide you with better insight on whether a job is a good fit. For example, during my job search, I was offered a position at a law firm that provided growth opportunities and decent pay, but they did not offer 401k or medical benefits. I loved the idea of working for a company that offered many growth opportunities, but medical and 401k NEEDS outweighed my WANT for learning opportunities. The law firm did not offer any other benefits to supplement the lack of medical and 401k benefits, so there was no need for negotiation. The lesson, make sure to know your needs vs. wants or what I like to call your “deal-or-no-deal” criteria. For example, my “no-deal” items with the law firm were the lack of medical and 401k benefits.
Other factors to consider during the negotiation process are your audience, strategy, and resources. Knowing your audience prior to, and during the negotiation process is very important. Research company values and what aspects are most important to the decision-makers. These values can drive your points and help prove your case. If you are wanting specific benefits or amenities that the company normally does not offer, use your knowledge of the audience to cater to their needs while catering to your own. Know what you want and prove your case.
No one can foretell exactly how the decision-makers will respond to your asks, but you can simulate, or plan for, how it might go. Build your strategy by prepare for possible questions and how you will answer them. Your strategy should include the key topics you want to discuss as well as points to back up why your wants/needs are important and should be met.
And finally, consider the resources and relationships you have that can aid in making your negotiation the most successful. In my experience, I reach out to people who I believe have been in the situation I am trying to prepare for. This might include someone you know who works for the company you will be interviewing with or someone who works in the same industry who can help set some expectations. Their experience is a valuable tool that you can arm yourself with when heading into the negotiation process.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my thoughts towards looking outside of just salary when looking for a job and some tricks to employ during the negotiation process. Everyone’s story is unique, and I would love to hear from you on any tips or tricks you’ve utilized or situations you’ve encountered during your own career journey. Send me an email at email@example.com
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