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8 Salary-Talk Traps

Rachel Zupek, CareerBuilder.com writer

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This is it. The moment you've been waiting for. Your palms are sweaty, your heart is pounding and your knees are shaking. She's looking at you, waiting. You're about to pop the big question.


"Can I have a raise?"

Breaching the subject of salary with your boss is never an easy feat. Unfortunately, it's never as easy as the simple, "Ask and you shall receive" theory. Ask for too much too soon and you could label yourself as greedy. Ask for too little and risk selling yourself short of what you deserve and earning less than what you're worth.

"Ask most people about the value of a job, and their first thought is how much it pays," writes Michael Zwell in his book, "Six-Figure Salary Negotiation." In reality, the value of the job also includes job satisfaction, the chance to learn new skills or opportunities for advancement in the company.

"By looking at the value proposition in a new way, you can assess the job you're in, as well as those you've had in the past," Zwell says. This will enable you to show all the value you bring to a position in order to negotiate the salary you deserve.

A common problem workers face when negotiating a boost in their salary is finding the right way to do it. Using the right words, in the right place, at the right time are all key elements to bargain the income you ought to have.

Here are eight common salary-talk traps and tips to be conscious of when bargaining your way to a higher paycheck, according to "Six-Figure Salary Negotiation."

1. Do your homework

The trap: You get the title, compensation and responsibilities on paper, but you've been living in denial about what the job really entails and the situation the company is really in.

The truth: At first, the job seems like a dream come true. You soon realize that you're overworked, underpaid and the company can't afford to pay you more. How could you have avoided this?

The tip: Exhaustively ask questions and do your homework.

2. Asking for more money

The trap: You assume the maximum salary number quoted to you by HR is fixed in stone and cannot be changed.

The truth: You earn more in your current job than what HR tells you the maximum salary is for the position you want. Should you settle for less?

The tip: Contact the hiring manager and tell her that HR told you the maximum salary for the job is Y and you are currently making more than that (if you are). Point out that you know some employers make occasional exceptions in circumstances like this and ask if that is possible at this company. By doing so, you are empowering the hiring manager to advocate on your behalf.

3. Pay me more or I'm outta here!

The trap: You accept a counteroffer from your current company in order to increase your salary.

The truth: You're unhappy with your current salary, so you interview at a competing company for a higher salary. You successfully leverage that offer to earn more at your current job. In a few months, your company begins layoffs and you're let go because you have one of the highest salaries.

The tip: If you want more money from your current employer, negotiate based on your value contribution, rather than using a threat.

4. When you need to make more money

The trap: You tell your boss that you need to make more money because you bought a bigger house, you have two kids in college, you need a new car, etc.

The truth: When we were young, our parents told us that if we wanted money, we had to earn it. So, we mowed the lawn, did house chores or watched younger siblings to earn a buck. Similarly, if you need more money per paycheck, ask your boss how you can contribute to earn a little extra.

The tip: To get paid more, demonstrate the increased value that you can contribute or are already contributing.

5. When you don't ask, you usually don't get

The trap: You don't ask for more benefits because you think the package can't be changed.

The truth: You're offered a job at a new company. You'll earn more, but your vacation time is half of what you're allotted at your current company. If this is a deal breaker, tell the hiring manager your concern.

The tip: Don't assume that benefits are cast in stone until you ask.

6. Overselling, overpromising and under delivering

The trap: You oversell yourself and get in over your head.

The truth: You exaggerate your abilities and promise more than you're capable of in exchange for a higher salary. Your employer realizes this and you're demoted or fired.

The tip: If you take a job that's a stretch for you, be confident that you can stretch into the job.

7. Giving into the fear factor

The trap: Your fears undermine your attempts to engage in successful salary negotiation.

The truth: "All of us have a choice between an attitude of abundance -- meaning there is more than enough opportunities, money, resources and so forth to go around -- and one of scarcity," Zwell writes. "Choosing abundance empowers you to be a buyer and to maximize your giving and receiving. You are not afraid to ask questions, pursue opportunities and to more fully engage in negotiation."

The tip: Negotiate from abundance.

8. Focusing on one opportunity

The trap: You put all your eggs in one basket.

The truth: "It is almost always better to have multiple good opportunities available to you. In doing so, you will be operating from abundance rather than scarcity," Zwell says.

The tip: Actively pursue multiple opportunities.

Rachel Zupek is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

"The Six-Figure Salary Negotiation." Copyright © 2008, by Michael Zwell . Used by permission of Adams Media, an F+W Publications, Inc. Co. All rights reserved.



Last Updated: 10/07/2008 - 3:04 PM


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