Finding a job, having the flexibility to switch jobs, negotiating for a higher salary — these are all things we want but are not easy to achieve. I’ve only been out of the gate and in the real professional world for about four years, but I’m proud to say that my professional life is in a great spot. I’ve tried to make decisions that were as informed, responsible, and smart as possible, but there’s no way to guarantee things will work in your favor. Building a career you love (and also pays well) requires hard work, passion, drive, and a bit of luck.
Just yesterday, a friend sent through this Reddit thread which was a fantastically honest read that showed how one person switched jobs and negotiated a WAY higher salary for himself. The user, TheAgeOldQuestion, walked us through the way in which he left his old job (where he felt undervalued and underpaid) for a new one that was better suited to his skill level. I’ve written about asking for a raise here and here, and it’s a topic I feel passionate about. While there is no magic formula, there are real ways to make securing a raise a realistic and attainable goal.
The Reddit story did a wonderful job pointing people in the right direction, and he provided the community with specific and actionable steps that might help them find a better position. In addition to using that thread as a resource, I’ve spoken to HR representatives and hiring managers about their tips for finding a new job and getting a raise. Below are steps you can take to help you wrangle a good salary, get a better raise, or find a job you feel great about.
Tweak your resumé.
It’s essential that you don’t just simply send out the same exact resumé and cover letter combination to every job posting. Instead, you should be tailoring each unique submission and tweaking your resumé to fit in keywords that were used in the posting. Also, it’s important to note that you should use caution when using public job search sites. When you upload your resumé publicly, it could spell danger for your current job if people know you’re looking for a new one. One Reddit commenter explains this saying, “Things have changed with places like Glassdoor and Monster. When you put a resumé up you are announcing to the work[ing world] that you are looking for a new job. Your current employer might find this.” It’s totally true, and it actually happened to me. I changed my LinkedIn status a few years back after I did a freelance design job because I wanted to include it in my portfolio. I didn’t realize that afterward, an email went out to all of my connections saying, “Congratulate Lauren on her new job!” Yikes. It was not pretty when I had to show up at work the next day and explain to everyone that no, I hadn’t quit, it was just a freelance job.
Know your worth.
Before any job search or salary negotiation can begin, you need to understand why you’re making a move and what you want out of it. It’s important to have a realistic grasp on your current situation to make sure you understand the skills you possess and how you can use them to your advantage. You should take an honest and hard look at what you’re being paid, what you should be paid, and where your strengths and weaknesses lie. You want to consider yourself as an employee, discern what job is right for you, know what you bring to the table, and understand what you want out of an employer. Every job is an opportunity to grow, evolve, and learn new skills, and you want to make sure that you have a firm grasp on the type of asset you are to best utilize your talents and ~skillz~.
Research hard numbers.
You won’t be able to negotiate salaries or talk real numbers unless you have the data to back it up. It’s important to research the median salary for your job title while factoring in your level of experience, the location of where you work, and what type of company you work for. Use websites like PayScale, Glassdoor, and Monster to help you look. If you have connections with friends in your industry, it’s not a bad idea to try to get ballpark salary ranges from them. The more information you have, the easier it will be to answer the question, “So, what is your desired salary range?” And, as Reddit user TheAgeOldQuestion advises, “Don’t settle on one source for anything.” You want to make sure your information is coming from varied and diverse places.
Consider all your options.
When looking for a new job, or negotiating a raise/salary at your current or new position, it’s essential you lay out all the options in front of you to look at clearly and objectively. You want to be careful in the way you approach any initial conversations with your current boss, and you should always handle counter offers with tact. While counter offers can be tempting, I’ve experienced situations where they went badly. In the comment section, Reddit user CMDR_USER says, “From personal experience and many others, simply by admitting you’ve been looking elsewhere, you’ve already turned a corner in your boss’ mind, and you can never go back.” It can be dangerous if your boss senses you’ve already checked out/are unhappy/are ready to move on, so even if the counter offer is tempting, really consider its impact before taking the plunge.
Project confidence and learn to negotiate.
Perhaps the single most useful negotiating tool is your body language and the ability to project confidence. After all, body language counts for roughly 55% of what you communicate in your overall message with others. Sometimes, the difference between two equally qualified candidates is simply the way they translate and articulate their skills and value to a potential employer. Someone once told me that no one will ever advocate for you in the way you can advocate for yourself. In my experience, when you project confidence (even if you’re faking it), people respond to it and will treat you with the respect you demand from them. This useful Forbes article reminds us that, “Being confident from the moment you walk through the door will always give you a better chance of landing the job. The good news is that self-confidence can be generated and regained.” Yas!
In the end, while the Reddit story linked above is an empowering one that shows the value in taking a methodical approach to getting a raise/snagging a new job, the leap in salary is not always THAT high. The user went from $58k to $85k, but his circumstance is not necessarily the norm. TheAgeOldQuestion says,
“I realize my situation may not be average. Getting a 45% raise probably isn’t typical. But the fact remains that it is possible to negotiate a better lifestyle. It is nerve racking, intense, anxiety inducing, and difficult. But it is all worth it in the end.”
This story inspired me to approach my own life with the same determination, tenacity, confidence, and grit. It’s no secret that finding a new job and negotiating for something you deserve is no easy task. TheAgeOldQuestion writes in a comment to one user, “When I say I applied for a week straight, I mean hours and hours every day. Up until midnight, losing sleep, waking up early. This is what it takes.” Any significant career change will mean taking risks and working hard. However, the write up does a fantastic job reminding us that if you’re willing to put in the work and show drive and tenacity, anyone is capable of succeeding and doing big things.
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