As we build out our salary estimation app, PeerWyse, we are interviewing people about how they’ve navigated their career. We’ve heard stories about career development and negotiation. Many of the stories, anecdotes and ideas we’ve heard are too good to keep to ourselves.
1. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.
If you are not a natural negotiator; you are not alone. An alternative to negotiating hard can be to listen hard instead. Yet, listening can be almost as hard as negotiating, especially if you are nervous. There is at least a simple way to listen; close your mouth and hold the silence. We find silence uncomfortable and feel a strong need to fill the void. Often we will fill the silence with useful information. Whoever speaks least hears most. A prop can be useful. Whenever you feel the need to speak take a sip from your drink.
This is particularly true when it comes to negotiating compensation. If you can get to, “we’d love to have you on board, let’s discuss numbers,” you’ve won. Practice with a friend, or loved one. Have them ask what you got paid in your last job. Respond with a deflecting statement and a follow-up question. Hold the silence and be willing to do so for a long enough time for it to feel uncomfortable.
There is no substitute for actually doing this at the dining room table. Try to improvise a different answer each time to avoid looking rehearsed.
2. GATHER DATA.
When you think you might be ready for job change LinkedIn can be a great resource. Identify people who might have useful information or advice. Create a list of about a dozen connections who have similar skills and experience to you. Write each one a very short message asking if they would be willing to meet for a virtual coffee. It’s good to do several at the same time as some will likely not get back to you and this can be demoralising. The shorter the better. Studies show there is a higher response rate to shorter requests. Offer them three specific times and dates within the next two weeks.
When you speak do some warm-up questions. These questions should be completely bland and inoffensive. Ask them what they are currently doing, how long they’ve been doing it for and how they ended up doing it. Then tell them that you’re thinking about looking for your next job and wanted their advice. Throw in some compliments. The person you are speaking with won’t know why, but compliments will make them like you better. At the end of the conversation pick a job you’re interested in and ask how much it pays for someone like you.
My friend Amy wrote post last week on Salary Calculators, check it out here.
3. REMEMBER IT’S A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT.
When one of our users was looking for a new job he decided to first apply for jobs he definitely didn’t want. This included an application for a clown school. Having not interviewed for a while he expected to be bad at it. Why be bad interviewing for a job you want? His thinks that interviews are a bit like pancakes, the first one is always a mess.
Don’t wait until your current employer has annoyed you to look for your next role. If you only look when you are keen to move you won’t negotiate well. You will miss out on lots of practice and lots of opportunities. Opportunities can not present themselves if you are not open to them. If you only use public channels to receive job adverts you will only hear about jobs that are underpaid. When someone you think of as a peer gets a new job, make a note to call them in a week or two. Ask them how they found out about that role. Take the good ideas, discard the bad.
4. RESEARCH THE PEOPLE YOU ARE TALKING TO.
If you are meeting someone who you have not met recently take a few minutes to look them up on LinkedIn and Google. Most people have at least left a few likes on posts that can give an idea of what interests them. You want to find if you have any mutual areas of interest. Failing that have they done anything particularly interesting? If they have; make sure to compliment them on it. Avoid treating your research as certain, many people have the same name as someone else.
5. LAND SEVERAL JOB OFFERS AT ONCE.
This is the big one. There’s lots of luck involved in it. Yet, it’s the only way you will ever find out what the “real” limit was. Most people only get to negotiating compensation for a job they want. This creates a power asymmetry. You might want to ask for more but you don’t want to ask for too much in case they decide to go with a different candidate.
Having several job-offers at once diminishes the risk of negotiating too hard. If you go so hard that the offering company walks away at least you still have the other offer. Company’s actually rarely walk away, but the risk is there if you only have one option. This is the main benefit of applying for a job while you are happy in your current role. If you are happy where you are, you can always stay there.
Can I interview you? I want to know about what you’ve disliked the most about navigating the job market, drop me an email. I value your time so we can complete an interview in as little as ten minutes, though they average about a half-hour. I have good availability in the morning UK time and in the early evening US time.