By Lee E. Miller
Early in their careers, most individuals don’t think they have much of an opportunity to negotiate. After all, they don’t have that much experience. However, at every point in your career, you probably have a much greater ability to negotiate than you think. You limit yourself by what you think you can do.
The truth is, when it comes to negotiating, as in every aspect of your life, there are no limits except those you place on yourself. When it comes to negotiating, if someone is talking to you, it is because you have something that they value. In this case, that something is you. There are, however, right ways and wrong ways to go about negotiating.
- It is not all about money. The most important thing that you can negotiate early on in your career is not money. It is the chance to learn new skills. What you learn in your first few jobs are the skills that will enable you to get better jobs and more money in the future. You can negotiate about whom you are going to work with, what projects you will be assigned to and what training you will receive. Sometimes if the company doesn’t have a formal tuition reimbursement program, you can negotiate about getting the company to pay for additional education.
- Be prepared. The more you know about the job market, and about your prospective employer, the better you will negotiate. Information is readily available on the Internet, at the library, from professional associations and through networking. Proper preparation enables you to know what is possible and to get what you want. If the salary that a company offers is low, you will have the information necessary to show them that they need to reconsider because they are below market.
- Don’t act like you are negotiating. While you want to negotiate the best possible deal, you should do so in a way that doesn't look like you are negotiating. Remember, the employer is trying to recruit you, particularly after they have decided you are the person they want to hire. Let them. Tell them what your concerns are. Ask for the things you want nicely without ever suggesting that you won’t accept the job if you don’t get them. “Would it be possible…” or “Could you…” or ‘Other companies I have been talking to have offered, is it possible….” are non-threatening ways for you to ask. Throughout the process, and especially when you are asking for something, let them know how excited you are about the opportunity and how much you want the job.
Understanding these principles will allow you to effectively negotiate the best possible terms in your new job. Once you are hired, do a good job and continually seek out new challenges. As you take on added responsibilities and learn new skills, there will be lots of opportunities to negotiate further improvements.