In a recovering economy and a tight IT talent market, candidates are finding they have more leverage when negotiating salary for a new position or angling for a raise. The key to managing this tricky, nerve-wracking process is to focus on your accomplishments, achievements and your overall value to the company -- and be able to quantify those.
The first step is to track your accomplishments and achievements on a regular basis. This can be an informal achievements journal where you note the major projects and successes you've been involved in, or a more formal itemized spreadsheet or calendar that you're updating on a regular basis, says Elaine Varelas, managing partner, Keystone Associates.
"At the beginning or end of each week, review the meetings, appointments and projects you were involved in, and summarize them in two or three concise, résumé-style bullets. Name the document 'Accomplishments' with the month and year. These documents will serve you well at review time, as you review your annual goals, and will also help you make sure you are moving your agenda forward," Varelas says.
Over time, these documents add up to tangible evidence of your business value, and can help quantify your value to the company based on the metrics and impact that are most important for your organization, she says.
"Every role can be quantified by some calculation; number of customers served, money saved, revenue generated, mishaps avoided, speed increased, satisfaction survey ratings increased. Be very confident about what you bring to the job and the financial impact you have in the company. Challenging yourself to do this will help you identify your value to the company and ensure you are compensated accordingly," Varelas says.
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Show and tell
It's ideal to be able to show, rather than tell, about your accomplishments and achievements, says Michelle Joseph, CEO of PeopleFoundry. That's why tracking your accomplishments and being able to demonstrate how they impacted the company's success is so critical.
"Tangible examples of previous projects are good, but quantifiable examples are better. Ideally, prove how much money you've saved the company, how much money you've made the company, or how many man-hours you were able to save. Also, do your research -- make sure the current and proposed salary for your role, in your specific region, with your qualifications, are in line with what others get paid by using sites like Salary.com or Glassdoor.com," Joseph says.
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What's it worth?
Objective research is another major factor in successful salary or raise negotiation, Joseph says. Know how your current geographic location, the cost of living in your area and the specifics of your role affect your current and proposed salary.
"An advertising job in New York City will pay very differently than the same role in, say, Des Moines. If you have a target salary in mind that you think is fair based on your value and your research, put your target salary number a bit higher than that -- but nothing completely over-the-top -- and, hopefully, the final number agreed on will wind up being your initial target," she says.
Salary is based on value and contribution to the company, combined with the "going rate" for your particular skills and experience in your geographic region, as well as the specific perks and benefits you receive at your job -- for example, you may be willing to accept a lower salary if you're able to work from home, or if you have flexible schedules. If you aren't successful at negotiating a monetary raise, Varelas says, perhaps there are other options you can ask for: stock, executive benefits, financial counseling, flex time, increased vacation time, for example.
"Knowing the impact you can have on an organization from what you have done in the past and the concrete measurements you have, will help you set and get the compensation you want. Every organization has average salaries. Show that you aren't an average contributor and lead the way to the best package for the highest contributions," Varelas says.