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Practical Tips for Getting the Most from Your Salary Negotiations

Ashanti M Crawford

Practical Tips for Getting the Most from Your Salary Negotiations

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As you look to transition out of Big Law, you realize you have extensive experience with highly sophisticated legal matters but virtually no experience negotiating your salary. Receiving a job offer is exciting, but salary negotiations can feel unnerving. 

Yet, if you’re brave enough to ask, the odds are in your favor. Statistics show that 85 percent of those who negotiated received a higher salary, but only 31 percent bothered to try. Why leave money on the table just because you were afraid to ask?

Here are a few tips to help you be in the 85 percent of the 31 percent.

Identify Your Priorities

Everyone has different priorities, motivations, and requirements. What is more important for you? Higher paycheck? Remote work flexibility? Title, medical benefits, or paid vacation? Getting to the core of what is important to you will help you figure out what tradeoffs you may be willing to accept in lieu of a higher base salary.

Research the Salary Range

Do your best to find out the salary range for the firm/company size, practice, and position you’re seeking to fill. Step one, go to the internet. Several sites cater to providing average salary guidelines, such as Glassdoor. Next, tap your network. Ask your friends and professional peers connected to your potential employer what compensation range you should expect.

Finally, if you’re uncomfortable asking your peers, turn to that pesky recruiter who incessantly tries to connect with you. Recruiters routinely seek market intel from potential candidates, while also negotiating for their candidates, giving them first-hand knowledge of both salaries and other perks. A good recruiter who specializes in your target market and industry is happy to be a resource to you at no cost or obligation to you.

Take a Quick Pause

After receiving an offer, take a deep, cleansing breath. Congratulations, you are a catch! Now it’s time to distance yourself from the emotional high and carefully evaluate whether this offer advances your goals. It is entirely acceptable to show excitement and gratitude for your offer and ask for a few days to consider the offer.

This moment is your most significant leverage point to structure your future compensation. Sure, today you’re intimidated by the upcoming learning curve but, six months later, the secure, competent you may regret that you make $10,000 less than your colleague who asked for more.

Don’t forget, however, that this is a quick pause. One week is a standard “reflection period,” which usually can be extended if needed. Set a specific time to get back to the employer and ask any clarifying questions that arise in the meantime. Remember, time kills all deals. An employer’s excitement will begin to sour once they feel it’s unreciprocated.

Consider Factors beyond the Salary

Make sure you understand how performance reviews, bonuses, and raises work. They may boost your short and long-term earning potential. Plus, it signals to the employer that you’re driven and know your worth.

If the salary is inflexible, are there other perks to consider? You can ask for a signing bonus, relocation expenses, a six or twelve-month salary review, a semi-remote work schedule, additional vacation time, stock awards, change in position title, etc.

Be Prepared to Walk Away

This may be the hardest part, but remember your ultimate goal—you want to make the next best move toward your long-term aspirations. If you’re happy where you are, walking away will be easier to do. If you are not, this will be challenging, but there is no point in jumping ship just to land on a trash barge.

Either your efforts move the negotiations forward, or you gracefully decline and go home empty-handed and back on the hunt for a more suitable position. You win either way.

Salary negotiations may not be easy, but employers expect it. Remember, the end goal—for both you and the employer—is to establish a satisfying, long-standing relationship. Use the tools available to you to help achieve that goal. Boldly advocate for yourself!