The 12 Keys to Negotiating Your Salary, Explained by Career Experts

Nervous about asking for more money? Follow this advice from career experts, and you might just get what you want.

Conversations about money in the workplace, particularly salary negotiations, are always difficult (and if it’s your first time having this discussion, it can be especially intimidating). What words do you even use to ease into that conversation? How much is too much to risk asking for? Should first-timers even try to negotiate an entry level salary? It’s absolutely crucial to be your own best advocate, but that doesn’t always mean shooting for the impossible (which, if you’re not careful, could hurt more than help). We’re jumping into the most essential advice to know about asking for—and actually getting—the pay you deserve. Follow these 12 tips from career experts and set yourself up for success during your next salary negotiation.

1. If it’s your first job offer for an entry-level position, tread carefully.

How do you negotiate compensation when you’re fresh out of school and bring essentially no work experience to the table? The truth: “Unless their graduating from the top of the class from an Ivy League university in finance or law, or with an MBA, or something like that, the majority of recent grads have almost no negotiating leverage,” says Greg Giangrande, a senior advisor at McKinsey & Company and former executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Time Inc.

One big mistake young professionals make is trying to negotiate work perks. “When you try to negotiate for things like vacation and benefits it sends the wrong message,” he says. “First of all, benefits are never negotiable. Secondly, negotiating vacation time leads [a recruiter] to think, ‘okay, you probably shouldn’t have enough time to take the vacation that we give you—because that’s how hard you should be working—but here you are negotiating for more time off. Those are definite don’ts.”

If you’re looking at other positions, or have received other offers, it is okay to tactfully ask if the compensation you’ve been offered is up for negotiation. “You can say you’ve been looking at other jobs paying X range, and ask whether this one is at all negotiable—[but] don’t make assumptions or demands,” Giangrande says. Pay attention to the reaction you get: If it really seems like compensation isn’t up for discussion, don’t push your luck—leave it be.

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