How to Negotiate Your Way Up the Career Ladder

Career Development

Negotiating on the job is a vital skill for upward mobility — you don’t want to get stuck in the same role for two decades, burn out or lose interest in what you do.

When you negotiate, aim for more than a salary bump. In fact, it’s necessary to ensure you don’t settle and you achieve work-life balance and satisfaction with your career path. Uncover your true interests and motives to find innovative solutions for yourself and your employer.


What to Negotiate for Beyond Cold Hard Cash

Think beyond quantity to quality. Negotiating beyond cold hard cash means investing in your career by aiming the arrow in a different direction. What about a flexible work schedule, travel opportunities, professional development or a better title?

What do you need, and what would increase your job satisfaction? Are you a new parent who would like to work at home a few days a week? What else do you want to learn about on the job? Do you want to represent the company more at trade shows and open up opportunities to travel for yourself?

You need to develop a clear understanding of what you want and need to come up with an appropriate plan for negotiation. That means understanding what’s important to you and your company, so you can point out the mutual benefits. Your requests should be reasonable and increase your job satisfaction, which is also important to both you and the employer.

In fact, you can and should negotiate for more at every stage of your career to keep growing, especially as a newbie. You have far more flexibility in an entry-level or association position than you think — don’t be afraid to ask for varied responsibility or a mentor. During midcareer, you earned more leverage to ask for specifics to grow, and you can ask for more flexibility or travel options. As a senior employee, you may ask for a title change to reflect your growing leadership responsibilities or for options that influence a leadership path.


Tips for Successful Negotiation

Never go into a negotiation blind. You need to take time to define what you want, determine if it’s reasonable for both you and the company, and develop a game plan for presenting your case. Here are few tips for successful negotiating.


  1. Define Exactly What You Want in Advance

Decide what’s most important to you now — a better title or more flexibility — and list them in order of priority and timeliness. Find data to support each request, and see which has the most punch and proof behind it. Just as you’d investigate salaries on Glassdoor, you should also research your requests in depth.

If looking for time off, quote the fact that 43 percent of employees work partially from home these days. Stress that it saves the employer money by utilizing fewer resources, such as paper and electricity. Include your plans for checking in and succeeding so you won’t look like you’re slacking off.


  1. Look at It From the Employer’s Perspective

Be sure to look at what you’re proposing from your employer’s perspective. What win-wins can you suggest to make the proposal more appealing? If looking at flextime, pitch the employer gains for letting you have a more flexible schedule. They still get eight hours out of you with an agreed-upon set of guidelines in advance, and you can still be present in the office for essential in-person duties.


  1. Practice Saying It Aloud With Confidence

Practice makes perfect. Write a script for yourself, but don’t adhere religiously to it. You can reference supporting materials to help make your case. It’s nice to prepare a small presentation for your boss if you have data you’re using to reinforce the benefits of your request.

Say it aloud so you can hear yourself, and notice your body language. Uncross your arms and legs. Record yourself and play it back. Get feedback from others on your presentation. Sitting up straight helps you speak more clearly and confidently.


  1. Negotiations Are Conversations

Negotiations aren’t another version of an elevator pitch. You may strategize and organize the content in a similar way, but remember that negotiations are conversations. One aspect of your proposal may get shot down, but that doesn’t mean the negotiation is over.

Ask what would make the proposal more appealing or what the employer needs from you. Actively listen to the employer’s concerns and help come up with mutually beneficially solutions. You may get it in one meeting, or it may take more time.


  1. Connect on a Personal Level

Know who you should take this to and know exactly who you’re negotiating with — understand what matters to them. Be transparent about your motives on a mental and emotional level. Share information openly to build trust and help your negotiation prove successful.

Money helps keep a roof over your head and food on your plate, but it can’t keep you satisfied or growing in your career. That’s why you need to negotiate for more than money in a way that mutually benefits you and the employer. You’ll gain more worth than you ever imagined.