People seeking employment fill out applications at a job fair in Detroit April 23, 2014. Experts say having the skills to negotiate things like salary are important to have from the start of one’s career.
Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Whether you’re starting a new job or remaining at your old job (but think it’s time for that dollar figure to change), salary negotiation can incite a particular kind of dread that wells up in your stomach and will have you running to call your mom as if you weren’t an adult. 

Salary negotiation, however, isn’t hard. Uncomfortable, yes, but not hard. However, there are a few things you should probably be aware of before walking into your boss’ office.

Here are The Root’s tips for getting the salary you want, so you can have the future you deserve:

1. Do Your Research

This should be a no-brainer. You don’t want to go into any interview with your pants down. You want to have a general idea of what the going rate is for the position you’re seeking. That way, if an offer is made, you’ll have a general idea of what to expect and you can plot your next move from there.  

Advertisement

“I always suggest folks check out sites like salary.com or payscale.com where they have the salary and career data from millions of people from thousands of industries, so you can see if you’re actually being compensated fairly,” Patrice Washington, founder and CEO of Seek Wisdom, Find Wealth Inc., a personal-finance consulting firm, told The Root. “You need to do your research so you go in with a clear plan about what you want and what’s realistic.”

2. Know Your Value

Doing research and knowing what you should get for a job is only going to take you so far, and that’s why it’s incredibly important to know your worth.

Advertisement

“I have a friend whose mom says, ‘You’d be a sad dog if you couldn’t wag your own tail,’” Washington quipped.

You have to learn, no matter how uncomfortable it may be, to sell yourself as if you were the only person who could handle the job.

Rosemary Haefner, the chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder, agrees with this sentiment.

Advertisement

“The way you’re going to convince your audience to pay you more is you have to tell [your] story. ‘These are the projects that have been completed.’ ‘These are … the things I’ve done that really stand out.’ ‘This is how I’m impacting the business,’ or if it’s going to another company, ‘This is where I see my ability to help you meet your goals,’” Haefner told The Root. “That’s how you essentially are a salesperson at this point, and that’s how you’re going to close the deal.”

“At the end of the day, if you need to get a higher salary and that’s what you’re going after, then you’ve got to be comfortable having, for you, what might be an uncomfortable conversation,” Washington added. “If someone says, ‘What do you bring to the table?’ … then it’s time to talk yourself up. That’s your shot.”

Oh, and do bring in your research about that, too. If you have a track record for saving company money, know exact facts and figures. If you’re fluent in a second or third language, bring that straight up to the table.

Advertisement

3. Don’t Be Emotional

It’s probably not best to jump into a negotiation talk with “I just need more money to live,” or “I need this for my family.” Quite frankly, according to Washington, “They don’t care about your family. They care about their bottom line. They care about what you can produce. They care about whether you can save them money or if you have saved them money already. They care about whether you’ve made them money. They care about business.”

If, regardless of the expertise, skill and confidence you have portrayed, you are still denied, don’t kick up a fuss.

Advertisement

“Sort of gracefully, I would say something like, ‘It’s not the answer I want, but I appreciate the consideration and that chance to be able to have an open conversation,’” Haefner pointed out. “You want to show that you’re not bitter or mad. You really do value the ability to discuss, and then you could ask for what’s the next opportunity.”

Haefner says that newbies especially are sometimes unaware of evaluation periods for companies, where compensation may be reviewed and the employee would have a chance to show up and show out for that period of consideration.

And that’s kind of where our next point comes in: Please, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Advertisement

4. Ask Questions, Counteroffer

Seriously. Just ask.

If you are offered a figure that is below your expectation and industry standards, ask why that is and what you could do or promise to do to bring you closer to what you had in your head, Washington offered. If your company is unable to afford more monetary compensation, but, for example, vacation time is important to you, ask if that is on the table, Haefner recommended, saying that individuals often overlook the package as a whole for money. But whatever it is you want, just ask.

Advertisement

“No one is going to say, ‘Well, the offer no longer stands’ because you asked a question. That’s the misconception that we have,” Washington said. “And I think it’s really important at 22 or, you know, fresh out of college that you get it in your mindset that negotiation is a part of life; everything is negotiable.”

And learning to negotiate is an important life skill that could set the tone for the rest of your career.

“When you don’t learn how to negotiate early on, or to ask the question, then you lose money throughout your career, taking every offer that just comes to you,” Washington pointed out. “When you get in the habit of asking, then you start to build up that muscle, and by the time you’re on your second or third job or moved to a different company or a different industry, it’s standard for you to ask for what you want. And I rather you be scared and do it afraid, so that you build up that muscle, than not do it at all and lose money over the lifetime of your career.”

Advertisement

And that fear of just asking is part of the reason a lot of individuals—women and people of color in particular—don’t make as much as other groups.

“If one person starts at $30,000 and the other starts at $35,000 and presumably they get a raise throughout their career every year, every couple years, obviously the person who starts at $35,000, 20 years later will be making more money,” Haefner added. “So if you don’t have that confidence and set yourself up from the very beginning of your career, the argument is that you’ve set yourself back for the rest of your life.”

Breanna Edwards is a newswriter at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.