5 Steps To Negotiating Your Worth At Work

Money is a feminist issue — and yet, women are still reluctant to talk about it. According to a recent Bustle survey of more than 1,000 Millennial women, more than 50 percent of people said they never discuss personal finances with friends, even though 28 percent reported feeling stressed out about money every single day. Bustle's Get Money series gets real about what Millennial women are doing with their money, and why — because managing your finances should feel empowering, not intimidating. Today's topic: Ashley Feinstein Gerstley, financial wellness advocate, money coach, and founder of The Fiscal Femme, explains how to get the salary you deserve.

It’s no secret that having conversations about our money can be really hard. It may feel difficult to have honest conversations about money with our friends and family, not to mention with our employers. But when we don’t negotiate our salaries and raises, we leave money on the table. What we earn is a huge factor in our overall financial well-being, but women are four times less likely to negotiate salaries than men. That, coupled with the pay gap (in 2015, women working full time in the United States were typically paid just 80 percent of what men were paid), and the fact that women tend to work 10 percent faster and 20 percent longer, means that it’s time to put aside our fears about money conversations at work. I worked with career coach Jill Ozovek to put together this negotiations guide with our best tips for how you can master the art of negotiating your worth.

Here are five steps to negotiating your worth at work.

1. Start small and practice.

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The word negotiation connotes images of tense workplace meetings, but in reality, we negotiate in many different situations. In fact, we negotiate every day even without realizing it. Negotiating just means asking for something. In any negotiation, you form an opinion and ask for what you want. Think about some small, routine negotiations where the stakes are low. Take dish duty in your house, for instance. Try practicing a negotiation by asking your roommate or partner to do the dishes. Afterwards, observe how it went. How did it feel to ask for something? Were your fears about negotiating warranted? If you encountered resistance, were you able to have a friendly conversation about it? Chances are that your roommate or partner was happy to lend a hand and it all went smoothly, but negotiating in ordinary situations can help you feel more confident about asking for what you want when the stakes are higher. Practice, practice, practice!

2. Identify your going rate.

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Arming yourself with research and statistics will help you an enormous amount when it comes time to talk about your own salary. Do you know the going rate for your position? Do some salary research online and make sure to take into account your geographic area and level of experience. Of course, every job has its own unique set of responsibilities, but identifying the position that’s closest to your own will give you a good starting place. Talking to recruiters about salaries can also inform your research, as they often have lots of valuable, accumulated data. Once you’ve identified an average going rate for your position, you can decide on a “walkaway number.” This is the lowest number you’ll accept as a salary before you walk away. That can feel like a scary number to name, but the alternative — not getting paid what you’re worth — is far scarier. A walkaway number will help you negotiate smarter and more effectively.

3. Gather feedback and figures.

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A compliment or positive feedback at work feels really great in the moment, but we don’t always think of it as something we can use when negotiating. But it is! It’s important to remember that sharing our accomplishments during negotiations doesn’t mean we’re bragging or showing off without reason. Compliments, great feedback, thank you notes from clients, and comments from previous performance reviews are all things that can all be gathered up and used when talking to our employers about our worth. The more specific you can be, the better. What projects have you worked on? What has been your impact on the company? Take a day to collect feedback, facts, and figures, and then figure out how to best talk about them. You can even do a practice conversation with a friend. Remember, it’s meant to be all about you, so don’t feel shy.

4. Create a system for tracking your accomplishments.

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Now that you’ve gone back and gathered past feedback, make a system so that you can track your accomplishments in real time going forward. With the fast pace of work and life, it can be hard to remember to document your progress on a year-round basis, but it’s the most effective way to chart how valuable we are to a company. The system should be something that works seamlessly for you, so decide whether a document, a spreadsheet, a folder, or something else works best. As you keep track of your successes and accomplishments, take notes about the outcomes, the deliverables, the impact, and who was involved, and make sure to quantify it in some way. For example, how much money did you raise or save for the company? How much more efficient was a process? Every company and job is different, so tailor your system for you.

5. Live it.

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Now it’s time to step back from the numbers and look at the big picture. If you’re looking to negotiate for a raise, what recent success from work can you share? Think about what you enjoy about your role, and what specific projects you’ve enjoyed. If you are interested in a promotion, think about what your company looks for when hiring for the role, and then think about some ways you can step into that role now. Be creative. This doesn’t mean taking on a whole new set of responsibilities outside of your job description; rather, it means embodying the qualities of a great candidate for promotion. Familiarity with the role will also help you feel more knowledgeable when talking about your qualifications for it, and will result in a conversation that lets you negotiate with confidence. You know what the job is, and you know you’re worth it!  

If you want to take your negotiating skills to the next level, download our free Knowing Your Worth at Work guide.

Check out the “Get Money” stream in the Bustle App for more tips and tricks on how to save and spend your money.