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Big money mistake: Not asking for more

If you don't negotiate starting salary, you might lose out.

By Karen Datko Oct 9, 2009 2:57AM

We've made this mistake in our working life, and we wonder how many other people have too. "Miss M" described it nicely in a post at M is for Money called "My money mistake No. 2 -- didn't negotiate salary."

She wrote: "Everything financial experts tell you not to do, I've probably done. But one mistake stands out in my mind amongst the rest. Let's go back in time to look at when I accepted a low-ball salary offer."

A project she worked on as a contract employee came to an end and she was promised a new job in two weeks. When that turned into three months with no job, she applied with another firm. It made an offer but rejected her salary request. Fearful about her future, she accepted what was on the table.

"Without thinking, I had set myself back on the career ladder," she said. "The salary I accepted was less than I had been making before." (Happily she's moved on and her pay has improved, but she wonders if it would be even higher now if she hadn't accepted the low-ball offer.)

While anyone can be afraid or reluctant to negotiate, MoneyMate Kate commented that it seems to be more prevalent among women.

What to do? Here are a few pointers:

  • Know what others in similar positions are being paid. Check out online salary surveys and job listings, and talk to friends in the field. "There is always a way to find this information out," Thomas Strumpski wrote at The Strump.

  • Recognize feelings of poor self-esteem or fear that may cause you not to negotiate. Strumpski added that negotiating when you're debt-free can be empowering.

  • Be realistic. The Washington Post notes that pay is determined by factors like location and company size, in addition to what you can contribute. Unfortunately, the job market also has an effect.

  • Don't accept the first offer as the best offer. Be prepared to explain specifically why you're worth more. Also, the Post says, have a "walk-away number in mind."

  • Let the prospective employer talk numbers first, says the DiversityJobs Blog.

Related reading:

Published Dec. 17, 2008


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