• Mia Brabham

How to Negotiate Smarter According to a Career Coach


how to negotiate smarter according to a career coach
Photo Credit: Pixabay

In 2020, Forbes reported that 70% of managers expect a salary and benefits negotiation when they make a job offer, even if they don’t implicitly state that the offer is flexible. In this circumstance, a shocking contrast emerges: 46% of men take a risk and negotiate, while only 34% of women do the same.


If these numbers are true, then this is also true: there is a horrifying disconnect between what employers expect to happen after they make an offer, and what we choose to accept for our talents, our gifts, and our time. It’s time to start advocating for ourselves. But in order to advocate for what we want and need, we have to educate ourselves on why — and more importantly — how.


Desiree Booker is a career coach who specializes in career advancement for diverse employees and has garnered 1.8M in salary increases. In an enlightening conversation, Booker shared savvy ways to negotiate smarter. Whether you’re about to start a new role or want a higher salary in the role you have now, there’s always room for negotiation. Here are a few things you need to know before you step into the room.

Don't accept the first offer

“I would say that the biggest mistake that I see people making with negotiations is accepting the first offer – and accepting it on the spot," Booker said.


“A lot of times this happens, especially when you’ve been out of work or you don’t really feel super confident in what you bring to the table, and you’re just happy to have the offer. We get excited — especially if it’s our dream offer — and that excitement leads to us kind of giving a quick answer without doing our research and making sure we’re getting the best deal. So the worst thing that you can be doing, one of the biggest mistakes, is to accept an offer on the spot without taking time to think about it and analyze the offer to make sure it’s the best possible deal.”


Prepare two numbers

“The best thing that I’ve seen people do is come to the table prepared, having done their research, and having their two numbers established. They know their target salary range: the number they want to ask for, and then they know what their walk-away number is," she said.


"You should’ve already calculated your expenses and understand how much you need to earn to feel comfortable, to be able to support your lifestyle, your family. What is that walk-away number? Whatever that is, you have to be willing to walk away if the company cannot at least meet that.”


Be ready to negotiate non-monetary benefits

“Really [get] an understanding of what non-monetary benefits you would want to negotiate in place of the financial comps. So is it a certain amount of paid time off? Is it negotiating a relocation stipend? That’s monetary, but certain benefits [may be] important to your lifestyle that you may not be able to negotiate as part of the salary.”


Know how salary works

“Typically, a recruiter is going to rely on human resources to give them a salary — a budget for the role — so they’ll have a range in terms of what they’re able to pay based on the experience level. They have that range before they actually post the job and so they make an offer based on your experience."


"In order to make sure that you’re navigating that properly, you can leverage websites like salary.com or payscale.com to put in your information in terms of your market, your background, [and] any accomplishments to determine what you’re worth, and [to] make sure it’s on par with what the recruiter presents you with in terms of the salary number. Typically, they’re getting those numbers from HR and they’re not always accurate salary ranges.”


It doesn’t have to be in person

“I think that it’s okay to negotiate over the phone or over email. I would not advise anyone to negotiate in person, especially with COVID still going on. Most things are going to happen virtually, but typically you will negotiate over the phone or over email. Email is great because it gives you a paper trail so that you can keep track of what was said, what was promised, and you always want to get everything that you negotiate in writing."


"This is going to be separate from the offer letter. These negotiations are going to happen after the offer is made. The recruiter will make the offer, you will evaluate the offer, and then you will negotiate from there. You can do it over the phone or over email, but you definitely want to make sure you follow up and get everything that you’ve negotiated, whether it’s monetary or non-monetary benefits, in writing.”


The number should scare you

“The number one thing that people should do while negotiating their pay is to be confident. That is a huge challenge that people of color, especially women of color, have when negotiating. It’s very uncomfortable to have money talks in any way, whether it’s for a job or for a business contract. Whatever it is, money talks are uncomfortable. But at the end of the day, you’re selling your services to a company and the number that you ask for is representative of the value that you place on yourself and the value that you bring to the table."


"If you’re presenting low numbers to the employer, then that’s subconsciously telling them that you don’t really value yourself. If you have a number that scares you — it’s really big — then that’s probably the number you should go with. Numbers that don’t scare you, probably are numbers that are too low. I would definitely say be confident and advocate for yourself and ask for the things that you want and the money that you want.”


Ask your colleagues and allies wisely

“Before you go into active negotiations, it’s great to get an idea of how much other people are earning in the line of work you’re looking to go into or the work that you’re in. Especially if you have an ally, like a white male or white female, those are the two highest people in the workplace. You could approach them, especially if you have a good working relationship, and say, 'Hey, I’m thinking about making this transition, and I did some research to determine how much this type of role pays, and this is the ballpark range that I came up with. Could you let me know if this is in line? Am I in the right kind of ballpark, or do I need to go higher or lower?'"


"You don’t have to come out and ask them exactly what they’re earning but you can present them with the range and ask them if you're in range. Getting that information could be really, really valuable, especially to women of color.”

At the end of the day, if the pay or benefits aren’t meeting your financial, mental, or family needs, don’t be afraid to politely pass on the opportunity. Nothing is more draining or disappointing than accepting less than you deserve and having to quite literally live with it. You’re worth what you’ve worked for. Ask for it.


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