Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Eight tips for acing a performance review—and getting the pay you deserve

By Janell Hazelwood

There’s a common adage that many career experts, human resource executives, and professionals agree upon: when it comes to a salary boost or any type of professional advancement, you don’t get what you deserve—you get what you ask for. Whether you’re a recent college grad up for your first gig or an executive contemplating your next career move, negotiation is a key component of the process.

Oftentimes, candidates and employees just take what they are given and don’t even bother to explore their compensation package options. Recent research from Glassdoor.com, a leading online job search and recruitment resource, found that 59 percent of U.S. professionals accepted the salary they were offered and did not negotiate, with women (68 percent) outnumbering men (52 percent) in settling for the first offer.

“The biggest mistake I’ve seen among candidates is simply that they don’t negotiate,” says Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster.com. “Typically, they’re so happy to even have a job offer, they don’t feel ‘right’ about negotiating salary and/or benefits. As a former recruiter, I can’t tell you how many times I was ready to boost someone’s salary and give a sign-on bonus—if only he or she had asked.”

When it comes to those who do negotiate, men have found more success at it than women. In the same Glassdoor.com study, 15 percent of men indicated that their salary negotiations for their current or most recent job resulted in more money, compared to just 4 percent of women.
“Negotiating is literally opening the door to a conversation,” Salemi adds. “The reality is, yes, even when it’s your first opportunity, you must negotiate.”

Let’s say you’ve accepted the job offer, gotten through the initial negotiation phase, and excelled in the first few months—or years—and are hoping to take things to the next level. A pay raise is directly connected to performance, and when it comes to reviews, the stats for men and women in some industries are just about as unequal as those related to salary negotiation.

Findings in a 2016 study by Stanford University researchers show that employers viewed male and female employees differently in evaluations. Women received more vague praise than men (57 percent of the time, versus 43 percent of the time), and men were more likely to receive developmental feedback than women (60 percent of the time, versus 40 percent of the time).

Even with all the strides female professionals have made and the historical milestones accomplished, women are still earning 20 percent less than men—a reality that has not changed much in the past few decades—and they are often still overlooked when it’s time for appointments to C-suite roles at major corporations, especially in lucrative industries such as tech and finance.

What does all of this mean? How can you best approach getting what you deserve even while facing the issue of gender inequity? In today’s business environment, it’s more than important for professionals to be strategic and smart in asking for and getting adequate compensation, and women literally can’t afford to leave money on the table. Neglecting to be deliberate in efforts to get your just due can cause a negative snowball effect and can lead to burnout, underemployment, and even financial difficulties.

Here are eight tips for swaying your performance review in your favor and acing raise negotiations.

1 Do your research. It isn’t just about how you feel or what you believe you deserve. It’s about having solid information on the market value of your skills and job title. “Find out the going rate for your job position in your area on sites like Glassdoor.com and take into consideration any perks the company offers you, says Hallie Crawford, a certified career coach and founder of HallieCrawford.com, a digital platform for career advancement and coaching services.

2 Determine the best time to make the request. If the position is a new opportunity, Crawford suggests initiating salary negotiations close to or at the time of the job offer. If you’ve been at the job for a while and want to get a raise or promotion, try to time your meeting to coincide with key transitions. “If something has happened to change things in your current position—a change in job title, the addition of new responsibilities, a company merger—that is an acceptable time to negotiate your salary or job responsibilities,” Crawford says.

3 Practice your approach before sparking the negotiation conversation. “Have a pregame plan in mind,” says Salemi. “Figure out ahead of time what you will ask for and how much you want.” Think about the ideal compensation for your lifestyle and your financial goals, and write down these details. Then get advice. “Go through your pitch with a trusted friend or mentor, and ask her what she thinks,” Crawford advises. “Be open when suggestions are offered.” Getting the support of someone who has been successful in her career climb is helpful in shaking off those negotiation jitters as well.

4 Prioritize what’s important. “Always go for salary first, then sign-on bonus, then all the perks,” Salemi says. “The most successful negotiations I’ve seen don’t occur when someone asks for the sun, moon, and stars. It’s important to prioritize.”

5 Be realistic in your expectations. “Before you go into the meeting, even if you have a dream number in mind, decide how much you can realistically live with, and be happy [even] if the negotiations don’t go exactly how you want,” Crawford says. Also, be prepared with a counter-request if your initial ask was not adequate. Use data to negotiate. Ask if the company can revisit the numbers because, based on your research, the going rate for someone with your level of skills and experience is X dollars.

6 Share your accomplishments and include tangible metrics. If you’re already on the job, draft a log that illustrates your value and skills as an employee. “All professionals should have one,” says Crawford. Get the feedback you need by asking specific questions about your performance and how you might improve, and include things in your log like successful projects you’ve worked on; specifics on how you’ve helped increase efficiencies, improve workflows, or boost profits; and notes on other accomplishments that show your value and make a case for that raise or promotion.

7 If you can’t get a raise, negotiate other perks. “The easiest one to get green-lit is additional time off,” Salemi says. “Figure out in advance how much you’re asking for, such as one workweek or seven days. “You can also negotiate getting a more substantial title, day-care services, better health insurance options, freedom to work from home, education resources, or a more flexible work schedule. Sometimes it’s not just about money in your pocket, but more about money-saving options or future career-advancement tools that the company might feasibly be able to give you.

8 Know when to walk away—whether for now or for good. If you’re a new job candidate who was just given an offer, be aware of indicators that the company or job is—or isn’t—the right fit for you. “This is your future employer,” Salemi says. “Are they treating you respectfully and acknowledging your right to ask for more, or are they making this a stressful situation, almost as if they’re reprimanding you like, ‘She should be happy enough to work for us!’ Pay attention to red flags, and remember, it’s OK to walk away.”

If you think it’s worthwhile to stick with your current job but you’re not getting what you want during negotiations, revisit later. Thank them for their time and end the meeting. Perhaps it was a bad day, or maybe your request is not in the budget. Let them know that you would like to try to renegotiate at a later time.

Whatever approach you choose, speaking up is a step in the right direction. Think about it: would you accept the first offer on a house you’re selling, an insurance quote, or that great buy at a flea market? Much of our lives involves negotiations, and applying targeted skills to get top dollar for your talent and time can mean the difference between a sustainable career and financial wins or a total meltdown.

“Not negotiating is not an option,” says Salemi. “Even if it makes you uncomfortable, even if it makes you nervous, work through it. Trust me, it will get easier each time.” DW

Janell Hazelwood is an award-winning editor, media consultant and journalist whose work has appeared in The Huffington Post, E!Online, and CBS News. She has taught and given speeches on career advancement, media trends, and purpose monetization for various organizations.

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