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The Steps to a Successful Salary Negotiation

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One of Gretchen Heaton’s favorite things is talking about salary negotiations. As the Dean of Career and Leadership Development here at Bay Path, she has had extensive experience navigating her own salary negotiations as well as helping to coach students. Her PowerPoint presentation went over the five steps to successful salary negotiations, while providing tips and tricks along the way.

Dean Heaton started out by discussing why salary negotiation is so important. Your starting salary impacts your future income significantly. Alarmingly, white women can lose out on $400,000 over their working lifetime by not negotiating their salary, while women of color can lose up to $1 million. This is clearly a structural issue, exacerbated by the pay gap between men, women, race, and ethnicity. By being paid more, it helps secure your own future, that of your family, and that of your community. Regardless of the fact that it shows that you know your value, it also creates a crucial domino effect.

1. Conduct Research

Look into how much people are making in your line of work. Focus specifically on the region you’re in; salary can vary widely across the country. Dean Heaton recommends considering the current overall economic factors (such as a pandemic), and how well the career is doing in general. Once you have an understanding of how much others are making, set a realistic budget, and create a salary range. Your target salary should be the bottom number, and the top should be around 20% higher than that figure.

2. Craft Your Pitch

It’s extremely important to be unemotional and emphasize the data you compiled. Start with an expression of gratitude, and follow with a moment to be human. Dean Heaton suggested talking about something you have in common, to help relax you and the employer. To avoid boxing yourself in, try to get the employer to give a money suggestion first. Then, give a concise value statement that explains why you deserve the salary. Keep in mind that data says that women do better when talking about how much of a team player they are, while men are more effective when coming across as assertive and independent.

3. Practice

Rehearse with a variety of real people. Have them create different scenarios that you may encounter, and come up with your responses in those events. Keep in mind that it’s illegal in Massachusetts and some other states for employers to ask what your salary was in past jobs, but they still may do it-- so practice deflection techniques. Overall, the more you practice, the better you’ll be.

4. Timing

Consider the best time to set up the meeting. Don’t ask first thing on a Monday morning, nor at the end of the day. Think about the time of year fiscally for the company. Make sure that you and your employer are in good moods.

5. Make the Ask

When the meeting is set, the last step is to make the ask. Staying positive, friendly, and grateful is paramount. State your prepared pitch, and stop talking. A common mistake people make is getting so nervous that they end up rambling, and selling themselves short, according to Dean Heaton. Use the deflection and assertive skills you practiced as the conversation continues. Think of the negotiation as a long-term relationship; even if the employer says no, you can always set up another meeting in the future.

Dean Heaton also provided the following resources:

Scheduling link for SCLP Coaching Appointments

Free online AAUW salary negotiation training

List of Professional Associations


This article is also featured in the April 2021 issue of the Network News Student Magazine.