How I Negotiated a 40% Increase in Salary
...and was offered a job doing something I had never done before.
When I found myself living in a city I no longer wanted to live in, ending a relationship I no longer wanted to be in, and wanting to quit a job that no longer fulfilled me, I chose to give it all up and start fresh. While I wouldn’t recommend hitting rock bottom in your love life, career, and home life all at once, it was the push I needed to be honest with myself about what I wanted. I put all of my belongings into a storage unit and moved to New York City with a temporary job, a three month plan, and a few suitcases.
My first week at my new job, I made sure I told my manager that I would be okay with extending my contract from three months to six months because that was the amount of time I wanted to stay in the city. I remember the Brooklyn native looking at me and saying, “Let’s just see how the next three months go.” Challenge accepted! I made a point to be the most helpful, punctual, efficient employee he had ever seen and halfway through my contract he offered to extend my time working for him.
My three month plan had now turned into a six month plan.
It was about two weeks before my contract was ending that I started to feel a pit in my stomach. I was dreading leaving New York. Friends were reaching out to me asking if I was going to be sad to leave, my recruiter was asking me where he could place me next and my employer had already found someone to replace me at the end of my current contract. Not to mention, I was staying with a generous friend who had offered me up her couch during this time and I needed to find a new place to live.
I started looking for apartments first because I had no idea what my salary needed to be in order for me to be able to afford to stay in the city. Once I knew where I wanted to live, I started looking for jobs where I could make enough money to be able to afford to live here. I found one job with my current employer in a management role doing things I had never done before.
"That's the one!" I said to myself.
The next day I went and spoke to my current manager and told him I was planning to stay. I said I knew he had already replaced me in my current role and I wanted to apply for a different job. I showed him the job description and asked him if he knew the hiring manager. He said he might be able to find out who it was. So I asked him if I could send him my resume and cover letter to forward along just in case. He said he would be happy to help me.
That afternoon I sent him my cover letter and resume and, to my surprise, he wrote back and said he was hiring for an assistant manager role and he would love to have me apply for it. He also said he would send my information along to the hiring manager for the original position I wanted to apply for.
I ended up interviewing for both roles through three rounds of interviews each. The first interview was with human resources, the second interview was with the hiring manager and the third interview was a panel interview.
I was offered both positions and, in the end, had them in a salary bidding war over who would win me over.
Here are 5 things you can do to prepare for your next job interview so you can manage expectations of your salary from the beginning:
1. Research what the salary range is for the position you are applying for. If it is not available online, ask! I asked the recruiter at the company what the typical range was for the role. She didn't want to tell me and replied, "It varies based on years of experience." I did know how much similar positions paid in other major cities where the cost of living was lower so I threw those numbers out there as an example, and prefaced my response with the fact that the cost of living is different and I am new to New York.
2. Know your bottom line. I wrote myself a fake job offer letter on the letterhead for the company I wanted to work for congratulating me on accepting the position for the exact amount of money I wanted to make and I carried it around in my purse. I was so clear about what I wanted before I actually had to ask so that when it came time to say it out loud I sounded pretty confident.
3. Be vocal about your expectation for your salary. In my first interview with the recruiters, they both asked me the salary I was expecting. I added 25% to what my bottom line was and they both sounded surprised by the number I told them. By the time I got to my job offer phone call, I ended up getting the exact amount of money I had written on my job offer letter. Knowing I had told them a higher number, I made sure to ask about incentive bonuses or other benefits that were important to me to bridge the gap between my inflated initial request and the salary they had offered me just to be sure I was getting the best possible offer.
4. Justify the salary you want by listing your transferable skills from other jobs you’ve highlighted on your resume. While I may have told them my expectation for my salary, I also had specific examples of relevant transferable skills I had used in previous jobs that were highlighted on my resume that I could also apply to the new role I was applying for. I hinted at these in my cover letter and was prepared to explain them in my interview.
5. Be able to explain gaps in employment or frequent job changes. While switching jobs is a nice transition to a higher salary, it can also look negative to a hiring manager. I was not an ideal employee for them because they were looking for someone who was going to stay with the company for a long time. I have changed jobs every 8 months to three years since I graduated from college, plus I was not originally from New York City so they didn’t have a lot of faith that I would stay with the company. I told them I was interested in growth and I wanted to use this role as a stepping stone to a bigger role in the future. I also mentioned the possibility of going back to school for my MBA and if an opportunity was available when I graduated to advance with this company I would definitely be interested.
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