Episode 126: How to negotiate your salary – with Margaret Buj, Interview Coach

How do you negotiate your salary when applying for a new job?  And what about negotiating a pay rise within your existing job?

In this episode we’re joined by Margaret Buj, an interview coach who helps professionals get hired, get promoted and earn more.

Margaret explains how to assess how much you’re worth, how to handle salary negotiations when you’re interviewing for a new job and how to approach a request to increase your salary in an existing role without burning any bridges.

Today’s guest

Margaret Buj, Interview Coach

Website: Interview Coach

LinkedIn: MargaretBuj

Twitter: MargaretBuj

Facebook: MargaretBuj

YouTube: MargaretBuj

Margaret specialises in helping professionals get hired, get promoted and earn more.

She has 16 years of experience recruiting for global technology companies and tech start-ups across Europe and the US and, in the last 15 years, she’s successfully coached over a thousand job seekers to get the jobs and promotions they really wanted.
Margaret has been recognized as one of LinkedIn UK’s Power Profiles in HR and her blog has won a number of awards.  She’s spoken at career events and conferences and she’s run training sessions and workshops in London, Monaco, Athens and Saudi Arabia.  Margaret’s advice has been featured in, among others, the Financial Times, Cosmopolitan, Total Jobs and Management Today.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • [1:34] How Margaret helps job seekers through her interview coaching.
  • [02:30] Why people find salary negotiations so difficult.
  • [04:00] The times when you shouldn’t negotiate your salary.
  • [04:48] At what point in the interview process you should ask about salary and benefits.
  • [07:30] Why it’s never too soon to tell a headhunter about your current salary.
  • [08:39] How to assess how much you’re worth.
  • [11:04] Negotiating other elements of your benefits package apart from salary.
  • [12:52] The likelihood of being able to negotiate flexible working.
  • [14:49] How an organisation’s current employees’ salary can affect your potential salary.
  • [16:50] How to start a negotiation for a higher salary.
  • [18:10] Factors to consider other than the salary when deciding whether or not to accept a position.
  • [20:12] How to answer the question “What salary do you expect?”.
  • [24:25] Why employers can’t ban employees from talking about their salaries and the benefits of discussing salary with your colleagues.
  • [26:58] The best time to ask for a pay rise in your current job and how to justify it.
  • [31:20] The performance element when asking for a salary raise in your current job.
  • [32:49] How to start a salary negotiation in your existing job in a positive way without damaging work relationships.
  • [36:49] The leverage you have to negotiate your salary in your existing job.
  • [38:05] What to do if your request for a salary increase is turned down.
  • [39:05] Margaret’s course that delves deeper into salary negotiations.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.

Episode 126: How to negotiate your salary - with Margaret Buj, Interview Coach

Jeremy Cline 0:00
How much are you worth? When you go for a new job and you're offered a salary, how do you know that it's a fair salary for the position? And if you think that you are worth more, how do you go about negotiating that? That's what we're going to be talking about in this week's episode. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.

Jeremy Cline 0:33
Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life, the show where we're all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. Negotiation is not something that comes naturally to many of us, especially if you don't do it day-to-day. So, when an employer tells you what they want to pay you, you might think you just have to accept it. But do you have to accept it? Whether it's part of a new job offer or a pay rise in an existing role, can you negotiate? And if so, how? That's what we're covering today, and I'm delighted to welcome back to the podcast friend of the show, Margaret Buj. Margaret is a coach who specialises in helping professionals get hired, get promoted and earn more, and I'll put links in the show notes to Margaret's previous episodes about acing your job applications and interviews. Margaret, welcome back to the podcast.

Margaret Buj 1:24
Thank you so much for having me.

Jeremy Cline 1:27
For those who are new to the show, can you give us a quick reminder about what you do and who you help?

Margaret Buj 1:33
Absolutely. As an interview coach, I've helped over 1000 of job seekers to get the jobs and promotions they wanted. I help people with their interview technique, CV tailoring, how to sell themselves, how to identify the unique selling points, and also salary negotiation. And also, as a recruiter, I've spent 16 years recruiting for global technology and ecommerce companies, such as Microsoft, Avanade, VMware, Expedia, so I have experience of recruiting very internationally for a number of different positions, and a lot of experience in salary negotiations in many different countries across Europe and also in the US.

Jeremy Cline 2:11
Brilliant. And if you want to hear more about Margaret's backstory, then do check out those previous episodes. So, what is it about salary negotiation that people seem to find so difficult? Why is it such a taboo topic, something that just people find really hard?

Margaret Buj 2:29
You know, I think a lot of people find it stressful to ask for more money, because they might be scared that the employer will perhaps withdraw the offer. And whether you've been offered a job or just you're looking for a pay raise, negotiating a salary could definitely be tricky. And a lot of people hesitate because they don't want to be seen ungrateful. They are happy to have a job in the first place. And I think a lot of people are also scared that, if you try to counter a salary offer, that will lead to an offer being retracted. Or maybe you just hate negotiating altogether. And there is a book called Women Don't Ask, and so according to the author, Linda Babcock, only 7% of women negotiate their salary, while a staggering 57% of men do. So, those who did ask saw a 7% increase in compensation. So, I think that is really a lesson that the answer is to almost always negotiate. And there are some situations where maybe you should not, but in general, I think the answer is to almost always negotiate, because once you get into the company, it will be difficult to negotiate a substantial increase. In the companies I've recruited for, you often just get that merit increase of 1 to 3% every year, unless you get promoted. But even then, that increase sometimes is no more than 10%. Obviously, different companies have different rules, but that's what I have seen working for large US technology companies. So, grateful for having a job is a good feeling to have, but you should not settle for less than what your results, experience and skills are being paid for in the marketplace. The only times I would advise not to negotiate is when you've received exactly what you've asked, or when you knew what the salary was right from the start. So really, I would really advise anyone to negotiate, be prepared to state a range, and be ready to present your evidence why you are worth what you're asking for. High achievers don't wait to be offered a great salary, they just ask for it and present proof as to why it's warranted.

Jeremy Cline 4:22
Cool. Well, let's go into that a little bit more and focus first on people who are starting to think about their salary in the context of a new job, rather than a pay rise in an existing job. So, when is the right time in the interview and negotiation process to talk about salary and benefits?

Margaret Buj 4:46
Ideally, you should wait until the recruiter or the employer asks you what your salary expectations are. If they don't, it actually could be an issue, because if an employer doesn't ask you for your salary expectations during the first call or the first meeting, it either means that they're just really open, they have a big budget and they can possibly offer whatever they need to offer for the best talent, but often, that's just a sign of an unsophisticated employer. I have actually personally been in situations, that was many years ago, when I've not been asked about my salary expectations, I've gone to two or three interviews, and then I found out that what they were looking to pay was actually less than what I was already earning. So, that's just a complete waste of time. You know, if you don't get asked about the salary during the first interview, and maybe they invite you to the second interview, I actually think I would bring it up myself. I normally would not recommend bringing that up yourself first, waiting for the employer. But if that doesn't happen, you just don't want to waste your time interviewing, spending multiple hours interviewing, just to then find out that they can't meet your salary expectations. So, if no one has asked you about your salary expectations, I think after the first interview, when they invite you to the second one, I would just say something like, 'I realised we haven't discussed compensation, just to let you know, I'm looking for roles, I'm looking for salary', you know, you can mention a range, a specific number, 'does that fit within your range?' Because imagine it doesn't, you know? It was wasting time interviewing.

Jeremy Cline 6:18
So, that's really interesting. So, that means that, and we'll come on to it, the work to do to assess what you should be asking for is something really to do before the first interview, it's not something where you wait until a job offer.

Margaret Buj 6:32
I personally would not wait till the job offer because I've seen that so many times, not actually, I only had one experience like that, but I had friends who have gone through the whole interview process just to find out that the employer is looking to pay 15% less than what they're earning right now, and it will be maximum what they're currently earning. So personally, I think it's a complete waste of time to go through the whole interview process without them asking you what your expectations are or what your current salary is.

Jeremy Cline 6:59
Is there ever a time when it's too soon? So, let's say that you get a head-hunter coming to you, and maybe they're engaged for a particular role, and they're just starting to sound you out. And they ask always these questions about your history and background, and they ask you what your current salary is, rather than necessarily what your expectations are, they say, 'So, what are you currently earning?' That's a question which sometimes I found is a little bit uncomfortable. Is that something perhaps to avoid at that stage? Or is it better to be open?

Margaret Buj 7:29
It's much better to be up-front, because if you didn't go to a head-hunter, it's actually much better, right, because you can ask them what the salary range for that position is. It could be a little bit tricky if you would ask a potential hiring manager or an internal recruiter, they might not be able to reveal that information. But with a head-hunter, I think it completely makes sense to tell them what you're looking for. Because they will have that salary range in mind. And again, I have seen situations when people waste hours of interviewing just to find out that the salary doesn't fit what they are looking for. And of course, it depends on your personal situation. It might be that you are desperate for a job, and you would potentially even accept less. But what if you're a passive candidate? What if you're actually happy in your current position? Why would you waste five hours of interviews without finding if the position can match your expectations? Or at least it's roughly within the range? You're probably not going to know exactly what the salary range of the position is, but if you're talking to a head-hunter, I would definitely tell them at least a range, at least give them an idea of what you're looking for, before you start interviewing.

Jeremy Cline 8:31
So, let's dig into that. How do you sort of figure out what you're worth?

Margaret Buj 8:37
Absolutely. So, that's a very important question, how do you assess what you are worth? So, the step one would be to do some research on salary standards, because chances are that during the interview process, someone will ask about your salary expectations. And that moment could be quite daunting. So, you want to come prepared. So, before your first phone interview, do some research, have a look at company reviews, or salary reviews on websites such as Glassdoor, for example, Glassdoor, obviously, is very international, I would also maybe look at PayScale or salary.com, and just look at comparable titles within the company. And then, look at the cross-market salaries of people similarly situated in the industry. Some recruitment agencies publish salary surveys once per year. So, for example, let's say you are a digital marketing manager, you might just want to type into Google 'salary survey + Digital Marketing Manager + London' or you know, whichever location you are in. You might be able to find some salary surveys as well. Another way to research salary is by asking friends or actual recruiters. So, if you have a friend or a connection in a similar role to the one you're interviewing for, they can be a great asset when it comes to salary research. So, you might start the conversation with, 'I am applying for roles such as X and Y, and I noticed that you're working something similar. I'm doing salary research to make sure I make an informed ask, and I was curious if you would be willing to give me an idea of what the salary range should be for some of my experience as part of my research.' So, the goal really is to gather loads of data points on salary to determine how much you're worth and to come up with a range. And you also want to evaluate how far you moved at your current role. So, make a bulleted list of all the things you've accomplished and compare those to the original job description. And you know, have you exceeded expectations? And if your results are tied to actual company revenue, have those hard numbers as well, because that will help in any kind of interviewing, internal or external, you want to show that you have a track record. So yeah, these are the ways you can assess your worth.

Jeremy Cline 10:48
Specifically about salary, and I'm sure this varies from company to company, but is there scope for negotiating other parts of the compensation package, be it pension contributions, holiday, that kind of thing?

Margaret Buj 11:02
Absolutely. I think it depends on the company, because salary is important, but it's not everything. So, you can definitely try to negotiate other elements of your benefits package if your salary requirements cannot be met. So, you might want to negotiate things such as work flexibility. I mean, right now, in COVID times, I think most of us have pretty flexible working arrangements, but that's still not the case for all the organisations. So, you might want to arrange work flexibility, working from home 100% of the time, some kind of education incentives for learning, upskilling certifications. Bonus, potentially, I think in large organisations, typically, you have a specific bonus at a specific level, you can't negotiate that, but I know it depends on the size of the company, I'm sure you can in some organisations. Potentially, more vacation time, stock options, opportunity maybe to review salary after say six months and have it written into the contract, or a salary increase after a set time as well. So, absolutely, it's not just the salary. However, also, the younger you are in your career, the more I would actually encourage you to consider career growth opportunities over money, because early on, choosing the place that's going to teach you the most will give you the opportunity to learn some good skills, making you worth more in the future.

Jeremy Cline 12:17
I'd just like to come back to work flexibility. In a previous interview, which I'll put a link to in the show notes, my guest and I talked about not necessarily working the traditional five-day weeks, so maybe working a four-day week, or maybe working a nine-day fortnight. So, a job might be advertised as being full-time, but maybe you're thinking, 'Well, yes, but actually, I'd quite like to do this in four days a week, and I think I could do it in four days a week.' Is that something that you see people do? And how would you perhaps approach that kind of conversation?

Margaret Buj 12:52
I don't see that happening that much, if I'm completely honest. I think it just really depends on what the position is in the industry. Yes, I have some people who negotiated a four-day working day, if they've already, I think it helps if you have a proven track record of delivery of work in a similar position, a proven track record of success in a similar position. But obviously, it just really depends on what the actual position is, how many stakeholders you're dealing with, is it a role where you actually mostly work in your own time with some occasional meetings, or is it a role where you're actually talking to people all day long, right? Because that will, obviously, affect whether that role could be done as a part-time position or not. I mean, if it's some kind of customer facing position, it might not be possible to have that role in three to four days a week. So, I just really think it depends on the role and your level of seniority, have you done this role successfully. I have seen people negotiate, say, a four-day working week, but I have to say that's more likely to happen once you've already been working for the organisation, and once you've proven yourself. I'm sure it happens, if you're an external candidate applying for a blanket position, but I think it happens less. I'm sure it happens, but I just think it happens less, from what I've seen.

Jeremy Cline 14:01
Going back to salary. Now obviously, there are steps that you can take, which we've discussed, about finding out what the market is, but what the employer, that particular employer pays might not necessarily reflect the market. And maybe there are reasons for that, maybe there aren't. So, say you find somewhere that you really like the look of it, but for whatever reason, they don't pay a market rate, but they have lots of other people already at a similar level to which they're recruiting for, and they might have concerns about, well, if they pay you 10% extra, 15% extra on what staff are already getting, that that's going to cause problems. Is that something to be aware of? Is that a legitimate concern?

Margaret Buj 14:49
Yeah, it's absolutely a legitimate concern, because you will never have everyone on the same level doing the same role, having exactly the same salary, clearly, because it depends on your specific skill set and what you were earning in your previous position, the level of the position. However, yes, say everyone in the company is earning between 70,000 and 85,000, as an example, doing a role at a specific level within the company, I think it's highly unlikely they will pay someone 120,000. That will not be at the same level. So, I have to say, I typically mention like, if I'm speaking to a candidate as a recruiter, and the candidate tells me that they're looking for, you know, they mentioned a salary requirement, but I already know it's our maximum salary at that level, I tell them immediately, so they can make an informed decision. Because I think it's a complete waste of time, potentially, for the candidate to go through the process, just to find out that our maximum salary at a specific level is what they're currently earning. And sometimes people are still interested, because maybe they prefer the company, maybe the work flexibility is better, so people might still be interested in the role that pays exactly the same or even a little bit less. I have seen plenty of people take a bit of a pay cut for a role that they preferred. But yes, it's absolutely a legitimate concern if you have most people earning a lot less than you, it's highly unlikely that, you know, that might not be the right company for you, if it's the role at that level. But I still think, yeah, you can always try negotiating, of course, but if the offer is way too low, that's just up to you, what's more important to you, the salary or the role itself. All of it is important, but everyone has slightly different priorities.

Margaret Buj 16:32
And if you do receive an offer, which does to you seem a little bit on the low side, and you think that this company can actually pay you more, and you think that it's a market rate to pay you more, how do you start that negotiation once you've had the offer?

Margaret Buj 16:50
Absolutely. So, you would use some firm, neutral language. For example, it's interesting, so you can say, 'I have been offered, say, 70,000, and I will be more comfortable if we could settle on 76,000. I feel that the amount reflects the importance and expectations of the position for this specific company, and my qualifications and experience as they relate to this particular position.' Then you can mention just a couple of specific accomplishments or specific skills that you can bring. And just see what they say. Because, honestly, most of the time, I do think that you can negotiate. There will be some rare examples when you can't, but most of the time, I really think you can. Or if you have a competing offer, you can say something like, 'Thank you so much for the offer. As I mentioned during my interview process, I'm speaking with a couple of other companies. If you are able to move the pay to "mention a specific number", I will be eager to accept.' Yeah, I would definitely try to negotiate.

Jeremy Cline 17:47
And when you're in the position where you've maybe exhausted the negotiation, so you've got a figure on the table, what are the factors to bring into account for deciding whether to accept it, even if it is a little bit on the disappointing side, or to walk away? What sort of things do you think about? It's going to be different for everybody, but I'm sure there's some factors.

Margaret Buj 18:09
I think it's going to be definitely different to everyone. You should have what's the kind of minimum number that you're willing to accept, that's going to be completely different for every single person. But I think it's a good idea to always have a list of what's important to you in a position. So, maybe it's the responsibilities, the role itself, what you'll be doing on a day-to-day basis. It can be the location of the role. It's actually quite interesting, since the whole COVID thing, obviously, a lot of companies offer the hybrid working model, I can't tell you how many people I am talking to right now, and the only reason they are looking to change jobs is because their employer doesn't offer, you know, like they wanted to go to the office two or three days a week, and they want to work 100% remotely. Plenty of people are looking, that's the only reason they are looking for a new job. So, what's important to you? Is it flexibility, is it opportunities to progress, is it your boss, is it opportunity to manage a team, is it location? So, it just really depends on what are the specific criteria that are important to you. But I would definitely look at things like the actual day-to-day, because you will be doing the job on a day-to-day basis. What are the opportunities to progress? What skills are you going to gain in that specific position? What's the flexibility? What's the location? Are you going to maybe learn more than in another role that pays a little bit more? But at the same time, you should have like, what is like your walkaway number, like if it is below that number, you might need to walk away. But that number is going to be different for everyone. I have spoken to people, to candidates, who maybe their mortgage is completely paid off. They're happy to take a pay cut, because they will really enjoy doing the position. But everyone is in a different position. Then you have people who maybe want to take on their first mortgage, so they need a stable salary. It really depends. I think everyone is completely different.

Jeremy Cline 19:51
And this really highlights how important it is to get clear on your criteria. So, not just things like your values, what you actually enjoy doing, what you would like in a role, but also the nuts and bolts of what you need this job to do for you in terms of the pay, the hours, the flexibility, that kind of thing.

Margaret Buj 20:11
Absolutely. And I also wanted to mention that, because a lot of people struggle with, if I ask them the question, 'What are you looking for right now?' A lot of people really struggle with that answer, like do I give them a specific number, do I give them a range. And the mistake I see a lot of people make, they just mention the minimum number. I actually had a coaching client just a couple of days ago, and we were just discussing the salary, and what she wanted to mention, and also what she's looking for is exactly what she's on right now. Like, why would you not mention a range? Because if you ask her, she was on 85, it's not about salary, but the point is, if you just mention 85, you're not going to get even 1000 euros more. Why not ask for more? Why not mention a range? So, there are different schools of thought? There's this research from one of the top business schools that it's better to mention a specific number, because it shows that you have done your research, and maybe it's like a specific number. I mean, sometimes it's a good idea, like let's say, maybe you're on 85,000, and you would be happy with 95, so you can mention a specific number. However, for most people, I think it's maybe better to mention a range. So, for example, I am interviewing for the roles in the low 70s to high 70s salary range, and I am flexible based on the nature of the responsibilities for the position. So, if you were to pull this apart, so, 'I am interviewing for', that phrase is actually better than 'what I'm looking for', because really, do they really care what you're looking for, what you want? What the prospective employer wants to know, are your expectations realistic, and are you worth it. And if you say, 'I am interviewing for', that implies that companies are calling you to interview for that role, so that your intrinsic worth is implied and reinforced. Now, if you're actually not interviewing at all, I wouldn't necessarily mention that, but you know, if you're actively looking, hopefully, you are interviewing. And then, giving a range just sends this message of flexibility in your candidacy, and also allows you to be flexible, once you like find out a little bit more about the position. Because you know, no employer wants to make an offer that's disappointing to their new hire. So, let's say, if you said, 'I'm looking low 70s', and offer of 72 is well within that scope. But if they wanted to offer you 79, by saying you're interviewing for roles in high 70s, they might offer you 79. Whereas if you just mentioned, you say 73 to 77, you will get maximum 77, causing you to lose 2000. So, that's why to mention your range could be a better option. And you can also, I think adding that you are flexible based on the nature of the responsibilities of the position, I think that's good as well. In case you misunderstood the demands of the role, or you were not fully informed about its duties, because if you learn there is more responsibility involved, you can indicate that your initial salary requirement was for a less responsible role. Or maybe if it seems that the role is not as demanding as you thought, you can indicate that you would accept a lower range for a role without these senior responsibilities. So personally, I think I would mention a range. And always ask for a little bit more, you know, always ask for a little bit more, because if you just mention one specific number, you're never going to get anything more. Very often, I see people like, let's say they're on 65,000, as an example, they say, 'Oh, you know, I'm looking for 65 to 70.' I mean, why not mention a higher range? I mean, do your research first, that's why I think doing that research is important. But why not mention, the roles I'm looking at, they pay between 70 and 77, then no one will try to offer you what you're currently on. So, doing that research is very, very important, because that will allow you to be more confident when stating the range that you're looking at.

Jeremy Cline 23:50
Let's turn to the position of someone who is in a job, and they're thinking about negotiating a pay rise within an existing job. This is a slightly left-field question, but I've seen it written in, I don't know whether it's in contracts or employment handbooks, but companies try to prevent colleagues from discussing salary with each other. So, you know, what people are getting paid. And that has just always struck me as a bit strange. It sounds like the company's got something to hide. What's your take on that kind of thing?

Margaret Buj 24:24
Yeah. Absolutely. So, I have absolutely seen that, employer saying your salary is confidential, discussing salaries is a privacy issue, and it can create awkwardness. And some employers, indeed, as you mentioned, place an outright ban on discussing salary with employees, assuming they can be fired for telling their colleagues how much they earn. However, your boss actually is not able to stop you talking about your pay at all. So, employees have the legal right to discuss pay, if they choose to, and there's very little employers can actually do to legally ban these discussions. So, employers can discourage you from discussing your salaries, and they can request that you don't discuss how much you're paid in work time, but they really can't actually ban you. And at least in the UK, there's the Equality Act of 2010, so employees have the right to discuss salary for the purposes of collective bargaining, of protection, that's what it's called, so that, if everyone is being underpaid, people can come together and ask for more. So, employers really can't stop these discussions, even if your contract is suggesting that salary discussions are prohibited. The good news is that this actually is not legally enforceable. And I actually think it's a good idea to discuss salary with your co-workers. I'm not saying that you just talk to random people how much you earn, but if you had a close relationship with any of your colleagues, discussing your salaries with one another could actually help you suss out the company's pay structure, potentially negotiate for a better deal. And unfortunately, that pay secrecy plays a huge role in pay inequality. Because if employers were forced to disclose how much each member of staff was paid, workers would be in a better position to challenge unfair discrepancies, demand the money they deserve and move to more ethical companies, if necessary. So, the way I see it, if an employer's eager to discourage workers from discussing their pay, it's because they have something to hide.

Jeremy Cline 26:14
That's really interesting. I've never thought about it from that perspective, and also the positive benefits of discussing salary with colleagues.

Margaret Buj 26:24
Exactly, you can't be fired for discussing your salary, employer has absolutely no right to fire you for discussing your salary with your colleagues.

Jeremy Cline 26:32
Many people will have some kind of an annual process, an annual appraisal process, an annual review process, and lumped into that might be the annual salary rises or that sort of thing. If that's the model, presumably, it's around them that that's the best time to start having these discussions, rather than just doing it randomly six months in, is that right?

Margaret Buj 26:57
Absolutely. So, in terms of asking for a pay raise in your current position, I would recommend that you are proactive and have that conversation months before the review is due to happen. So, have an open and honest conversation with your manager a few months before, let them know your desire for greater compensation. If you wait until the day of the review, it's too late. And also, fairly assess your contributions. What have you done to deserve a higher wage? Because don't just assume that you should get a raise before you perform on the next level. No, you need to prove ahead of time that you're capable of more responsibility, before anyone actually gives you a higher salary. So, be reasonable when negotiating a salary by suggesting a number, and then back it up. So, recap your latest and greatest project, and also, you might want to present some research of what others in the industry are making, and why you feel your work is more like that. So, once you've done some research on what a reasonable raise would look like, ask your boss what he or she would like to see performance wise to help you reach that mark, and then let them know that you're willing to work for it. Because your salary is never a reflection of your need for more money. As much as we would like to, what we pay in rent or our loan, so bills, that's not the concern of our manager. So, we can't assume that we deserve a raise, because we have bills to pay. So, like steer clear of making that personal. So, it's also important that you work hard first, and then negotiate salary later. So, once you've had that conversation with your manager, check regularly with your manager to see how you're doing, be proactive by offering suggestions how you can actually take your position to the next level, keep track of your own progress, I would really recommend to everyone to keep a Google Doc with, just every time you receive positive feedback from a client or a colleague, add it there, because you know, if you've been around for two, three, four or five years, you're not going to remember everything you've done. So, it's a really good idea to keep track, because that's going to be super useful in those promotional meetings. So, keep track of whatever you're doing, take on more assignments, regularly ask your manager if there's anything more that you could be doing, just be proactive in general. And also, the final step of that, I would say, is networking at work, because if you learn to network with employees who are at the level or two above you, it's just a good way to recruit the support of people who are higher up than you. So, if you're perceived as having a peer network of more senior employees, you'll be that much closer to being perceived as an employee at that level. So, you obviously don't want to blatantly say that your friends have high places, you just simply refer to projects that you worked on there with the stakeholders who were more senior. As a summary, prove yourself before you ask for a raise, because many times employees ask for a raise before they have proven their value to the firm, volunteer perhaps for a project that's critical to the company's success and mission, track your achievements, record your performance, that's very important. Also, obviously, do your homework, check how much your profession, and the final thing is, timing really can be everything, so ask the right time, because the decisions for issuing raises are completed often well before review time or fiscal year beginning. So, definitely ask, as I mentioned earlier, ask a quarter or two before the raises are given, because bad times to ask for a raise is when poor financial information has been issued or when raises have been announced, because that's too late. And definitely ask for that appointment to have a discussion in a prepared manner, just don't leave it to on the fly discussion.

Jeremy Cline 30:21
As a practical tip, keeping this ongoing record of achievements, projects you've worked on, praise you've received, I think that's brilliant. I realised this when I'd been through a couple of appraisal cycles, and I was kind of looking back, and I realised that I couldn't actually remember what I'd done over the past year. And so, I used that as motivation to start writing it down. And it really has made all the difference. If I'm hearing you right, there's got to be a performance element when you're trying to negotiate a salary raise within an existing job. So, even if your research indicates that the market rate is quite a bit higher than you're actually getting, it sounds to me that, if you're looking to negotiate within an existing role, you're going to struggle just by saying, 'But the market would pay me more', you're going to have to show this performance.

Margaret Buj 31:20
I think you need to be performing at least well, even if you're not exceeding whatever the performance standards are, you definitely need to be performing well. I think the only maybe exception here is if you are like massively, massively underpaid for the position you are doing. In fact, I do remember one situation like that. And that was at Expedia, we had, I can't remember actually what the title of this person was, but she joined the company when she was quite junior, and then she progressed within the company. However, that progression was obviously slower in terms of salary increases, because she's been there for a long time. I think she's been there for seven years. And it was actually quite, really a massive difference between what she was earning and what the people that we were hiring at a similar level were earning, it was like 20-25,000 difference. If you really have proved that you're earning that much less, then I think you can bring it up even without proving what you've achieved. But most of the time, you will not be that much underpaid really. So, that performance element is very important.

Jeremy Cline 31:21
Negotiating within an existing job, it's going to be a little bit different to a new job. So, how do you start that initial conversation? Because you mentioned the fears that you're going to burn bridges, you might damage your relationship with your line manager, or whoever. So, what are some ways that you can frame, start the conversation in a positive way that isn't then going to rebound and affect your relationship with your co-workers?

Margaret Buj 32:47
Okay, so before the conversation, do some research, right? Firstly, on your target salary. So, what's the specific raise amount you feel you've earned? So, start with your market value, and then adjust your market value for that specific situation. Think of your accomplishments. So, what are the responsibilities you've taken on, that were maybe unanticipated when your salary was last set? Because you want to identify accomplishment itself, and the business value of the accomplishments wherever possible. So, have you done something that saved time, made money, improved the process, improved the company's reputation? And also, have you received any awards or recognition that you got from colleagues or managers or clients? Because these can help your manager understand the value of your work, even if they've been focused on other things. Don't assume that your manager remembers everything you've done, because you don't even remember everything you've done. We were just discussing that, you often don't remember everything, right? So, do your homework before asking a manager for a raise, because managers are typically very busy people, so the more work they need to do to help out, the less likely they are to find the time to do it. So, in terms of like, once you've had this information, you can say something like, 'I was hoping to arrange, I know, the salary review is in six months, but I was hoping to discuss how I could get a higher salary.' Because then you can mention, 'I've taken out a lot of new responsibilities this year', and you can ask, 'Is there some way to adjust my salary to reflect my current responsibilities? Based on the market research I've done, I was hoping for a race to', and then you mention a target salary. And just see what the manager says. If they say, 'Well, we can't pay that, then obviously, you can make up, see what they say, because hopefully, you'll be able to find out what is that you need to do to get that specific salary, but if there's absolutely no way that you're going to get that pay raise, then obviously, you need to decide if you want to stay there or not. But yeah, I think it's also important to set a goal and establish some kind of timeline, because hopefully, your manager will be prepared to have a productive conversation about what's possible, and you might be able to get a larger raise straightaway, but most likely, the manager might say that the budget has already been spent, you need to wait until there's budget available to increase your salary. So, if that happens, if your manager suggests deferring your larger raise until later on, work with them to establish two specific things that you can collaborate on. So firstly, what do you need to do to earn the raise that you have requested, if you're unable to get a larger raise because your manager feels that you haven't earned it yet, ask them specifically what you need to do to earn that raise you have asked for. And also a timeline, it's important to establish a timeline, so that you and your manager can check in at regular intervals to monitor your progress and make sure that you're on track to achieve your goals in a reasonable time period. And then, once you have established a goal and a timeline with your manager, it's up to you to keep this on your manager's radar, and also check in your manager on regular intervals to discuss your progress, get feedback, and to confirm that you are still on track. And also, you might, and I have seen that many times, you might run into some structural barriers that prevent you from getting a large raise at all. So, this is sometimes the case at very large companies where they've established, quite frankly, rigid guidelines for raises and promotions, and one of the large tech companies I've recruited for, they had a rule of a maximum 10%, even when it's a promotional increase, and if you're on a higher salary, that could be a good increase, but if you're on a lower salary, that's not that great, even if you're changing the position. So, your manager should be able to help you understand whether you've run into a wall and how to get around it, but they often won't help until you ask. So, that's obviously the first step.

Jeremy Cline 36:33
And you mentioned towards the beginning that people often have the attitude that they're just grateful to have the job. Realistically, what leverage do you have in salary negotiations in an existing job?

Margaret Buj 36:49
I think it just depends on your role, the level of the position and the location. So, location is often a major factor in salary, because big city roles can usually command higher salaries, because of the applicant pool, and cost of living is generally much higher. I know it's changing slightly now with remote working, but it's still the case. I was doing some recruiting for a VP of engineering in Silicon Valley, in California. Salaries are crazy, because of the applicant pool, because everyone is there, and the cost of living is super high as well. And also, it depends on how unique the role is. Is this like a really common position where many people do the same work? If that's the case, there's probably less salary wiggle room, than when it's a specialised position. So, it just all depends on your level, how specialised your skill set is, how much they need you. I would say you mostly have some leverage, but obviously, it just really depends on the role and the location.

Jeremy Cline 37:45
And I suppose the ultimate leverage is going to find another job.

Margaret Buj 37:49
Yeah. Absolutely.

Jeremy Cline 37:51
And if you do get turned down, what's the thought process to go through then? Is it just, 'Oh, well, that didn't work', and sort of head down and just grin and bear it? Or is there something more productive or more positive that you can do?

Margaret Buj 38:05
I think just what I've mentioned earlier, find out what is it that you need to do to earn the raise that you've requested and establish a timeline. That's all you can do. Even if you can't get a raise now, can you revisit the conversation six months from now? But also, what is it that you need to do in the meantime to earn that raise? So, it's just working with your manager to reach that goal. But you know, if your manager is not willing to discuss, even really ignoring you in that respect, I mean, it might be time to find another job. But you can't always, you're not always going to get the pay raise just because you think you are ready. Sometimes it just doesn't work that way. But I think setting that goal, establishing a timeline, that's something that I would recommend that you do.

Jeremy Cline 38:47
Margaret, this has all been absolutely brilliant stuff, some practical tips, as always, that I get from you. You mentioned to me offline that you've actually got a course about salary negotiation. Can you point people to what that is and where that is?

Margaret Buj 39:05
Absolutely, it is on my website interview-coach.co.uk, but I guess you will list a link which I will send you later. But yes, I do have a very inexpensive course, which has five different modules, including how to optimise your LinkedIn profile for job search, salary negotiation, interviewing, and also, it has a lot of different handouts including salary negotiation scripts, what you actually say to an employer if you want to negotiate a different title, if you want a higher salary, if you want a sign-on bonus, if you're looking for relocation, so the salary negotiation scripts will be super useful as well.

Jeremy Cline 39:40
Brilliant. Yeah, that will go in the show notes. Margaret, terrific value, as always. Thank you so much for coming back on the show.

Margaret Buj 39:47
Thank you so much for having me. It's been fun. Thank you.

Jeremy Cline 39:50
Okay, hope you enjoyed that interview with Margaret Buj. Huge amounts of value from Margaret, as always. This is one of those episodes where there's so much in there that, if you are going for a new job or are in the position of renegotiating your salary in your current job, then it might be worth to you going back and listening through it again, and possibly taking some notes, because there's a huge amount of tips and tricks from Margaret in that episode. What I like in particular about what Margaret had to say is that this is something that anyone can do. You don't have to be a master negotiator, you don't have to do anything that really pushes yourself far out of your comfort zone. You can just treat it as a process, as a conversation, see where you get to. On the website at changeworklife.com/126, that's changeworklife.com/126, there'll be a summary of everything we talked about, a full transcript and links to the resources Margaret mentioned, and I'll put there links to her previous two episodes, which are well worth going back to. One of them is a bonus episode when the pandemic was just starting, and we were talking about what the job situation was then. And if you've got a video interview coming up, then go back to that interview, because Margaret's tips for how to perform well in a video interview are absolutely priceless. So, do check that episode out. And if you're new to the podcast, well, we've got a lot of episodes just like this that are full of all these practical tips and advice that you can use really in your job, in your profession day-to-day. There's information here for everyone, wherever you are in your career journey. So, it really would mean the world to me, if you would just share this podcast, tell people about it, tell people that there is stuff in here that can help them with their job. They don't necessarily need to be thinking specifically about changing career. Maybe they're contemplating whether they're in the right place, in which case, we've got episodes about that. Maybe you know someone who's struggling with trying to get a promotion. Well, there's also episodes about that. If you know anyone who's having any kind of struggle or difficulty or challenge in their job, then there's very likely to be something in my previous set of podcast episodes which will help them out. So, do please share the podcast. And if there are any topics which are missing, or you can't find the answer you're looking for, then drop me a line at changeworklife.com/contact, that's changeworklife.com/contact, and let me know what you want to hear about. In two weeks' time, we've got another great interview. And this one is for you in particular, if you find that after say five years in the new job, you're kind of thinking that you want to change, and this is a regular pattern. About five years, you're thinking, 'Hmm, maybe I should look at something else.' If you're interested in what's going on here, is it something that's wrong with you, have you just not found the right job, or is there something else going on, then subscribe to the podcast if you haven't already, it's going to be a great episode, and I can't wait to see you then. Cheers. Bye.

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