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How to negotiate your way to a better salary in 2012

Nisa Chitakasem, Founder of Position Ignition

Are you hoping that 2012 will be the year that your employer offers you a pay rise? There's no point just hoping and waiting for the offer to come. Even if they do offer you one, it's likely to lead to you making a compromise and agreeing to terms you're not happy with. To get the rise that your value to the organisation deserves, you should be proactive and request a pay rise yourself, so that you can negotiate on your own terms.

Of course, bringing up the subject of money is always challenging and can seem very awkward due to the sensitive nature of the issue. This is especially the case more than ever, thanks to current uncertainty of the economy and the all financial pressures this puts on employers' budgets. Even more difficult can be the actual process of negotiating. You want to maintain a good relationship with the employer and communicate to them that you understand the company has to save every penny it can at the moment, but at the same time you need to stand your ground in order to get a raise that reflects your true worth.

Here are some tips for getting the balance right in negotiations and walking away with the pay rise you deserve -- and your relationship with your bosses still intact, if not even better than before.

1. If you can, wait until your company's next pay structure review to ask for a rise. This is the time of year when money matters will be discussed anyway within the organisation.

2. In terms of what time of day to bring it up, after lunch and in the early to mid-part of the afternoon is a great time to talk to your boss about it, because everyone's blood sugar levels are up and this makes potentially tough conversations easier to have.

3. Build a business case to bring as firm, hard evidence of your value to the negotiation table. Prepare as evidence some examples of your contribution by thinking about the responsibilities that you have and the tasks you've completed. As pay negotiations are essentially about cold, hard figures, include some figures in your business case. Show how your actions and initiative have saved the business money and drawn in extra revenue.

4. To get an idea of how much you should be asking for, speak to people doing similar roles to you within your company, in the same sector or in similar organisations. Try to talk to people you know really well so you can comfortably ask them how much they're currently getting paid and how much they're planning to ask for at their next pay review.

5. As well as creating a business case, another thing it's important to do before negotiations start is to make sure you understand your immediate boss and where they'll fit in during the process. How much leverage your line manager actually has in pay negotiations. Do they hold the purse strings or is it HR? This will determine the level of evidence you need to give your boss in order to make a strong business case for a pay rise. The kind of evidence he or she will need from you is the amount of goals you've accomplished in the past year and what you've been doing to make your performance more efficient.

6. Once you've put in the request to open pay rise negotiations and you've prepared your business case, it's time for the really meaty part of the process-the actual negotiating. Begin negotiations with the end in mind. When you enter that room, make sure you already know what it is you deserve. Be clear with yourself on what your boundaries are. How much scope for flexibility are you going to allow? What are you willing to accept or not accept?

7. Even though you should be aware of what you're looking for, let the employer name a price first. If you show your hand too quickly you might inadvertently let on what the minimum raise you're willing to accept is. Once the organisation knows this, this is what it'll offer you, even if you're worth more. If you're asked directly to name a figure first and can't get out of it, at least avoid picking a round number. It's too easy for the negotiators to shave off, say, 5 grand in order to get to another round number. Instead, choose a figure that doesn't end in 0 or 5.

8. The first offer the employer makes is unlikely to be what you're looking for. Just because it's the first offer doesn't mean you have to accept it. When you hear the offer, don't say anything. If you've named a top figure, repeat this number and then don't say anything else. Silence is likely to lead to an improved offer.

9. Once you manage to reach an agreement, summarize what you believe it to be before the meeting ends. You don't want to be in a situation where you're assuming the agreement means one thing but the employer thinks it means something else altogether. Confirm what your new compensation package consists of, the date from which it'll take effect and any other implications of this improved financial contract.

10. Show your appreciation that an agreement's been reached. You can do this by simply sending a 'thank you' email to your boss and everyone else involved in the negotiation process.

About the author
Nisa Chitakasem is Founder of
Position Ignition, the UK's leading Career Consulting Company, and co-author of their eBook Up Your Game, Up Your Pay! - 85 Tips in Salary Negotiation. Nisa co-founded Position to provide career consulting to people looking for guidance and support through their career change, new career direction, job search and career development.

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