Don't make these 7 painfully awkward mistakes in your next salary negotiation, says HR expert

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Whether you're negotiating salary for a new job or you're asking for a raise, a "money conversation" in any professional context is downright awkward.

If you're like most people, you'd rather accept what you're given — and resent it later — than make the ask. The problem is that no one knows how to engage in the conversation.

To get the salary you're truly worth, you have to change your mindset and realize that it's not all about you and what you're getting out of the job. You're in a partnership with your (new) boss, and the mission is to drive team goals and improve company performance.

So the next time you head into a conversation about salary, equip yourself with these essential tips on what not to do:

When you've been offered the job...

With an offer in hand, you'll never have more leverage than you do at that moment. The company wants you, and they may be open to negotiating at least some elements of your compensation.

  • Don't just focus on the money. Agreeing on the salary you want is essential, but don't forget to negotiate "work-life" benefits like additional paid time off and flexible work arrangements. It'll be awkward to hear, later on, when your co-worker tells you she was able to negotiate an additional two weeks of PTO and a month's worth of work-from-home days.
  • Don't play guessing games. Research the market for the job you're interviewing for. Are there any premiums or bonuses that apply for someone at your level and experience. If you pick a number that's too high, you'll come off as being very uninformed about your own industry standards.
  • Don't forget to research the company's salary philosophies. Your employer might pay competitive salaries, especially if they're trying to recruit experienced talent that's scarce in a hot area. Or, they might pay a lower salary but offer more performance-based incentives. Check with your hiring manager to better understand their company's compensation strategies.
  • Don't negotiate against yourself. Wait until you have a written offer in hand, or at least a term sheet. Don't start asking for things before the company has even made an offer. And don't respond to part of a verbal offer (e.g., "What do you think about X salary?").
  • Don't think short-term. Negotiate your way out on your way in. You're not even close to the finish line. Job tenure is short: Four years on average, and half of that or less for younger professionals. So be careful what you agree to on the way in: Non-competes, non-solicitation and IP protection. If things get complicated, consult a lawyer.
10 work-from-home tech jobs that offer six-figure salaries
10 work-from-home tech jobs that offer six-figure salaries

Now that you understand the facts, you're ready to make the ask — and it's all about how you ask.

Whether you ask for 10, 20 or 50 percent more than what was offered (and you did your market research, right?), you'll need to demonstrate that you're worth it. Be specific about the value you'll bring to help achieve company goals. A "value mindset" will prevent you from underselling yourself. Without it, you might even come off as arrogant or greedy.

When you have the job...

The money conversation is never a "one-and-done" task. Stay focused on goals and deliverables. Determine what "success" looks like for you so that your periodic check-ins become a natural pivot for asking for more money.

One way to stay focused is to maintain a "M.O.R.E." mindset:

-Meet face-to-face with your boss.
-Own your performance objectives and how you contribute to team success.
-Research your worth.
-Envision your end game: a better job, more challenges and new opportunities to grow.

Too few people do this well. Here are the don'ts:

  • Don't play defense. You and your boss are on the same team, and together you're moving toward the goal line. But if you complain constantly about your pay while only doing the bare minimum, you're playing defense. As a result, you and your boss will be on opposing teams.
  • Don't wait too long. If you're going to have this job for two years (that's what, two performance reviews?), ask your boss for periodic check-ins — and do it fast. Don't wait for your annual performance review. Eventually, you'll be knocking out those performance objectives so quickly, your boss might be the one to start the money conversation.

Remember, there's absolutely nothing wrong with asking for a higher salary. Just keep in mind that "more money" doesn't just come on demand. You need know how to ask, and how to deliver what you promise.

Gary Burnison is the CEO of Korn Ferry, a firm that helps companies select and hire the best talent. His latest book, a New York Times best-seller, "Lose the Resume, Land the Job," shares the kind of straight talk that no one – not a spouse, partner, mentor or anyone else – will tell you. Follow him on LinkedIn here.

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