How to Negotiate a Salary Like a New Yorker
Five tips to get the dollars you deserve in the greatest city on Earth
Ambition seems woven into the very fabric of New York. Musicians have been immortalizing this concept for decades from Jay-Z and Alicia Keys who sing “New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made…” in “Empire State of Mind” to the timeless words of Frank Sinatra “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” And there does seem to be something in the air—maybe it’s the frenetic pace that lends a feeling of going places, maybe it’s the sheer volume of opportunities, maybe it’s the proximity to greatness (if that guy in the subway looks like Anderson Cooper there’s a good chance it’s him)—but one thing is for sure, New York is an outlet for individuals with drive. Career expert Deborah Brown-Volkman explains the appeal of New York: “the city attracts the best and the brightest. It’s tough [and] competitive but you learn a lot because you [are] around really smart, motivated people.” Regardless of the industry you’re courting, nailing the salary negotiation is a crucial step in the job search process. Here are five of our best tips on how to you can make more money—and position yourself for success—right from the start.
The city is known for being a highly competitive job market, and some gumption might just be what you need to score a bigger paycheck. Christian Novissimo, a managing partner for accounting and finance in the Manhattan office of the Lucas Group, an executive search firm, says, “There is a reason people come to New York City. People who come here are very skilled and come from strong academic and professional backgrounds and they know it. Companies are more aggressive about paying, and candidates should be more aggressive about asking.” One client who was making $100,000 wasn’t too happy about a $1,000 raise, so he turned to Novissimo’s firm to help secure a new job. “We worked with the candidate to find him a position with a large insurance company in the city,” says Novissimo. “He ended up with $129,000–close to a 30 percent increase in salary.”
Know the Going Rate for Your Role
In salary negotiation, preparation is essential. “Arm yourself with information,” says Deborah Brown-Volkman, veteran career coach, president of Surpass Your Dreams and author of Coach Yourself to a New Career and Don’t Blow It! The Right Words for the Right Job! “Go to websites like Salary.com or Glassdoor.com. Speak to people working in the industry. You just can’t say ‘I want $10,000 more.’ It has to be based on something factual” This is exactly the strategy that Ike Iregbelum took while interviewing for his current position working in business development. Walking into the interview, he says, “I knew what my salary expectations were. I researched business developers and I had an inkling where my salary range should fall.” And that extra step paid off for Iregbelum. “After going through extensive talks, my final interview was with the VP. He stated a number. I stated a number. He took the time to think about it and [we were able to come] to a satisfactory agreement.” Similarly, you need to make sure your expectations are realistic. Asking for a six-figure salary for a job that typically pays $65,000 is going to make you look naïve and may even jeopardize your chance of landing the position.
Timing is Everything
There has to be a certain level of finesse when talking about figures. Bringing up salary right off the bat can be off-putting to the interviewer, and put your chance of getting an offer in peril. Wait until they bring it up. The exception is if the job listing requests salary requirements up front. Provide a wide range in that case or just say “salary negotiable.” Once you are in the interview, you have to know the appropriate time to start the conversation according to the Lucas Group’s Novissimo. “If you are talking about numbers and you haven’t brought any value to the table, you need to take the opportunity to tell them why you are the best fit for the role,” he says. “Once you have proven your value and have shown credibility, then you can talk salary.”
Ask for Other Perks
Take this scenario, job talks are going nicely, and then an offer comes that falls short of your expectations. You have the opportunity to counter-offer, but tread lightly. “Be prepared for a no,” says Brown-Volkman. “If you get a no, that is when you say ‘I understand but here is my research’ and ask if it changes their mind. Then they might say ‘It’s not in our budget,’ which is just another way of saying no.” In this instance, Brown-Volkman suggests thinking about alternative benefits in lieu of the desired salary. Tuition reimbursement, extra vacation days, bonuses based on performance, relocation costs, housing are just some of the other things that an employer might offer instead of more money.
Know Your Goals
People who succeed in New York are goal-oriented and plan ahead. Salary negotiation is a good place to start, but it’s not the only factor that should be weighed. For example, you might consider taking a position because it offers room to grow. Iregbelum says “Anyone in the middle of salary negotiation has to know if the job offers room for advancement. I have a friend who can only advance if the person above him quits or gets fired. He [could] be there for years and be stuck with the same salary. If there is little room for advancement, then that is when you have to be more aggressive with salary negotiation.” On the other hand, you could view a weak offer as a stepping stone to something better down the line. “If your goal is to move to New York and a job will get you to New York, and the salary isn’t the best, you’ll take it because it gets you to New York,” says Brown-Volkman. Keep your goals in mind and use them to help you decide whether a job is right for you and, if so, how important salary is in the greater scheme of your career.