The start of a new working year is a great time to reflect on where your career is heading, and whether you’re getting paid enough to head there.
If you feel shortchanged, there’s really no avoiding having the uncomfortable conversation that every employee dreads… The pay negotiation.
To help you get through this tricky chat with both money in your pocket and the goodwill of your boss, here’s how to avoid the five biggest mistakes people make when negotiating a pay rise.
They don’t consider the direction of the business
As an employee you are part of a team working towards a common set of goals, so it’s important to appreciate your role in achieving those goals.
Too many people see themselves as being independent of the business and frame their case for a pay rise in terms of their work, not how they’re contributing to the business’s future.
So before you march in asking for more money, talk to your manager and the people around you to find out what they need. What are they working towards and how can you help them deliver their targets?
They don’t do a proper self-appraisal
The worst time to ask for a pay rise is when you’ve been underperforming, and yet so many employees wait until they’re upset about their pay cheque to pose the question, without regard for whether they’ve been exceeding expectations or not.
So regardless of how underpaid you feel right now, cool your heels and do a self-appraisal to see if you’ve been doing everything that’s asked of you, and a bit more.
If you haven’t been hitting targets, hold off while you work harder over the next four weeks to get yourself into a stronger negotiating position. This will also help you get a clearer picture of your strengths and contributions.
They undermine themselves
Pay negotiations can be uncomfortable, especially if there is no formal structure in place to guide the timing and process of performance reviews.
In this an unfamiliar environment, a lot of people go into their shells and aren’t as confident in their pitch as they were when practicing in the mirror. So much so, that they end up referring to negative aspects of their performance and using self-defeating language when making their case.
Try to overcome this tendency by reminding yourself that you do deserve a pay rise, your contribution is important and always referring to your projects and achievements in positive terms.
Also check with recruitment agencies on what your position earns elsewhere so you know you’re being fair.
They don’t leave themselves room to move
Negotiations involve each party giving some ground on their initial position to try to come to an agreement. Despite this fundamental principle, so many employees start with what they actually want, leaving themselves no room to move when negotiations begin.
By starting with a higher target than you would be happy with, you’re likely to end up with a better outcome.
It’s also important to look at alternatives to money, in case that’s not on the table. So spend some time working out what is valuable to you. Would you be happy with a phone, extra super contributions or flexible working hours in lieu of a bigger wage?
Remember, having alternatives and room to move from your original offer and still get what you want is an extremely valuable bargaining chip in negotiations.
They don’t formalise the process
The single biggest mistake people make in salary negotiations is treating them too casually. This is your livelihood we’re talking about, so you and your manager need to take it seriously.
This means providing warning by booking in a formal meeting, preparing yourself with a clear case for a pay rise, and following up. The last piece of the puzzle is where a lot of people fall down, so make sure you set out next steps at the end of the meeting.
Get a clear agreement on when you will follow up, anything you need to do to secure the raise and – ideally – when it will take effect. Good luck.
Financial Check Up
The kids are back into the swing of school, summer holidays are a distant memory and hopefully you’ve paid off your holiday spending spree. Time for a financial health check to kick off the New Year.
Update your budget
If you’ve done a budget before it’s vital you revisit it on at least an annual basis to update the figures and check you’re actually sticking to it. In the last year we’ve seen mortgage repayments stay low, the price of petrol has plunged as has the value of the Aussie dollar.
When you’re doing your budget you have to be ruthless and honest with yourself. Don’t over or under-estimate your expenses. If your figures are way off there’s no way you will stick to your budget. If you fudge the figures to make yourself feel better you will only be discouraged when you don’t have enough money to get by, let alone save, at the end of the month. Be realistic.
Evaluate your goals
Short-term goals that you want to achieve in the next 12 months, like going on a holiday or paying off your credit card debt;
Medium-term goals that you want achieve in the next say five years, like renovating the kitchen or taking the kids to Disneyland;
Long-term goals that you want to achieve when you retire, like paying off the house and having enough in superannuation to lead a nice lifestyle.
Once you have worked out what your goals are you need to prioritise and put together an action plan.
Set savings targets
Decide how much you can afford to save each month and treat it like an expense, a bill that has to be paid.
If you have trouble staying disciplined put your money in a dedicated savings account that pays higher interest and discourages withdrawals.