Consider the Long Term Impact of Not Negotiating Salary

The amount of salary one makes throughout their lifetime career and the subsequent lifestyle and quality of life as a result of that income depends a lot on the amount of salary a person negotiates before their first day on the job.

This should be considered whether it is a first job out of school or a mid-career job change. Beyond that, there are impacts even when you are working for an employer that you are very happy with. Not engaging in salary negotiation at the right time can have real financial impact.

Throughout your career, you may earn pay increases or promotions within the company that you work for, but take as an example, when the company offers scheduled raises, as most companies do, the impact of your intitial salary with that company is measurable.

This is not only applicable to your first salary negotiation and subsequent incremental pay raises but also to salary differentials you may get when you changes roles within a company. You may switch into a job requiring significantly increased duties, effort, or responsibilities, and the salary you had earned beforehand can genuinely influence the starting salary at the new job.

As an example, imagine a person starting a new job as a QA analyst in a high tech company somewhere in America. Suppose that person begins with a starting salary of $45,000. Most likely that person will have to put in 6 months to a full year before they are offered their first pay raise. Suppose it is a 10% raise which would be HUGE at many employers. The employee would gain an additional $4500 per annum based on that increase.

Suppose that same person started at $55,000 or more. That same pay hike of 10% would provide the same employee $5500 additional salary per year. With the first salary band, the employee would still be under the $50,000 mark after one full year of effort and after a 10% pay increase, while in the second situation the employee would be at over $60,000 a year after a 10% pay increment.

Now analyze the compound repercussion of these two starting salaries on the individuals earning potential. First let’s examine a 4 year timeline, all other things being equal (that is, suggesting no pay increases and no job advances). The person earning $45K will have earned $180K in total salary in 4 years. The person earning $55K will have earned $220K in 4 years. That is a $40K difference just based on where the employee started in terms of negotiated compensation.

Introduce a ten percent raise after year 1 and consider the impact as the person moves through their career. The person with a most salary in the beginning will always be ahead of the person with the lower starting salary, all things being equal (i.e. identical job, identical job performance). The person with the higher salary will be getting ahead faster than the person starting with the lower salary. This impact multiplies with each coming year assuming the same annual percentage pay raise for each.

When requesting a pay increase, if a person earning $50,000 earns a 5% raise without negotiating anything additional, that’s okay. But consider the impact if the person negotiates a 15% increase because they have really performed well in the job and they have all the supporting research and a track record to command it. That employee will have negotiated $7,500 in a raise versus just accepting $2500. Multiply that by 10 years, and there is a clear $50,000 difference in the person’s salary potential.

Many experts feel it goes without saying that it is better to try negotiating a raise or an improvement to the compensation package than to simply accept what is offered. The first offer is usually the lowest offer and can be improved upon. This negotiation must be done with masterful skills and must be well founded with a supporting case for the increase.

One must also analyze factors such as market, corporate guidelines, and personal performance. However when done well, it can really pay off. Remember to consider the value of all factors of compensation when asking for a raise. Some people truly value free time, their quality of life, while others are willing to take a chance and maybe accept stock options in lieu of pay.

When it comes to negotiating salary, be courageous and consider requesting for more.

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