A recent survey found that 44% of respondents had never brought up the subject of a raise during their performance reviews, and that Americans who fail to negotiate their first salary stand to miss out on more than $500,000 by age 60.
Here are three things you need to do as you get started on your path to a higher salary:
1. Research the Market
According to USA Today, workers employed in “computer and math occupations” in the nation’s largest cities made salaries roughly 50% to 75% higher than the overall American workforce. This is good news if you’re transitioning to a career in software, but don’t start counting your paychecks yet.
The first step in negotiating your compensation is building and maintaining an understanding of the market in which you intend to work, and how your skill level will be categorized. Tools like Robert Half’s Salary Guide, Indeed Salary, PayScale, and Glassdoor will provide some guidance, and every networking event, interview, or hackathon that you attend will give you a better idea of the culture and hiring practices of your specific job market.
Market research also includes reviewing all available data and how slight variation in skill, geography, and market segment can affect compensation and organizational trajectory for your job. If you are considering joining a startup, be sure to factor future growth and trajectory before accepting an equity-heavy offer.
2. Consider Non-Salary-Related Value
There are many aspects—apart from salary—that contribute to the value of your compensation. If you intend to negotiate, be sure to consider each of the variables below. Your total compensation from a company that offers great commute stipends, vacation policies, first-rate health benefits, and/or a clear career path holds as much value—and sometimes more—than at a company that offers a high salary but no other perks or support.
Are any of the following benefits available? And if so, are they available from day one, or do they accrue over time?
Health, Vision,and Dental
Mobile Phone Bill Stipend
Ask each potential employer about the promotion path for your job, and how review cycles will be conducted and referenced. Furthermore, ask how the company ensures continual growth and development outside of the annual review cycle, and how they delegate responsibilities.
By continually juxtaposing each employer in your pipeline, and keeping personal, specific documentation of each interview (and interviewer), you will find yourself growing more confident in the options at your disposal.
3. Prepare to Negotiate
Before beginning negotiations with a potential employer, tap into your excitement about each opportunity to join a new team (even if you decide to go elsewhere). This will help you to negotiate from a position of confidence and gratitude.
Drawing attention to why you applied for the job in the first place and what you are looking forward to learning from the opportunity will convey your excitement for being considered. Be prepared by practicing and thoroughly researching the company. Your knowledge of the company and questions about the job and organization will communicate your undercurrent of self-worth and skillful confidence. Each data point you gather on compensation, competition, and technology will bolster your ability to negotiate decisively—while garnering the respect of your potential teammates.
Employers expect job candidates to negotiate their compensation, but to do so, you must be prepared to contextualize and defend each aspect of your worth. Support each “ask” you make of a company with relevant data, and remember that practice makes perfect.
For more tips on transitioning to your career in software, check out: Or Equivalent Experience: Why You Don’t Need a Four-Year Degree to Land a Coding Job, 10 Tips to Interview Well, and How to Explain Gaps in your Resume.