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Degrees of Salary Negotiation for Job-Seekers Who Can’t Afford to Say No to Job Offers

What if you can’t afford to lose this job offer? Can you still negotiate for a better salary? Sure you can, but some strategies offer more risk than others.

Broke. Flat broke. It happened to Donald Trump and to almost every millionaire you can think of. At one time or other they were broke, busted. But they did not give up negotiating. It can happen to you. It will make you feel that you have to take what’s offered or risk losing the offer altogether. But, getting more money is not a matter of extremes: all or nothing at all. It has gradual increments.

There are varying degrees of negotiating depending on the strength of your negotiating position. The strongest position is to be able to walk away. You can take it or leave it. That puts 90% of the negotiating advantage in your court.

The opposite end of the spectrum is “I can’t afford to say no, no matter how low the offer it, I need a job paying something!”

Obviously there is a minimum acceptable income — bigger than zero — that’s your bottom line. So it’s not true that you have to take anything they offer. We’ll look at your leverage and show how you can trade your leverage in successive increments as your need for security declines.

Double Lock Down
This strategy has a 99 percent chance of non-jeopardy to the job offer it gives away the most negotiating power, but gains the most job-offer security.

I must be frank with you. This job is important to me, and if the offer you just gave me was the best you could do, I would accept it, no question. However, I would like to discuss it a bit provided that you’re comfortable with that. So, just to make sure… I wouldn’t jeopardize this offer by discussing it would I? (Single lock down.) [No Problem.] So, I can be sure, then, that the offer as it stands is a firm one? (Double lock down.)

Single Lock Down
This strategy offers the best combination of safety and negotiating room.

Thank you for your offer. I’m delighted to receive it. May I ask you, there are a couple items I’d like to talk about to see if they could be adjusted, but I would only want to talk about them if you’re okay with it. Can we talk about a few things without jeopardizing the offer as is?

This strategy presents a blend of negotiating and job offer security.

Wow. I’m so glad to get this offer. I presume it’s a firm offer, right? I mean if I talked through a few things right now and took it home to really examine it thoroughly, it would still good tomorrow morning, right? [Yes] Good, because I’m better when it comes to money if I have some quiet unpressured time so I can make sure both of us will be satisfied with it.

No Lock Down
This strategy does present a small risk of losing the offer.

I appreciate your offer, and I’m sure you put some thought into it. Likewise, I’ve been thinking of the work, my unique contribution, and have some ideas of my own. I appreciate your offer of $X, and I think at that level we’ll need to talk through this because we’re just a little bit apart at the moment. Now, talking about money can sometimes be a charged or uncomfortable conversation. That’s not always true, of course, but could I ask you a favor? [Yes] Could you hang in there with me until we get to a good agreement even if it gets uncomfortable. It’s important to both of us, I think, to make sure we’ve got a compensation we’ll both be happy with.

Final Thoughts
Notice, in all of these negotiations, the employer promised, in a way to keep the offer open even if you try to negotiate it higher. You can pick the level of risk you want to take, it comes at the expense of security. But you CAN negotiate and not put the job at risk.

by Jack Chapman

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Recommended reading for positive career changes

Ready for a career-enhancing spring break? Each of the following books offers advice for improving your performance, or your overall career.

“Your Brain at Work: Strategies for overcoming distraction, regaining focus, and working smarter all day long” by David Rock, Harper Collins, 2009, $26.99. Who can resist the promise of overcoming distraction? Rock takes some trouble to discuss not only tips for working smarter but also the brain science behind the advice.
For example:  “Schedule the most attention-rich tasks when you have a fresh mind.”
“Multi-tasking is impossible unless you are doing hardwired routines.”
And: “Practice setting expectations a little lower, to maximize dopamine levels.”
These concepts are explained more fully in a slightly wonky but highly informative look at the way our minds work at work. I expect to revise some of my own habits based on what I’ve learned here.
“Indispensable by Monday” by Larry Myler, John Wiley & Sons, 2010, $24.95. How much do employees really know about solving the problems faced by their organizations? Not enough, Myler says. He sets out to address that gap by providing three tip-laden chapters in quick-read format: 1) Help Your Company, Help Yourself,  2) Pull Money Out of Thin Air and 3) Making It All Work…Starting Monday Morning.
While his emphasis is on creating profit and cost-savings, Myler backs up his strategies with useful tools available on his Web site, as well as simple graphs. I have noticed that profitability is a somewhat rare mindset in employees. Myler believes it can be developed by providing workers with the fundamentals of profit strategies. If you agree, this book is a good place to start on your own education.
“The End of Work as You Know It: 8 strategies to redefine work on your own terms” by Milo Sindell and Thuy Sindell, Ten Speed Press, 2009, $14.99. Is it Harvey Mackay who always says, “Find work you love and you’ll never work again”? I’m paraphrasing, but that sentiment has been a staple of career authors for at least two decades. In this book, Milo and Thuy Sindell take the concept further by providing step-by-step strategies to help you love the work you have, even if you can’t go find the work you love.
The strategy names won’t give you much insight, but they might create a little spark as you head off to find the book. They are: share expertise, initiate change, demand autonomy, create meaning, spark creativity, seize recognition, maintain balance and build legacy. As you might guess, this book is highly theoretical. The authors do offer case studies and other applications of the material. It’s a relatively short book, which balances well with a slightly dry approach.
“Surviving Dreaded Conversations: Talk through any difficult situation at work” by Donna Flagg, McGraw Hill, 2009, $16.95. Okay, this author knows how to hit a soft spot. As a counselor who sees people at all stages of career angst, I can confirm that the fear of difficult conversations creates an enormous drag on productivity. Flagg encourages a jump off the deep end when she says, “It’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be,” and “It’s about learning to just say what needs to be said.”
Luckily, she provides dozens of examples, as well as scripts and partial dialogs to help prepare for everything from asking for a raise to firing someone to confronting co-workers about their dishwashing habits. If you struggle at work because of things that aren’t said, this book will help you break the logjam.
“The Leap: How 3 simple changes can propel your career from good to great” by Rick Smith, Portfolio, 2009, $24.95. Smith’s writing style makes the topic itself more interesting. And that topic? Not so much career improvement, as the subtitle would suggest, but career change. Nearly all of Smith’s examples, including his own career story, start or end with the protagonist leaving one career path for a better, more fulfilling path. If you’re looking for inspiration and possibly some how-to steps while you ponder your own career, this might be the book you need.

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