How Much Does Industry Matter In Salary Negotiation?

Originally Published in ForbesAshley Stahl

Money background. Shallow focus.

I’ve coached so many clients who are downright terrified of salary negotiations, but I’ll never forget one woman in particular… She would clam up and stumble over her words the second the topic came up — and her career suffered as a result. Upon listening to her discuss her salaries of the past, it was clear that she held a pattern of being dramatically underpaid considering her experience and skill set.

Needless to say, salary negotiation — any negotiation — is a crucial skill to develop when you’re in the job market. Failing to negotiate salary can cost you big. I’ve seen job hunters go into negotiations without a plan (and not having a strategy is a very bad strategy). Some people make it personal (which is a big mistake, by the way!). Others—like my client used to do—clam up and fall apart.

Why are we so afraid of asking?

Fortunately, though, there are certain pitfalls you can avoid to improve your chances of successfully negotiating your salary. For example, be mindful that each industry has a different approach to salary negotiation. It’s helpful to initiate conversations with other workers in your niche about how to approach salary — especially if you’re making a big career leap or transition into new waters.

For instance, a recent survey conducted by Comparably.com revealed some interesting data about salary negotiations in the tech industry. Individuals with more years of experience reported higher rates of negotiating—53% for those with 10+ years of experience compared to just 40% of entry level employees. Also, men were overall more likely to negotiate salary than women: 53% negotiated their salaries compared to 49% of women. As such, those with more experience are negotiating more than the newbies.

However, there were a couple of intriguing findings: employees aged 41-45 years negotiated more than any other age group (older or younger) represented in the survey. Men working in admin departments had very low rates of salary negotiation (just 18%), while women in the products departments and men in business development had very high rates of negotiations (64% and 65%, respectively).

Understanding how salary negotiations work in your industry can be a game changer. For IT professionals, if you’re a male in admin, you’ll know that you have your work cut out for you if you’ve done your research, because your counterparts are not negotiating as frequently as those in other positions are. If you’re a female in products, the odds are in your favor because hiring managers are accustomed to your demographic playing hardball… Know your industry.

Regardless of your industry, make sure to do your homework ahead of time. In general, employers typically low-ball prospective employees with an initial offer and expect a negotiation… so you’re only hurting yourself by not asking. Even federal government positions are negotiable, despite the common misconception that they’re not. Make sure to do your due diligence before you walk into the interview—never go in without a game plan.

The best way to avoid looking like a bumbling wreck—and losing out on BIG money!—during salary negotiations is to be prepared. If you’ve got your strategy set, and you’ve had conversations in your industry, you’ll avoid the common blunders that destroy negotiations, like being the first to mention a number or accepting an offer too quickly.

My client developed a solid plan after landing a job offer, and for the first time in her career, she was in control of negotiations and earned herself a huge pay increase—and she deserved every penny of it.

You do, too.

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