How To Negotiate Your Salary On This Side Of The Great Resignation

Salary negotiations during a recession are still a thing — but you may need to think carefully about what you’re negotiating for.

Nothing can slow down a worker-driven labor market like a looming recession. The Great Retreat has already caused more than 40 million Americans to quit their jobs, but now an economic downturn is looming — and no one knows how it will play out.

All of a sudden, job seekers may find that offers are thinning — and not as enticing as they were just a few months ago. So what does it look like when you have an offer on the table? At a time when jobs aren’t as plentiful as they used to be, is salary negotiation still smart?

Salary negotiations during a recession are absolutely still a thing — but you may need to think carefully about what you’re negotiating for. “Trust me, we expect you to negotiate even in a recession,” says Cara Brennan Allamano, Lattice’s chief people officer. “But instead of just negotiating salary, you can also negotiate opportunity – and the latter can pay off much more in the long run.”

Negotiate the opportunity

With the massive market shifts of recent years and the potential challenges ahead, we need to rethink salary negotiations. It’s about so much more than money these days.

Allamano says you should start by knowing what you want from the role you’re negotiating for. “Ask yourself: How does this role align with your career goals? What exactly do you want to achieve with your next step?”

This mindset, Allamano says, will help expand your negotiation tactics up front and enable you to see beyond the hard numbers. “Negotiate for opportunitynot just money,” she says.

This means opening a conversation about what challenging project work, growth opportunities, or other learning experiences the company is willing to undertake as part of your role. “Ask what kind of contact you will have with other parts of the company or whether you will have access to mentoring from senior leaders on your team or elsewhere in the organization,” Allamano says. “All of these factors have been proven to accelerate career progression, lead to faster promotions, and ultimately increase your base salary as well.”

If you’re still having trouble seeing more than just the numbers, try these size questions:

  • What should your future CV look like?
  • What is your dream job title in 5 years?
  • What opportunities and places do you want your career to lead to?

“The first step in getting the results you want is the first step in developing and choosing the next role that will bring you closer to them,” says Allamano.

5 negotiation strategies

Of course, the number on your paycheck still matters. Here’s what to do when that offer hits and you want to push things a little further.

  • Create a personal priority list: Allamano advises job seekers to make a list of priorities beforehand. “Are you willing to give up on pay if the stock options, profit-sharing or other longer-term incentives are right? Would you consider taking a pay cut (as a third of recent job switches have) if it meant a better work-life balance or the opportunity to work in any city of your choice?
  • Think of the total package: It’s important to consider the full scope of compensation, or what professionals in the industry refer to as “total compensation”—your total benefits package, paid time off, flexibility, and other perks. “Make sure that when you include a number, you’re also referring to these other parts of the package,” says Allamano.
  • Consider asking for benefits in kind: Even in a tougher economy, non-cash offers for strong candidates could be on the table, says Allamano. “Many companies have expanded these offerings in new ways as the pandemic has shown how employee expectations have evolved around things like mental health and family vacations.” A healthy work-life balance is a critical factor in your long-term Success.
  • Never see negotiations as a one-way street: Instead, Allamano says, always lead with the value you can bring to the company, and then view the negotiation as a two-way partnership. “What can you give the company in exchange for what is most valuable for your career development? The most important thing is to make sure you have communicated your value and are comfortable and confident in what this company can offer you beyond the bottom line.”
  • Do not be discouraged: If an offer falls short of your expectations, don’t let it get you down. Instead, consider the big picture before making your decision. “The best job in this environment can revolve around growth and acquiring skills – because that will prepare you for the next economic boom to make your game,” says Allamano.

when to go away

While it’s tempting to wait for the highest bidder, this strategy can backfire. Often, Allamano says, candidates end up with a flashier “brand name” employer that just so happens to have the resources to make the desired salary.

“Don’t get me wrong, some of these giants are great places to work — but others have cultural baggage and aren’t worth it,” she advises. “And more importantly, some may not be able to offer you tangible growth opportunities alongside the shiny salary.”

Another reason to keep an offer on the table might be the company’s track record of managing fundamental change. “Ask how they handled the onset of the pandemic, as it could also be an indication of how they will address an economic downturn,” Allamano says. “Look for things they may have pulled back and where they have redirected resources to get a sense of what they are really prioritizing.

“If the company cannot or will not provide satisfactory answers to the above questions, it may be in your best interest to leave.”

Play the long game

Although a new job is the quickest route to a significant raise, there’s a long game beyond the paycheck. And it can be worth playing.

Some employees regret leaving after jumping into new roles too quickly or even returning to their previous employers. Before you step down from your current position, Allamano believes a little thought is in order. “I would suggest taking advantage of that moment of uncertainty, however hard it may be, to think more consciously about your next move and really look before you jump,” she says.

“And while it may be tempting to accept the most lucrative offer, there are other factors – from culture to learning opportunities – that can mean just as much, if not more, to your future success and continued growth.”

That’s one of the reasons why salary negotiations should be expanded to just be about negotiation – because salary isn’t everything and negotiations shouldn’t just take place during the hiring process. Existing employees should also be able to enter into negotiations with the employer.

Your current employer may be able to offer study grants, extra vacation days, or other in-kind benefits that you may find interesting and fit with your career path. “Be open to value propositions that appeal to you, even if they look different than things you’ve valued in the past,” says Allamano. “You may be surprised at what your employer is willing to do to keep you happy and engaged.”

Whatever your next career move, keep your eye on the long game. Negotiating isn’t just about money, it’s about long-term growth, personal satisfaction, and work-life balance that will make your career a joy.

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