Negotiating for More in a Hungry Economy

Remember the scene from Oliver Twist where Oliver was negotiating for more soup from the master of the orphanage? The master was shocked and outraged that the boy wasn’t satisfied with just one bowl. As a currently employed person or a candidate seeking a job, you might be tempted to ask for more from your place of employment or potential employer. Here are a few pointers you’ll want to consider to help you avoid getting a similar negative response.

First of all, take advantage of this advice from Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder, if you are either negotiating for more with an initial offer or an increase to your current compensation plan:

  • “Know your market value: Arm yourself with as much information as possible by checking out industry Web sites for your occupational and geographic areas and others that specialize in salary information, such as, or the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Sell yourself: Outline your role in helping your current and previous organizations meet goals. If there’s ever a time to toot your own horn, the time is now. Quantify results whenever possible.
  • Look at more than the paycheck: Some jobs that may not pay as well may be rich in learning opportunities and experience or may offer an ideal work culture. Consider the whole package.
  • Have realistic expectations: Inflated opinions of what should be earned won’t be taken seriously. Consider the industry, the economy, your experience and the competition from other coworkers.”

Second, when negotiating for more, try to understand where the person on the other side of the desk is coming from. Thanks to a survey recently conducted by*, you can be aware of what’s going on in the mind of employers as their businesses struggle to recover.  Here’s what the survey revealed:

  • Employers are concerned that existing employees will leave the organization as the economy continues to improve. According to the CareerBuilder survey, this concern was expressed by 43 percent of the 2,457 employers surveyed between August 17 and September 2, 2010. Happily for those of you who are currently employed, this means that employers are looking for ways to keep you satisfied and engaged.
  • Employers may be offering creative perks in lieu of monetary compensation. In light of the slowly recovering economy, many employers are not yet able to provide raises. In response to the survey, employers came up with a list of perks they hope will encourage employees to stay, including more flexible work hours, bonuses, training, vacation time, more casual dress codes, academic reimbursement, and title change.

Scott Kuethen, CEO of Amtec, has an insight to add to this issue: “Don’t underestimate the real worth of being highly engaged in your work. Interestingly enough, employers and candidates are looking for the same thing. Both want engagement. When you, the employee, are highly engaged in your work, you’re more focused, productive, and happy. You’re making your highest contribution. And while you’re highly engaged in your work, you’re learning and growing more than at any other time. Your employer reaps the benefit because your contribution will be of greater value to them, which will eventually find its way to the bottom line. And that’s what the corporation wants and needs to grow and become stronger.  Being in the right role where you are highly engaged, or getting into the right role, helps both you and your employer.”

So, while it appears to be an employer’s market, don’t give up if you’re thinking of negotiating for more. Take the time to  research how much you’re actually worth and get ready to present your accomplishments . . . but also be prepared to accept alternative perks and consider the whole package, not just the salary itself.  If you approach your organization or potential employer with realistic expectations and an appreciative attitude, you’ll have a better chance of negotiating that extra bowl of soup!

* For the full report of the survey, conducted between August 17 and September 2, 2010, go to

By Marcianne Kuethen – © 2010

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