Making The Leap Into A More Stressful (But Rewarding) Job? How Can You Ensure Adequate Compensation?

Whether you're leaving your safe (but stagnant) position at a well-established firm to take a role in a startup company or are moving from the world of private industry to a public service role, you may be excited about the changes in your career -- as well as your salary and benefits package. However, a misstep during the negotiation stage of the game could cost you thousands or even hundreds of thousands of lost dollars during your career. What should you do to ensure you're being fairly and adequately compensated for your new position? Read on to learn more about the tips and tricks you'll want to keep in mind when evaluating your worth to a company, as well as some benefits you may be able to negotiate in lieu of a higher salary.

How should you approach salary negotiations with a new company? 

While the outcome you desire from your salary negotiations may vary widely depending upon your individual goals (higher income, retirement savings, or a flexible schedule), the process of negotiating your salary and benefits package from a new company should look similar regardless of your goals. 

Before ever discussing your salary with a hiring manager or human resources official, you'll want to do some research. There are now a number of websites that set forth pay scales for a variety of positions and allow you to sort these pay ranges by industry, employer type, and even region. Analyzing the various salaries for others in similar positions can give you an idea of where to begin your negotiations while ensuring you don't inadvertently shortchange yourself. 

If the job you're considering is a fairly niche position and can't easily be compared with others -- for example, a code programmer or graphic designer for a start-up company -- you'll need to break down your job description even further to find your worth. Knowing what others with your skills are paid in the public and private sectors can give you a starting point for discussions, while remaining aware that many start-ups find themselves in a cash crunch while growing can allow you the flexibility to accept alternative forms of payment (like shares of company stock or even a percentage of profits generated from a product you help create). 

After researching your own worth (and the wage your local market will support), you'll want to catalogue your skills. While pointing out that others in your position make a certain salary can help boost your claim that you should be paid a comparable wage, showcasing your unique skills can really help you sell yourself to your potential employer. If a process you refined or a product you developed in a previous position helped save your former employer money, now is the time to toot your own horn and show your new employer you can become a valuable asset.

What else should you consider when negotiating your salary with a new employer?

Many job-seekers tend to focus on the annual salary or hourly wage offered by an employer rather than the total compensation package -- often to their detriment. Non-salary or non-compensatory perks can sometimes render a lower-paying position far more lucrative than one offering a higher salary but few or no benefits. Before engaging in salary negotiations, you may want to spend some time thinking about "lifestyle factors" -- paid vacation time, healthcare benefits, tuition reimbursement, employee discounts, and other non-salary benefits that could significantly change your working environment.  

Analyzing these non-salary perks can be especially fruitful if you're considering accepting a job at a public sector employer or fledgling company that may not be able to offer an especially high salary but promises flexibility or a "family friendly" working environment. 

For more information on getting adequate compensation, consider contacting a compensation consultant.