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Follow this BW Business School advice to negotiate compensation with confidence

Do you know your worth in the job market? An expert panel convened by BW's Carmel Boyer School of Business posed that question to graduate business students. But all students, employees, job seekers and job shifters can benefit from exploring the answer.

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We asked "Know Your Worth" panelist Beth Ehrbar, who serves as manager of learner engagement and lecturer in business communication in the Baldwin Wallace University Carmel Boyer School of Business, to hit some of the highlights of the advice given at the event.

We started by asking Ehrbar, who is also a Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF), why the School of Business hosted the event.

A: We wanted our experts to help graduate students understand how to leverage newly minted credentials like an MBA, Master of Accountancy or graduate certificate during interviews and salary negotiation. Our experts suggested that you need to start by building your negotiation muscle as a career skill and learning to effectively showcase your education, experience and performance record.

Q: So, if it doesn't seem like there's much room for negotiation, should an employee still negotiate salary?

A: Yes! As professor Margaret A. Neale of Stanford notes, "If you get a $100,000 salary and your co-worker negotiates up to $107,000, assuming you're treated identically from then on, with the same raises and promotions, you'd have to work eight years longer to be as wealthy as them at retirement." Small differences add up over time.

Q: What represents an opportunity to negotiate?

A: Timing is everything! Employees who negotiated an original salary offer may not see opportunities to negotiate as they continue with the same organization. But performance reviews and the addition of new credentials open the door to a salary adjustment. Keep in mind that an annual or bi-annual performance review is not the only window of opportunity.

Our panel shared several ideas for tracking and sharing your contributions throughout the year. Suggestions included keeping a "brag sheet" to record both quantitative and qualitative accomplishments that align with your job description and measurable goals. If your KPIs (key performance indicators) are not clear, define them and seek agreement from your supervisor(s) to confirm what you are aiming for.

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Q: How should an employee determine how much of a bump to ask for?

A: Do your research. Factors that play a role in salary structure include educational attainment, years of experience, skills mastery, credentials, industry and the cost of living in the location of your company.
There are many online resources that can help, including the NACE Salary Calculator, the U.S. Department of Labor's O*Net Online and She Negotiates, which is chock full of free resources like a negotiation prep worksheet.

Q: Is money the only thing an employee should negotiate?

A: No. Compensation is more than just salary. Ask yourself what you value most. What will give you job satisfaction, work-life balance and support your career goals? You might ask for a new job title to help set you on the path to your next career step. Perhaps, you desire additional PTO, flexible time or work-from-home options. These items can all be on the table when you negotiate a compensation package.

Q: What's the best approach to navigate the tricky nature of these conversations?

A: It helps to understand what can get in the way of a successful negotiation — typically, it is fear of a no or coming off as demanding. Our experts recommended leading with gratitude for your workplace, enthusiasm for your job role and confidence in everything you bring to the table. Considering gender and racial pay gaps, organizations like She Negotiates provide free consultation and resources to support the tough career conversations to close those gaps.

Q: Is it appropriate for employees to enlist the support of their networks?

A: You should absolutely leverage your network. If you don't have a professional mentor, consider getting one. A professional mentor can add valuable industry and career perspectives for each stage of your career and function as a sounding board during negotiation. For those reasons, BW's Carmel Boyer School of Business is now matching current graduate business students with talented alumni mentors in a formal professional mentoring program.

Q: Any final words of advice?

A: Practice your negotiation conversation until you feel confident, clear and prepared to make your ask! In the end, your employer may not be able to meet your salary expectations. Be sure to see things from their perspective, too, and maintain open and professional communication for the future.

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