How To Negotiate Salary (And A Raise) During A Pandemic

There are a few things to keep in mind when talking about salary and raises.

Whether I'm coaching or offering advice on TikTok, I often get asked questions about negotiating salary and raises.

Questions like:

  • How do I respond to questions about salary during the job interview?
  • How do I negotiate a fair salary?
  • How do I ask for a raise?
  • Should I ask for a raise during a pandemic?

Money may not be everything, but it's still extremely important because you need it to live. I think that with so much uncertainty in the economy and the world, people are very focused on their financial security right now.

This means professionals who are employed are thinking about their current salaries and how they can get themselves in positions to make more, while job seekers are very anxious about what type of salary jobs may be offering. None of this is new; it just may be more pronounced currently.

When it comes to negotiating a salary or a raise, every situation is unique, but there are some universal practices that everyone should keep in mind.

Read The Room

Businessman has a serious discussion with his boss.


"Read the room" is a phrase often used to remind people to understand who you're talking to, and anticipating their thoughts and emotions.

An example of this would be asking for a raise right after your company has gone through a major restructuring with layoffs. You may very well deserve the raise, but you may not be doing yourself any favors by asking for a raise right after your boss had to lay off your co-workers.

That doesn't mean getting a raise is completely off the table, especially if you're going to be taking on more responsibilities, but you have to use common sense and discretion. Timing is everything, and you need to have general awareness of the health of your company and your boss' state of mind before asking for a raise.

In the case of job seekers, just because a company is hiring, doesn't mean that they haven't been through a lot. Many companies that have gone through restructurings still sometimes need to add staff to address skill gaps.

While none of this should stop you from stating a fair salary range when asked during an interview, you just need to understand it could be an obstacle in getting the salary you desire, and that you need to keep your options open and not put all your eggs in one basket.

Know When To Walk Away


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Unfortunately, not every job position that's posted will list a salary range.

In fact, many hiring managers may approach salary by simply asking the job seeker, "What are you looking for in a salary range?"

If you're caught off guard by this question, not only are you risking a fair salary, but your lack of preparation may kill your chances of even getting a job offer.

As soon as you decide to apply for a job that doesn't list a salary range, it's up to you to do market research to determine your worth. You can determine market rate by researching websites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Salary.com, to name a few. You can also reach out to your professional network to gain some additional intelligence.

It's also crucial to re-review the job posting to see how many of the job requirements you meet or exceed. (You'll need to prove how you meet or exceed these requirements when negotiating salary).

While the pandemic may impact what companies are willing to offer for salary, the one thing that's always non-negotiable is your "walk-away rate."

The walk-away rate is the minimum amount of money you need to pay your bills and live comfortably. If the job doesn't meet or exceed your walk-away rate, you're better off turning it down.

When you take a job that doesn't pay you enough, the financial challenges that you face will ultimately impact your job performance and lead to resentment. This ultimately leads to leaving a job on bad terms with no professional references to take with you on the job search.

The best thing you can do in any salary negotiation is to have a firm handle on your walk-away rate, leave a wide-range for negotiation, and understand what other job perks and benefits are available to you.

Prove Your Worth


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If you've read the room and feel like the timing is right to ask for a raise, then the next step is proving why you deserve a raise.

The key to earning a raise is proving that you made or saved the company enough money to justify the raise. If particular projects you led, or initiatives that you came up with, did just that and you have the numbers to prove it, then you should present that information to your boss as you state the case for the raise.

Remember, it's up to you to prove your worth. You're the one who asked for this discussion with your boss, and you need to lead the discussion.

This is also a good opportunity to talk about your plan for growing with the company, and how you may be able to expand your role moving forward.

If you don't feel like you have a strong enough case to present for a raise, you don't necessarily need to feel discouraged. Instead, you could use this as an opportunity to have a career discussion with your boss.

During this discussion, talk about where you are at with the company and what you can do to get better, exceed expectations, and perhaps earn a raise in 3-6 months.

These types of discussions with your boss are invaluable because they give you an idea of where you stand with the company, and how you can improve your position. And, in some cases, these discussions can confirm that you're not on the same page and the job fit just isn't right.

The pandemic may add an extra layer of consideration to discussions of money on the job, but for the most part the art of negotiating salary and asking for a raise remains the same.

As always, do good research and use common sense.

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