The Final Investment Every Parent Should Make For A Graduating Student


When a couple decides to have children, the sacrifices start early. Perhaps they look around their cramped city apartment and think about the spontaneous days when they’d hop on the back of a motorcycle and speed off to wine country for the weekend.

motorcycleSuddenly, the conversation turns to selling off the Honda CB77 Super Hawk for a Honda Odyssey EX-L with third row seating, and researching suburban towns where you get the most room for your money.

A smart couple continually weighs the cost of an investment vs. the potential payoff down the line:


  • Investing in a more expensive house in a good neighborhood, knowing that the (free) public school system is highly-rated.
  • Investing in piano lessons or sports equipment or computer camp, with the goal of a more well-rounded life, but also helping the odds for a scholarship down the line.
  • Investing thousands of dollars on SAT training, providing their children with personal tutors to boost their scores to get into the best college.

And then there’s the big whammy: College Tuition.

This is potentially $50,000 a year for the next four years! And yet, parents (and hard-working students) alike make this massive investment — even knowing that a decade of student loan debt might follow – because they see it as a path that will ultimately lead to a better job, a better career, and a better life.

But as freshly minted graduates walk down the aisle with a new diploma in hand, and their graying parents look at each other and smile proudly, there’s one last, simple thing they should invest in before kicking them out of the nest:

Teach them the importance of salary negotiation.

backpack-europeLearning this crucial skill will pay dividends for a lifetime. In fact, it will be more valuable than that backpacking trip to Europe, that new car to get them to interviews, and even that generous $10,000 gift from Uncle Sherman.

Why? Over the course of a career, whether they’re a social worker or a stock broker, if a professional continually negotiates for what they are worth, they’ll literally earn millions of dollars more over the course of their career vs. someone that doesn’t negotiate.


According to a study by Nerdwallet, there’s no reason not to.

  • Won’t they lose the offer? Probably not. 84% of companies said entry-level candidates would not be putting the offer at risk.
  • Can companies afford it? Most likely. 74% of employers leave room for a 5-10% increase.
  • Will it actually work? Only if you try. 80% of students were at least partially successful.

So if you have a son or daughter graduating this spring, congratulations. There’s no doubt that they can thank part of their success on your sacrifice and the smart investments you’ve made in them.

But before you pop the champagne, make sure they have that final skill to set them on the path for a prosperous career. Soon enough they’ll be paying off their loans, moving to the city, and (over your dead body) checking out a new motorcycle.

Where to get started? It’s simple:

I help ambitious students negotiate their first job offer by giving them confidence, guiding them through the hiring process, and teaching them exactly what to say — without risking losing the offer.

How to Negotiate a Raise or Promotion: The Salary Tutor Game Plan


If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you feel underpaid and undervalued at work and you want to ask for a raise.

Or maybe you have a performance review coming up, and you need a little help to make your case and get paid what you deserve.

If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone.

According to a LinkedIn survey, 39% of Americans feel anxious or frightened about negotiating. And it’s even harder for women — only 26% said they felt comfortable negotiating.

Here’s the good news. Because you’re reading this article, that means you’re serious about doing something about it. You’re not passively waiting for your boss to recognize your accomplishments, you’re taking your career into your hands and doing something about it.

In order to succeed, you’re going to need a game plan.

While there are many specific tips and techniques that I can show you to get the maximum raise possible, this article will serve as a quick overview to the steps needed to get a raise.

Step 1) Get in the Salary Negotiation Mindset

mindset-iconGetting a raise is a little bit like deciding to get in better shape. Few people immediately flip a switch and start going to the gym and eating perfectly balanced meals. Instead, deciding to drop a few pounds often starts with a mindset shift.

Perhaps there’s a college reunion coming up, or an eye-opening report from the doctor. People make a conscious decision… “Starting today, I am going to learn about taking better care of myself.”

The same can be said for taking charge of your career. Perhaps you’ve stagnated in your job, or found out that someone with similar skills is getting paid way more than you.

You’ve had enough.

You need to shift your thinking from being anxious about asking for a raise, to being excited. This is an opportunity to advance your career.

Action: The Salary Negotiation Mindset (free course).

Step 2) Research what you’re worth

If you’ve been at the same position for some time, it’s easy to fall into a routine and get caught up in your own little bubble. However, at least once a year it’s a good idea to survey your industry and see what your skills are worth in the market.


The key here is to focus on what others are willing to pay you, not how much of a raise you can get based on your current salary.

For example, one client of mine was earning $60,000 as an office manager. But over a 2-year span, she took on a much greater amount of responsibility and was now “wearing many hats.” With a big performance review coming up, she wanted advice in asking for a title and raise to match her current role.

We crafted a unique gameplan: researching market trends for salaries, graphing out the percentage of time spent on key projects, and compiling her bottom-line financial impact. The result? She felt empowered, her review went just as planned, and she was promoted from Manager to Director and received a 25% raise to $75,000.

Action: Use the Salary Tutor guide to research your worth, then present the data in a compelling format.

Step 3) Build your case

When interviewing for a new job, there’s a lot of blind faith. A complete stranger in Human Resources is trying to predict how you’ll perform at a new position, while you’re trying to show how your work at a completely different company is relevant.

Build-Your-CaseWhen asking for a raise, things are a bit different. You’ve probably been working with your supervisor for a year or more, so you can base your results on an existing body of work.

The key is presenting your accomplishments in a way that shows how you’ve impacted the bottom line.

If you’ve brought in additional income, new clients, or perform a key task that no one else in the company can do, you can illustrate your value and ask for that increase.

Action: Record your accomplishments while on the job, then build a digital portfolio to display your work.

Step 4) Time it right

If you plan on storming into your boss’ office tomorrow and demanding a raise, think again. Timing your request can have a big impact on results.

calendarOn a macro level, you’ll want to gauge the health of the company and be aware of their budget cycles. If you’re up for an annual review, you’ll want to start preparing as much as 90 days earlier.

A great time to ask for that increase is right after a major accomplishment, or when a major change has happened such as someone giving notice.

Even the day of the week can be crucial – make sure you’re not scheduling an important meeting while your supervisor has a major crisis going on.

Action: Don’t just guess, be strategic about timing when asking for a raise.

Step 5) Role play and practice

As Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

I’ve met many a person who thought they were ready to ask for a raise, but when they found themselves sitting across from their boss in the moment of truth, the words came out in a jumble, they forgot a key piece of information, or they cowered and backed down when faced with any kind of pushback.

It’s imperative to go over your presentation multiple times, preferably with another person. Not only must you know what you’re asking for, but also have responses to any challenges that might come up.

Practice makes perfect.

Action: Role play your scenario with a friend, spouse, or hire a coach.

Step 6) Present your case

If you’ve gone through the first 5 steps, you’re ready to take action.

Present-CaseWalk your supervisor through your accomplishments and present your request for a raise or promotion in a professional manner based on data, research, and the goals you will accomplish moving forward.

This is no time to demand a raise, threaten to leave, or get emotional.

Action: Step up, be confident, and ask for what you’re worth.


It takes a bit of courage and preparation to effectively negotiate a raise or promotion. But with the right gameplan in place, you can outline your strategy for asking for — and getting – what you deserve.

How to Negotiate a New Job Offer: The Salary Tutor Game Plan


In a perfect world, negotiating a new job offer would be like taking a final exam in college. While it’s going to be a challenge, at least you know the date of the test, the subject matter you’ll be asked to discuss, and have ample time to prepare.

In reality, for most people a salary negotiation is more like walking into class on the last day of the semester and being asked to lead a debate. There’s not much time to prepare, you’ve never done this before, and you’re not quite sure what to say. Oh, and the person you’re up against this has done this a hundred times, and you’re so nervous you might pass out.

  • If you’re a model student and you’re researching negotiation techniques for a future job offer well in advance, welcome.
  • If you’re here because you’re frantically looking for answers because you’re getting an offer tomorrow, I can help you as well.

Either way, in order to succeed, you’re going to need a game plan.

While there are many specific tips and techniques that I can show you to make sure you get the maximum salary possible, this article will serve as a quick overview of the steps needed to negotiate a new job offer.

Step 1) Get in the Salary Negotiation Mindset

mindset-iconIf you’ve never negotiated before or the thought of doing so makes you anxious, the first thing you need to do is to get in the right mindset.

Most people have never been taught how to negotiate, so it’s natural to be nervous about the unknown. Many job seekers are afraid that if they ask for more money the company will withdraw their offer and go with someone else. Others feel they’ll be seen as greedy for asking for more money.

You need to shift your thinking from being anxious about negotiation, to being excited. This is an opportunity to not only land a new position, but to do so at the salary you deserve.

Action: The Salary Negotiation Mindset (free course).

Step 2) Research what you’re worth

Negotiating the highest salary doesn’t begin when you receive a job offer, it begins with doing your homework before you even get the interview.


The key here is to focus on the current market rate for someone with your skills, not how much you’re making now or what you think you “deserve.”

For example, a client of mine worked at a startup and had a salary of $80,000. At each annual review, she met with her boss, showed the revenue she was bringing into the company, and asked for a raise. For three years, he made excuses.

Eventually she was contacted by a recruiter and interviewed for a new position. By focusing on her current worth on the market (more than six figures), and not her current salary from 3 years ago, she was able to negotiate a whopping $63,000 increase.

Action: Use the Salary Tutor guide to research your worth, then present the data in a compelling format.

Step 3) Avoid discussing salary early

In the early stages of a job search, it’s easy to let your guard down and reveal your current salary. This might happen when filling out online applications, working with a recruiter, or in your first interaction with human resources. However…

Exposing your specific salary early in the process can severely affect your ability to negotiate down the line.

You might be eliminated for giving a number that is too high or too low, or set yourself up to receive a lowball offer. At minimum, your goal is to keep the discussion focused on a wide range, and at best, keep your information private until you have an offer.

Action: Practice delaying salary talk until later in the interview, and never be the one to bring up salary first.

Step 4) Role play and practice

As Ben Franklin famously said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

I’ve seen countless people think that they were prepared for a negotiation, only to melt under the pressure when the Evil HR Lady leaned in and asked,

“Sooo… what were you thinking in terms of salary?”

While the conversation can certainly feel difficult, the best way to overcome fear and increase your chances for success is through practice. By repeatedly rehearsing your salary discussion with someone, not only do you gain confidence in what you’re asking for, but you can be prepare yourself for any number of outcomes.

Action: Role play your scenario with friends, family, or hire a coach.

Step 5) Negotiate like an FBI agent

FBI-LogoOnce you know your worth, are armed with data, and have practiced your approach, you’re ready to negotiate.

Some candidates will receive an offer via email, while others discuss salary live on the spot. Job-seekers with skills in high demand might be thrilled with a generous salary offer, while many others are underwhelmed with the first number HR tells you.

Now’s the time to keep your cool and tactically ask for what you want. I teach clients how to use some of the same skills employed by FBI hostage negotiators.

Action: Present your case in a business-like manner and negotiate toward the high end of the range.

Step 6) Look at the whole package

Before signing on the dotted line at your new salary, look at the big picture.

Perks such as health care, vacation time, bonuses, job title, review periods, commissions, stock options, and relocation round out your total compensation package, and can have a huge impact on your bottom line and your overall happiness on the job.

Action: Decide what’s most important to you, find out where a company has wiggle room, and don’t be afraid to ask.


While a single article can’t cover a semester’s worth of negotiation advice, this overview serves as a game plan on your way toward a your negotiation diploma.

10 Salary Negotiation Myths


A rough translation of a myth could be “a legendary story, usually concerning a hero or event, especially one that is concerned with deities or some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.”

Many people play up salary negotiation as some kind of mythical exploit, as if a Cyclops from human resources was guarding a 10% salary increase. Perhaps only few select heroes can effectively navigate this rite of passage and pierce the heavily guarded castle.

In reality, as author Selena Rezvani puts it, a negotiation can simply be “a conversation that ends in agreement.” So before you retreat back over the drawbridge, let’s take a look at the other definition of a myth – a falsehood – and see if we can come out victorious.

1. You should be scared to negotiate

Quite the opposite… you should be excited to negotiate. If someone is extending an offer to you, that means your skills are in demand. Unlike simply getting a raise at your current position, where you might bring in an extra 5%, negotiating a new job offer is one of the greatest opportunities in your career to significantly increase your salary.

2. There are lots of resources out there, so everyone knows how to negotiate but you

The good news is, when it comes to statistical salary data, yes there are a few great resources out there. Before the Internet? Unless your dad worked for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, good luck tracking down comparative salaries.

The bad news is, while there are certainly websites, blog posts, and videos talking about negotiation, it can be difficult to find an example that fits your particular situation. It seems that resumes and interviewing are always the hot topics. Go ahead and Google the following terms: interview tips, resume tips, salary negotiation tips, and look at the disparity in the number of search results. There are still a lot of people in the dark on this subject. (That’s why I’m here to help).

3. Everyone but you negotiated their last salary

In 2013, job site found that HALF of all workers surveyed did NOT negotiate their salary when applying for a new job. Other surveys have shown that 15-20% of people never negotiate or make a counter-offer when taking a new position. Many more leave thousands on the table because they weren’t prepared. Just the fact that you are reading this and looking for more information probably puts you ahead of most of your co-workers.

4. Negotiation is extremely difficult to master

Darth-Vader-UnicyleI’m not going to take the complete opposite view and say that negotiation is totally easy, because it’s not. It’s something you have to work at. But so is anything else in life that is worthwhile… such as completing a marathon, learning how to drive a manual transmission, or Darth Vader playing flaming bagpipes while wearing a kilt and riding a unicycle.

However, there are a few techniques you can easily learn to become better at it and succeed. Plus, the payoff for even a decent negotiation can be a huge increase in lifetime earnings. You might “hit the wall” or “grind a few gears” as you’re just starting out, but eventually you get the hang of it.

5. Negotiation works for everyone

Can a skilled negotiator gain a huge salary increase, no matter what the industry? Not exactly. There are definitely segments of the workforce such as nonprofits, government jobs, and education that have their own set of rules. Sometimes salary ranges are set by policy, and other times they are enforced by placing all employees in various “grades.”

Additionally, market forces (such as a down economy) and years of experience (such as new graduates) can work against you. However, everyone can learn something about the process and improve their chances to make sure they are not significantly underpaid in comparison to the rest of the market.

6. You must reveal your current salary when asked during an interview

This is one of the most common questions when people talk about negotiation. It often comes up early in the interviewing process as companies try to screen out candidates through an online form or an initial interview. While there are several ways to evade the question and Bypass the “Desired Salary” Field on Online Job Applications, the best answer is to not be in this position at all.

Up to 80% of jobs are found through networking, so it is much more advantageous to try and steer your resume to a hiring manager through a connection vs. battling thousands of candidates applying online.

7. You should base your negotiation success on the increase you received over your current salary

Can getting a giant raise from $50,000 to $75,000 ever be a bad thing?

It can be if your co-workers are all making $90,000 and other opportunities in your field are offering six figures. In most cases, you should judge your salary goals against your current worth on the marketplace, not what you’ve made in the past or what others around you are making.

8. It’s all about what you say

It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Your entire body language, from how you sit and stand to how you speak, will determine how you are perceived.

In her book “Knowing Your Value,” author Mika Brzezinski talks about self-sabotaging language that kills your chances for effective negotiation before you even start.

Don’t walk into your boss’ office to request a raise and start out with phrases such as “I don’t know if you’ll consider this, but…” or “I don’t know if there’s room for this in the budget, but…” (there’s a video scenario — image below — of this in section 4 of my free Negotiation Mindset course).

9. Everyone at your office should be judged on the same playing field

In every organization, there will be rock stars that outperform their peers, and these employees should be worth more to a company.

For example, in the world of sports, take a look at the salaries of all the starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Although they have the same “position” in their “industry,” the highest paid players are not always the most successful (I guess they are good negotiators).

Now look at the salaries of the starting QB vs. the backup QB on a team. Even though they hold the same “title” in the same “company,” the starter is often paid up to 10x more. Why is that? They produce more results. Prove that you are a rock star.

10. Companies will be offended if you negotiate

Interestingly, most companies will be impressed if you negotiate, provided that you do so in a business-like manner. It is customary for hiring managers to purposely leave some “wiggle room” when making an initial offer, allowing for a back-and-forth discussion before settling on a final number. They’re actually expecting some pushback.

So when it comes to negotiation, separate fact from fiction. If you overcome your fears, you can become the hero and get paid what you deserve.

Note: A version of this article first appeared in a post for

How To Use LinkedIn + Data Science To Hack a Company’s Org Chart


Case Study: Prepare for your interview like a business analyst by using LinkedIn public data to increase your title and salary


For our entire childhood, homework seemed like a chore or even punishment.

“OK class, take out your homework!”
“Go upstairs and do your homework!”
“You’re not watching any TV until you’ve finished your homework!”

Aw, mom.

But there’s a reason your parents and teachers insisted on this extra activity. When taken seriously, the extra work and practice prepares you to excel in a given task, be it algebra or literature.

“Do your homework” is also the first thing any expert will tell you when preparing for a job interview or salary negotiation.

Unfortunately, like an antsy teenager hoping to get back to a game of Call of Duty, the average job-seeker just looks over the basics when preparing for a negotiation. Sure, they might check some competitive salaries online, talk to a friend or two, or have some dollar figures in mind, but are they really, truly prepared?

Enter Vijay, a business analytics manager at a major internet company.

Not only did Vijay prepare for an interview by creating a customized salary negotiation document like I recommend, but he went so above and beyond, that I asked him if I could share his story.

Making a jump in title


One of the most difficult things to do in the corporate world is to make a significant jump in title. Companies are happy to hand out smaller increments, such as going from assistant manager to manager, or from manager to senior manager.

However, the big jump in title – and also in salary – is making the leap from manager level to director level, or from director level to Vice President.

In many companies, bestowing a director title on an employee comes with many add-ons:

  • Management of other employees and even entire departments
  • Autonomy to make business decisions and control budgets
  • Eligibility for bonuses and additional stock options

The problem is convincing someone you are ready to make that jump.

  • If you have been a manager at your current company for some time, it’s very easy for your boss to keep stringing you along with “We just don’t think you’re ready yet, maybe at your next review” for months or even years on end.
  • If you go looking for a director level position at another company, it’s much easier for them to hire someone else that already has director in their title, vs. taking a chance that you’re ready to handle moving up a level.

The money on the line can be significant.

According to online data, the median “Manager” position pays $85,000 nationwide, while the median “Director” position is $127,000 – a difference of 50%.

Tapping into LinkedIn data

As a Senior Manager, Vijay’s situation falls into both categories above. While satisfied with his current job, he feels that he is a top performer at his company and is aiming for a promotion within the next six months. He wants to be able to prove his worth.

He was also approached by an outside company with an open Senior Manager position, which would interest him only if he were able to negotiate a title at the Director level. Wisely, he’s not interested in making a lateral move.

What he did was create a spreadsheet based on public LinkedIn data at the new company for every employee with a Director level title.

He included the following items:

  • Employee name and a link to their profile (hidden here)
  • Exact title (Director or Senior Director)
  • Year of the person’s first job
  • Approximate age
  • Year the person was named Director
  • Approximate age they became Director
  • Whether or not they had a Master’s degree
  • Number of years experience since their Masters
  • If they had a consulting / agency background


The first caveat of course, is that this is all self-reported data.

Various surveys have shown that anywhere from 8% to 53% of people lie on their resume, so there’s a chance that someone didn’t quite finish that MBA or made an honest mistake and said the start date of their first job was early 1998 when it was actually late 1997.

But using this as directional data, he was able to deduce:
1. The average age of a Director was 35.6
2. The average age they became Director was 32.4
3. 80% of the Directors had a Masters degree
4. The average number of years post-Masters was 9.75
5. 62% of Directors had agency or consulting experience (asked for in the job description)

How can Vijay use this to his advantage?

At the bare minimum, he can illustrate that his qualifications match up incredibly well with what a Director at that company looks like.

He has more than 10 years experience, has not one but two MBAs, has relevant management experience, and has the desired consulting and agency background that many of the current Directors do not.

Digging into salary data

As you can guess by now, Vijay wasn’t content with saying “Well, I’m making X dollars now… it would be nice to get a 10% raise at my next position.”

On the contrary, he detailed out a spreadsheet with industry-related salaries from, as well as specifically reported salaries from the company he was looking at from another website.

He analyzed the following:

  • Salary, bonuses, cash bonuses, and stock bonuses
  • High, low, and average figure at each level
  • What the predicted stock price for his current and potential employer would be for 2012, 2013, and 2014
  • Predicted raises at his current position over time
  • How much he would be giving up if leaving his current position
  • Since the new position would be in 1 of 2 locations, he accounted for moving costs, state taxes, and cost of living difference
  • Lifestyle factors for his family based on location, weather, etc.

Four Key Takeaways

1) Aim for the right title
It’s one thing to bring general industry data to an interview; it’s another to be able to cite specific data from their own company. Of course, it’s important to present this in the right way. It should never be confrontational or boasting, and keep the numbers aggregate – don’t list out individual employee names and data.

However, Vijay can make a very strong argument that he is deserving of a higher title. If the average Director has 7-10 years experience, he demonstrates his worth by highlighting his 10 years experience as a top performer, plus an MBA, management experience, and a consulting background.

Data can also show if you are severely undervalued.

During the analysis, Vijay pulled a few examples of Senior Managers at the company. While two of them had 4 and 6 years experience, respectively (about half of the average Director), there was a third employee with a whopping 16 years experience – more than any other person analyzed. All things being equal, clearly this was someone who could make a rock solid case for a promotion in comparison with their peers.

2) Target the correct salary
There are many things that factor into a total compensation package. If your area of business offers bonuses and stock, make sure to take those into account, both in current dollars and looking forward several years.

3) Demonstrate who you are
Should everyone walk into his or her interview armed with a 3-ring binder of extensive research? No. This might not be the best course of action for many professions.

But here is what stood out most to me: He is a business analytics specialist.

Do you understand what I’m getting at???

The potential employer will be paying him to be the best possible person at researching and analyzing statistics and trends, day in, day out, for the next several years.

Doing this incredible amount of detailed work and analysis for his interview is a pretty strong indicator that this is one of his greatest strengths. He is doing a deep-dive business analysis for his interview, because it’s in his naturehe is a business analytics guy.


Do I have to quote Terminator for you? Why yes I do.

“You still don’t get it, do you? He’ll find her! That’s what he does! That’s ALL he does! You can’t stop him!”

You should do the same in your job. When you walk into that interview, if you’re a talented designer, you better have some design elements in your portfolio. If you’re a website developer, you better have an awesome personal website. If you’re a Search Engine Optimization specialist, you better be near the top of Google results.

In other words, walk the walk.

4) Your mom was right. Do your homework.

As you can see, Vijay is an incredibly smart, incredibly prepared individual that took his job search very seriously, knowing that the work he was investing could pay off in terms of a higher title and potentially tens of thousands of dollars in return.

Despite all his knowledge and preparation, he realized that hiring a salary negotiation coach to make sure he had all of his bases covered and to have someone as a sounding board was also a no-brainer investment.

I had a great time working with Vijay, and would love to work with you as well. Contact me if you want to find out if we’re a good fit.

Note: A version of this article first appeared in a post for

Is there still time to ask for that raise?

Ask for a Raise at the end of the year

How to ask for a raise in November or December

As Halloween passes by in October, the leaves turn colors and then fall, and the down coats emerge as the temperatures start to dip, many employees go straight to loading up on Thanksgiving turkey, entering into winter hibernation mode, and putting their career on cruise control from December right through the holidays, writing things off as another year gone by.

But if you value your career, don’t give up just yet.

While holiday activities are looming, it’s not too late to ask for that raise, get paid what you’re worth, and have some extra cash.

Many people are nervous about approaching their boss to talk about their performance.

There are lots of questions:

  • Is now a good time to ask?
  • How should I approach the topic?
  • Will I seem greedy?
  • Is it too late in the year to ask for that raise?


First, let’s talk timing.

For many companies, November and December is exactly the time of year that they are finalizing budgets for the following year, meaning your manager will be predicting spending for marketing, advertising, inventory, and yes, payroll. They’re looking at what they overspent and underspent in various categories this past year, and are moving numbers around to make everything balance out.

You want your voice heard before things are locked down, so don’t wait another moment. Asking for a raise now may give them time to allocate more funds to salaries.

Additionally, many companies see a large majority of their revenue realized in the fourth quarter, so think about the most important project you are working on right now, and how it will influence the numbers to end the year.

While the rest of your colleagues are already starting to mentally check out as holiday parties, travel, and New Year’s approaches, show that you are ready to end the year strong, with one last push.

The Soft Sell: Goal-setting

Maybe your company didn’t have such a great year, or perhaps even had to lay some people off. If you feel that setting up a meeting to talk about a raise will immediately put your supervisor on the defensive, I recommend a somewhat softer approach. Tell your boss that you are planning your personal goals for the next year, and that you’d like to run them by him or her.

Go in with a plan and lay out your personal goals:

  • Are you looking to increase your sales?
  • Take on new and more interesting work?
  • Move up to a new position?

Your boss won’t know unless you say so.

But here’s the key… as you discuss your personal goals, make sure you also align them with the company.

The Year In Review

Make sure to go back over your notes, files, and emails from the previous year and review all your “wins.”

If your boss manages multiple employees, the accomplishments of the group as a whole sometimes start to run together, and it’s your job to boast a little to make sure you stand out and remind him or her of all the positive contributions you’ve made:

Did you:

  • Kick off the year with a great sales meeting?
  • Land a huge account in the spring?
  • Pull off a summer marketing promotion on time and under budget?
  • Increase website traffic or the number of Facebook followers to your brand by 25% compared to last year?

You’ll want to walk your boss through the highlights to give them a refresher, making sure to illustrate with revenue statistics how these tasks contributed to the bottom line.

What this plan does is remind your boss of all the hard work you’ve done all year, show that you are going to finish strong. It also demonstrates that not only do you care about your career path, but that you want the company to succeed as well.

How to ask for a raise at the end of the year

Make the Ask:

Recap your accomplishments from the past year, show how your effort has influenced the bottom line, show that your goals are aligned with the company, and make your case.

Possible Outcomes:

1) The eye-opener. If your boss doesn’t see the value of your work or you’re met with a negative reaction, it could be a real eye-opener. The good news is this… the homework you did summarizing all of your projects will look nice on your updated resume should you decide to look for new opportunities next year.

2) Almost there. If your boss is supportive and genuinely wants to work with you, but postpones the subject of raises until next year, request a review a few months into the new year and increased compensation if you meet agreed-upon goals.

3) Holiday Cheer. Lastly, if all goes well and you receive a nice fat bonus or an increase in your year-end paycheck, it’s cause for celebration. First, pay off a few of your outstanding bills and make sure you have an emergency fund set aside, but then perhaps a new outfit for the upcoming holiday parties are in order.

Need a little more help?

I’ve partnered with resume expert Ryan Gottfredson to offer a “Resume and Revenue package,” where you can get both resume and revenue help at a discounted price.

In fact, we have two options:
Option #1 – Self-paced online courses
Get immediate access to my best-selling “How to Negotiate a Raise or Promotion” course (1,500+ satisfied students!) at 20% off, and receive the “The Negotiation Mindset” (50,000 happy students) and Ryan’s STAND OUT! Resume Course for free. [Learn More]

Option #2 – Individual 1-on-1 Coaching
Want personalized advice? Book a personalized salary negotiation training call with me, and receive a free “resume audit” from Ryan. My average client receives an increase of $5,280 … and my record is helping one job seeker negotiate a whopping $80,000 increase! Sign up for a free 15-minute consultation (limited supply). [Learn More]

Note: A version of this article first appeared in a post for

How to use body language secrets when negotiating your salary

Jim teams up with Body Language expert Vanessa Van Edwards to show you tips you can use when negotiating. Watch the video or check out the article below.

Body + Mind

A tilt of the head, a subtle glance, touching a certain part of the body… there are dozens of tiny micro-expressions that people make in every single conversation that project meaning – all without saying a word.

Mastering the hidden science of body language can give you an enormous advantage when building relationships, meeting new people, or even going on date.

Combine this knowledge with tips on how to negotiate your salary, and it can also make you some serious money.

VanessaVanEdwardsThat’s why I’m so excited that I had the opportunity to speak with Vanessa Van Edwards, a published author and behavioral investigator specializing in body language and human lie detection.

She writes for the Huffington Post and has appeared on CNN, the Wall Street Journal and Business Week, speaking to audiences around the world on nonverbal communication.

See more of her work at Science of

Four steps to using body language when negotiating an offer or asking for a raise

Together, we created the video above explaining four key tips that combine my expertise – salary negotiation – with her expertise – reading body language – to supercharge your next ask for a raise or promotion in your job. Here we go.


Step 1) Pre-Meeting Preparation

There are a few things that you need to do before you walk into your boss’ office to ask for your raise or promotion.

Negotiation Tips:

1) The first thing is to keep a running account of your accomplishments on the job. In my book Salary Tutor I made up a fancy word called your “Accomplishments Manifesto,” but basically it’s a Word document or a Google Spreadsheet where you jot down positive things you’ve done on the job since you’ve been there. This could be big wins like landing a new client, setting a sales record, or launching a new product. Wherever possible, tie the accomplishment to a dollar figure that you can use later to justify a monetary increase.

2) Next, you need to know your dollar value on the marketplace for someone with your skills and experience. Do plenty of online research on sites like,,, and others so you know what workers at similar positions in your location are making.

3) Next, make sure you’re in the right mindset. You’re not demanding more money, you’re not begging for a promotion, and you’re not giving any ultimatums if you don’t get a higher title. You’re confidently presenting facts in a business-like manner to justify why you deserve a raise.

Body Language Tips:

Vanessa tells us about the non-verbal steps you’ll want to take to get ready for the pitch. If you walk into that meeting nervous, anxious or angry about asking for the raise, it’s going to show, and people will pick up on it.

There was a fantastic study done by Harvard Business School researchers that illustrates this point. They equally divided two groups of participants. In one group, they had them enact for just 5 minutes what would be considered successful body language – expansive poses, taking up space, and hands on hips.


In the second group, they had them do what would be considered unsuccessful body language or defeated poses.

In other words, contracted posture, tightly held arms and legs, and hanging their head low, also for 5 minutes.

They then had both groups go into mock interviews, where they had to deliver a speech to evaluators and answer questions. These were videotaped and rated for overall performance, hire-ability, and presentation quality.

Can you guess the results?

The group that stood in the power poses for just 5 minutes before the presentation were rated higher for their speech AND were more likely to be hired. This short preparation before an interview effected the outcome.

So as a takeaway, before your next big meeting, psych yourself up by standing in strong body language positions: expansive poses, hands on hips, feet firmly planted.

Step 2: Kicking off the Meeting

Now it’s time to get to the meeting itself.

Body Language Tips:

OK, now that you are pumped up and set to walk into your manager’s office, what is the best way to begin the meeting? Studies show that up to 93% of our communication is nonverbal, so how you say something can matter even more than what you say.

Here are some simple things to try:

1) Studies have shown that job-seekers who carry more than one item into an interview can be seen as lazy or irresponsible. Thus, leave your jacket with the receptionist, throw out that large Starbucks coffee, combine your purse and briefcase, and ditch the emergency umbrella. Walking into the interview with a streamlined look will make you look more put together right off that bat.

How-to-sit-during-job-interview2) If you have a choice when sitting down, such as at a large table in a conference room, sit at an angle.

Reports have shown that when we sit directly across from another person, there is higher rejection, less recall of what is said, and people speak in shorter sentences. So angle your chair or take a seat at angle if you have a choice when you walk into the office.

3) One common question is always, what do I do with my hands?

While it’s good to gesture to make a point and be engaged, one helpful tip is to always keep your hands above the table. Studies show that if they are hidden, people have trouble trusting you. This reaction goes back to primitive days when your hands might be hiding a weapon. So don’t put them in your lap or hide them behind your arms or under your chair.

Negotiation tips:

The next negotiation tip is to know your boss’ style, and tailor your overall approach to match theirs. For example, if they’re a bottom-line, fact-oriented boss that likes to dig into the numbers, be prepared with details to support your case, such as “Since I’ve been online sales director, our client revenues are up 24%, we’ve signed 5 new foreign accounts, and have had a $350,000 increase to the bottom line.”

If they’re a manager with a big picture, long-term, focus, talk about the biggest problem your company is facing, look at the long term strategy, and offer insight on ways your contributions will impact that vision.

Step 3) Making The Ask

Now you’re ready to ask for that raise or negotiate an offer.

Negotiation Tips:

One simple way to present your case is by thinking past, present, future.

  • Detail what you’ve done over the past year, showing a proven track record of performance
  • Go over the projects you’re working on now, and if possible, attach yourself to high-profile, revenue-generating projects
  • Lay out your goals for the future, describing how they align with company goals

Body Language Tips:

During the interview, you want to read body language to make sure your manager is receiving your message. When you see positive body language cues that signal positivity or excitement, you know you’re on the right track:

  • Nodding
  • Licking Lips
  • Steepling (when people touch the tips of their fingers together)

But what about defensive body language?

steepling-positive-body-languageIf you see your boss using blocking behavior (like crossed arms or putting things in front of them), they might not like what you’re saying and you’re going to need to change course.

A great way to handle that situation is to hand them something to hold (crafty salesmen often do this with a pen or a calculator).

Negotiation Tips:

I recommend preparing a digital portfolio of your work on the iPad or other tablet, which you can hand to your boss to get them back into an open and accommodating body language.

Employees are able to tell a story of their accomplishments, be memorable, take back control of the interview, and really really detail all the things they’ve done on the job. I include some pre-made templates in my How to Get a Raise course.


Step 4: The Closing

Before going in for the final closing you want to build rapport.

Negotiation Tips:

This is the point that you actually need to ask for that raise. Summarize your case, reiterate the accomplishments you’ve had over the past year, your research on the current market range, and your goals for the future. Then be specific in your ask.

Are you looking for a higher salary, an increased title, more vacation, or more responsibility? Then, as important as it is that you’ve been presenting for some time, the next key thing to do is the opposite: LISTEN. Sit back and honestly listen to your boss’ reaction, what their budget situation is, and how they can help you.

Body Language Tips:

Even though you’ve now made your case and are listening, Vanessa recommends not relaxing with your body language just yet. She advises her clients to lean in when making strong points, which act as a nonverbal exclamation point. Don’t lean back or that may show nervousness or disengagement.


I hoped you liked these four negotiation and body language tips. While it’s great to get a quick overview, there are so many more tips and techniques that we’d like to share.

Looking to delve deeper into salary negotiation tips or body language signs?

Note: A version of this article also appeared on The Huffington Post.

How to Bypass the “Desired Salary” Field on Online Job Applications

There are many hurdles to clear on your path to getting your dream job, at a dream salary. However, there’s one barrier that consistently stands in the way of your prize, and can upend your strategy before you even get out of the starting gate:

How to bypass the dreaded “Salary Expectations” question on an online job form.

Most applications usually start off pretty much the same:

  • Basic personal information, such as name, address, email, and phone
  • Education, including degrees earned, and special skills
  • Detailed work history of past jobs

But then they proceed to give you an innocent-looking field asking for “salary history,” “current salary” and/or “desired salary.”

Although it’s easy to answer the question — just type in how much you’re being paid right now or want to make — savvy job seekers know that this is an incredibly important question.

How you fill out this form is crucial, for 2 reasons:

  1. It will affect how you are screened for the job and whether you’ll even make it to the next round
  2. If you do make it to the next step, your answer immediately sets a framework for how much the company will pay you and what title you’re considered for

Knowing these rules, but with that question staring you in the face, you ask yourself,

How do I avoid revealing my salary history on a job application?

To be clear, this is sort of a no-win situation from the start. Many will say that the current HR hiring process is broken.

Why would a company force you to reveal private financial information? Is that legal? How can they judge your worth before even meeting you? Shouldn’t they be the ones that have a budget in mind already?

The truth is, in many cases you’re forced to play the game. The question is, do you want to adhere 100% to their rules?

Here are several ways you can respond:

Option 1: Respond with a phrase

If you are filling out an application on paper, or if the online form allows you to type in whatever text characters you want in that field, then leave an open-ended response that defers the answer until later.

For example, you could write “Negotiable” or “To be discussed during interview” or answer the question with a vague phrase, not a number, such as “Entry level.”

Case Study:
“Cheryl” is 25 years old, working in her second job at a major corporation, and got an interview for a really great job. With her meeting pending the next day, she started freaking out when she realized that the topic of salary might come up. She had no idea how to handle the question, so she called me for a 1:1 consulting session and we did a crash course phone call.

She had been given an employment application to fill out, and sure enough, they requested a job history, along with an area to disclose what her salary was at each position. How should she handle this?

Because this was a paper form, it meant that she wasn’t forced to write in a specific number.

I advised her to fill it out as follows:

Job 1: Smith & Company
Salary: Entry level

Job 2: ABC Corporation
Salary: Contract to full time

Cheryl then brought up a legitimate concern. At the bottom of the application was some scary legal jargon. Something to the effect of:

I certify that all statements are true and complete to the best of my knowledge and that I have withheld nothing that would, if disclosed, affect this application unfavorably. [The Company] is authorized to investigate said statements, and any misrepresentation or omission will cause either refusal to hire or discharge whenever discovered.

She was worried that dodging the question would be an issue. Here’s my take:

  • First, that information is probably the same boilerplate language used on many legal documents. It is put there as an overall safeguard for the company. Whether you’re renting a car or going bungee jumping, I’m sure you’ve seen something much scarier than that, and my guess is you didn’t give it a second thought.
  • Second, she did answer the questions (thus, not omitting anything), the statements she put were true, and her answers to them would not affect her application or qualifications for the job in any way.
  • Lastly, what they’re really looking to protect themselves from are the major issues from other parts of the application. For example, if you conveniently omitted that you were convicted of a felony, your title at your last job was Senior Manager but claimed you were a Director, or you said you graduated summa cum laude from MIT when in reality you flunked out of FIT. Another no-no would be lying about your previous salary, adding an extra $10,000 because you feel you were underpaid. That will come back to haunt you.

We’ll look at how Cheryl addressed her answers with HR later in the article.

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Option 2: Use a nonsense number

But what if the “desired salary” field on an online application requires you to enter a number, and it won’t let you proceed without entering something?

Your next option is to enter a “nonsense” number… essentially any kind of number that alerts HR that you are purposely avoiding the question. Your options include:

  • $0
  • $1
  • $999
  • $1,000,000

The hope here is that HR notices this and immediately realizes that you are an intelligent negotiator and don’t want to reveal your salary. A smart company will see that you are a good businessperson, look beyond this field to your actual qualifications, and then ask you about it later during your interview.

The risk here is that you trip up the applicant tracking system. For example, if they have some kind of flag and know they don’t want to pay more than $75,000 and the system sees $1 million, then you could be eliminated by a robot. Or, HR sees this number, thinks you’re being a wise-ass, and eliminates you based on that.

The best thing to do if possible, is to find a text field somewhere on the application that is empty (notes, questions, etc) and write something like:

*** In regard to compensation in Section 6, I am willing to discuss salary during a live interview once I know more about the position. ***

Entering desired salary on an online form

Option 3: Enter a numerical range

If you cannot enter text but are allowed to enter characters such as a dash, you can give a range. For example, $40,000-$55,000 or $60000/$70000.

The key here is that you need to have done your homework, know your value on the market, and have a decent idea of what the position pays. From there, you’ll probably want to slide the scale so that your best guess at their initial offer is in the lower end of your range.

For example, if you think the position will pay in the low $40s, then a range of $40,000-$55,000 shows you know your value, while giving you upside at the top end.

One strategic way to answer the question if you are not allowed any non-numeric numbers at all is to run your range into one number. For example, let’s say you were making in the low six figures at your last job and are seeking a significant increase. Your research has indicated that positions are paying anywhere in the middle six figures.

When asked for salary information, you could put 125160. HR might assume that you were paid $125,160 at your last job, and later offer you a salary of $130,000. However, you can state that what you meant was that you were looking to put a range of $125,000 – $160,000, but their (stupid) form didn’t allow you to do so, then show your industry research and make a counter-offer in the $140,000 to $150,000 range.

Option 4: Enter specific numbers

Not ready to play this game? Ready to go the honest, direct route and assume HR will take care of you when the time comes? In many cases, it makes the most sense to be straightforward and just answer the question and move on.

If you’ve done your research and aren’t dramatically over- or under-paid in your field, being straightforward can get you through the process and allow you to negotiate harder once you’ve received an offer and they really want you for the job.

However, it’s pretty amazing how many times someone making $40,000 plays it safe and enters a desired salary of $45,000 and low and behold! Oh my! They get an offer for exactly $45,000. (What… you thought HR would be generous and offer you $50,000?).

If you are going to keep it simple, here are 3 pointers:

  • If you’re able to use a range for desired salary, do so
  • When stating your previous salary, never lie and dramatically inflate it because you were underpaid. If the company goes back and verifies your past income – whether it’s next week or next year – and finds out you lied, you’ll most likely lose the job
  • However, you can still have some leeway with the wording. Let’s say you make $70,000, you’re interviewing in October, and the company asks for current pay. You tell them that your “total compensation package” is “around $90,000.” Later in your conversations, or if they are going back to verify, you can explain it as follows: Your base pay is $70,000; your entire medical, dental, and misc benefits package are worth $17,500 based on a ratio of 1.25x to 1.4x base, as estimated in the Boston Business Journal and MIT’s Sloan School of Management; and you estimated a year-end bonus of 10% ($7,000), but can’t be sure as it’s not yet the close of the fiscal year.

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Option 5: Don’t be in that position in the first place

Does all this sound like a horrible game that is difficult to win? Of course it does. So why play by those rules?

When you look for positions on job boards, and apply through an online application, not only are you fighting against dozens or even hundreds of other candidates, but the chances that you’ll make a mistake and get screened out (or low-balled) increase dramatically.

The fact is, as many as 80% of all jobs are found through networking.

What happens when you network? You can often bypass all the forms and algorithms. You get a personal introduction to a hiring manager. You might even sneak by HR and get to meet the decision maker in person right off the bat. That gives you a chance to make a good impression first, and negotiate your highest salary later.

Negotiating after revealing salary

Handling the negotiation once you get past the form

Let’s go back to our friend Cheryl, who refused to list a number on the form, and instead put “Entry Level” and “Contract to full time” under the previous salary field.

So she makes it to the interview, aces all the questions, and then the hiring manager leans back and says:

“Well Cheryl, sounds like you’d be a great fit here. I noticed you didn’t fill out the salary section of the application, can you tell me what you’re making at your current job?”

What I tried to emphasize was that she shouldn’t view this as a horrible, anxious moment to be afraid of, but rather an amazing opportunity to practice the negotiation skills she had just learned.

It’s really a change in mindset — put aside the thoughts of “Oh no, they’re going to call me out on this, I’m in trouble” and instead think, “Oh boy, this is my chance to address the salary issue in a professional, business-like manner and ensure that I get paid fairly.”

She should respond along the following lines:

“Well, I’m really glad you brought that up, as I wasn’t exactly sure of the best way to answer that. For the first job at Smith & Company, I was right out of college and you know how it is — you’re just excited to get your foot in the door, so it was really entry level. I think the pay was in the mid $30s or something, and I gained a lot of great experience there.”

[The tone here is to be a bit vague but accurate… almost like you’re nonchalantly blowing off the question as silly… it shouldn’t matter and if you don’t put a lot of focus on it, neither should they].

“For my current job at ABC Corp, it was a unique situation because I started out on a 6-month contract at an hourly rate with no benefits, had 2 different bosses, and we weren’t even sure what was going to happen after the program ended.” [This was 100% true].

“Luckily, although they did away with that group, I switched over to full time with benefits in a completely different department. To be honest I was just looking over the employment contract that I signed and there’s a lot of confidentiality wording in there so I don’t believe I’m allowed to reveal that information, which is why I didn’t put a number.” [This is also 100% true; ABC Corp was a private, family-owned company].

“But what’s most important is that I really want to focus on bringing my skills to THIS job and making an impact HERE. So while I’ve done a lot of research, if I can ask you, what type of salary range did you have budgeted for this position?”

In this manner, the hiring company reveals the salary range first, and you don’t get caught saying a number that is too high or too low.

The key? You need to believe it.

I advised her to practice those few lines repeatedly until they came out naturally and in her own words, and to truly believe in what she was saying.

Everything that she was saying was true, so she should confidently state her position.

  • She DID have a weird contract/full time/benefits situation in her last job, including her supervisor being laid off in the middle of the program
  • She DID sign an employment contract with the company
  • The company IS a private, family owned business that doesn’t want their salary information known to their competitors
  • It DOESN’T MATTER if she made $25k or $45k or $65k at her last job — what’s important is what the new company has budgeted
  • She IS genuinely focused and excited about the new job

But what if they push back? While you don’t want the conversation to turn confrontational, there is no law that says you need to reveal your past salary, so I recommended staying strong and using a similar response at least once more:

“Well, as I mentioned I did some compensation research in preparation for this interview so I have an idea of the range, and I’m not sure that my current salary is a true reflection of my value on the marketplace. It’s tough for me to say what the value is until I learn more about the particulars of this job, is it ok if we continue talking more about that?”

While it’s never easy to hold your ground in a tense situation and navigating the dreaded salary history box on an application can be tricky, the right mindset and a few tips can give you the best chance to get paid at the highest end of the salary range.

Negotiating a top salary if you’ve revealed your pay already

So what if you got to this article too late, and you’ve already spilled the beans on all your numbers? Are you doomed to accept whatever they offer based upon the data you previously provided? Heck no!

The key here is to keep things light, downplay the initial form, and hammer on your industry researching moving forward.

So let’s say you revealed that you made $70,000 at your last job, and are offered $77,000. You state that you were looking for more, and HR pushes back and said that you listed your previous salary at $70k and that this is a 10% increase. However, you know that you are worth $85,000 or more. You might respond,

“I understand that I listed my previous salary as a formality when filling out that form several weeks back when I first heard about this position. However, since that time I’ve been able to meet with your team three times and get a much fuller understanding of what the job entails. Knowing that information, I was able to more accurately research comparative salaries in the industry, and also discover that I was underpaid at my previous job. Given that I’ll be coming into this position not only with marketing research and analytics, but also with a design background, I’d like to discuss a salary in the $80,000-$90,000 range.”

From there, I would present my salary research document and keep directing the conversation not to your past pay, but your current skills and value on the market for THIS job.

While I’d love to detail every additional scenario, there are too many nuances to list in a blog post. Throughout my courses and via my 1:1 consulting, I can work with your specific situation in order to navigate the dreaded “desired salary” box.

Book a free 15 minute call now.

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Note: Versions of this article first appeared in posts for and