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Ask the Headhunter: The question you must ask yourself if you want higher pay

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


Question: I work in the finance office of a nonprofit organization. A few months ago the finance manager resigned under very acrimonious circumstances. My director tipped me off that she would promote me, subject to board approval. The finance manager earned three times more than my pay, so I expected to get somewhere close to that too.

After several weeks, my director came to me with an offer of just a tiny increase to take up the finance manager role. I was shocked. I take this as an insult to my abilities and commitment to the organization.

How can I best can address this issue with my director? She pointed to the fact that it’s a new role and I will need to prove myself and they “might” consider revising my pay after six months. I want to highlight that I’d be getting considerably less than all the managers in our organization. I have almost 10 years work experience and people that have just come out of university have been offered very handsome salaries.

Nick Corcodilos: You need to think very carefully about this and use your best judgment. If you believe you’re worth far more for this job, you must decide whether you’re willing to walk away entirely if they won’t pay you properly. That’s the main decision.

There’s no way to negotiate effectively if you’re not prepared to quit if they don’t come up with what you require. That doesn’t mean you should not be flexible – but you must decide in advance where you will draw the line.

READ MORE: Why does my co-worker get paid more?

If you’re not willing to walk away, then it’s very difficult to negotiate. They’ve got you where they want you. I’m not insulting you when I say you may be willing to live with that, if you want this new assignment and are willing to live with the salary they offered. That’s up to you. My goal is to make sure you’re honest with yourself.

If you’re ready to walk away, then you have leverage. I’d meet with the director face to face, explain what salary range you’re looking for, and then outline how you will do the job effectively and profitably. It’s sort of a business plan to justify the pay. You can’t just ask for more money because you think you deserve it. You must show why you will be worth it. Can you do that?

(Here’s another perspective: “Promotion, raise, bad vibes… How to Say It.”)

What they’re telling you is that just because they paid your predecessor a lot more doesn’t mean you’re worth more. So you have to make your case. (We might argue that you deserve more because they paid someone else more, but that’s not going to help you here. You asked me how to change their mind.)

If the director refuses, after you’ve done all that, you must be ready to shake hands, smile, and say good luck, and that you’re resigning.

READ MORE: Why employers can afford to be rude to you

That’s when you’ll see just how much they really want you. (You’ll also see what’s most important to you.) Just keep in mind that this could cost you your job at this organization. Decide how you feel about that first.

(For a negotiating tip, see “Make the employer WANT to raise your job offer.”)

Last thing: Never take anybody’s advice about what to do, including mine, as gospel. I offer a perspective and some suggestions, but only you know the situation and yourself. If I’ve said something useful that you can bend and shape so it’s useful to you, great. But decide what’s most important to you and use your own best judgment.

I’d love to know what you decide to do either way. And I wish you the best.

Dear Readers: How far would you go to negotiate the raise you think you deserve? Would you quit? What should this reader do?


Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2016 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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