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Master the art of negotiating your salary

Women in the UK in full-time employment are paid around 7%* less than their male counterparts and Black, Asian and other ethnic group are often paid less per hour* than their white counterparts for doing the same position.

While there is still a lot of work to do to overcome systematic racism in the workforce, career coach Eunice Asante highlights some of the simple steps that we can take to ensure that our efforts in the workplace are being recognised and fairly compensated.

Looking back over my career history I have made many mistakes when it comes to negotiating for myself. Even when I was contributing the most within my work teams, my pay did not always reflect my contribution level. As I have matured as an employee, so has my mindset to negotiate for myself.

Plan ahead

If you have read any of my previous career blog posts, you will know that I am keen on being well prepared. The same goes for thinking about your salary. A necessary part of job hunting is researching salary expectations linked to the job role, and understanding the differences between salary ranges and expectations even before applying for a job. That way, if offered a position, you will already know what a reasonable salary offer is and if you need to negotiate the salary, your research will guide that negotiation.

Negotiate on a job offer

There have been countless times when I have failed to negotiate after securing a job offer. The reason was a fear of looking greedy and losing the job offer because I asked for more money. I now realise that this is not the case.

The best time to negotiate is when you have a job offer. Recruitment is costly and takes up a lot of time, so once a candidate has been chosen, the hiring company will want to secure that employment as quickly as possible because they will not want to repeat the process.

HR is prepared for candidates to negotiate, and expect this. You are responsible for researching and understanding what a competitive salary within your field looks like, as well as understanding the value you bring as a candidate and what this is worth to your employer.

Remember, your employer is not doing you a favour by hiring you. They are making money by you being there. So it is about you asking for what you need to deliver on the role's requirements.

If your employer cannot increase your take-home pay, consider asking for increased pension contributions and flexible working arrangements. Ask to use the company resources, have more paid holidays, gym membership, or access to counselling - the list is endless. The point is, it is essential that you ask for what you need to deliver effectively for your role.

Ask for a pay rise

Once settled in your role, start planning for your first pay rise because as the saying goes: ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.’

Decide on when you want to see a pay increase and by how much. Once you have a rough idea, start working towards this, and as you approach your deadline, be sure to initiate the conversation with your manager and ask for that pay rise.

One of the biggest reasons employees fail to receive a pay rise is because they don't ask. It may sound basic, but a common misconception is that your employer should know you want a pay rise and will give you one.

However, this is rarely the case. It is hard for an employer to always know what employees need unless they ask for it. Asking for a pay rise is about being able to advocate for yourself and it is essential to learn how to do this.

If you ask for a pay rise and your employer says ‘no’, then the next question to ask your employer is: ‘What do you need to see from me for me to be able to receive a pay rise?’

It may feel like a blow to your ego to ask this question or wait for the response, but the truth is, at least you will know what is missing from your performance. More importantly, you will know what you need to achieve to get the outcome you want to see.

If you’ve been told a pay rise is not possible, consider what you would need to do to get promoted and plan again for that instead. If this is also not possible, think about your career goals and whether this is the right role and organisation for you.

“Your employer is not doing you a favour by hiring you. They are making money by you being there.”

Money messaging

It's essential to be mindful of negative money messaging. Sometimes negative perceptions about money and asking for what we want may be the thing holding us back.

Many in our communities still believe that we have to be grateful for having a job, and should therefore, accept our current job, salary and workplace conditions.

But I argue that you can still be thankful and ask to be compensated in a way that reflects the value you bring.

No time like the present

There is a common misconception that there is enough time to ask for a pay rise and that you can always make more money. Again this is not necessarily true.

The best time to maximise your salary is early on in your career. This means that you are earning as much as you can from the beginning instead of taking years to climb up the income ladder simply because you have been afraid to ask for more money.

Staying engaged in the workforce is challenging and it takes its toll on us physically and mentally. We offer the best of our skills, abilities and time to our employers, who in turn use this to generate new business opportunities and profit.

Being well-compensated is essential because it's a form of acknowledging the value and contribution you provide. Most importantly, it's about being able to advocate for yourself and understand your importance in the workforce.

Let us change the stereotype that people from our communities work several jobs to make ends meet by supporting each other with the tools to ask for better compensation and make plans to earn more on the income ladder.

If you have any questions about this or any blog post I have written, don't hesitate to get in touch with me here.


* The gender pay gap fell to 7.4% among full time employees in 2020. And fell to 15.5% for all employees (including part time) in 2020, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics.

* On average most ethnic groups in the UK in 2019, earned less per hour than their white peers with black Africans earning about 8% less, the Office of National Statistics.

Until next time

Eunice Asante

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