Christine Michel Carter is the only award-winning advocate helping ambitious women and badass moms have rewarding careers.

Negotiating impacts nearly every aspect of our daily lives. Whether wrestling a toddler into a jacket appropriate for the weather or trying to get the best deal when buying a home, important negotiation tactics are unavoidable. Nowhere is this more evident than when you are making moves in your career. Here are eight important negotiation tactics that are critical to have.

Why important negotiation tactics matter

If you are entering the workforce for the first time or returning after an absence, negotiating skills can be the difference between making mortgage payments or making your way to a second part-time job to make ends meet. Employers understandably want to get the most bang for their buck, and paying employees as little as possible is one way to do that. It’s not necessarily malicious (although, let’s be honest — most of us have had bosses who make it personal), but that doesn’t make it tenable.

Solid negotiating skills are necessary to advocate for yourself. They help you:

  • Get the salary and benefits that match what you’re worth
  • Lay out a fair benefits package
  • Set limits as to workload
  • Delineate a career trajectory and professional development
  • Get compensated for relocation

Negotiating for a paycheck and benefits

This is what most people think of when they think of important negotiation tactics, and with good reason. You work to be fulfilled, sure, but you also need a fair wage that makes it worth your while. This is a common area of negotiating and a good place to practice. Benefits — vacation, sick leave, comp time, and more — are also often a large portion of compensation packages

And a heads-up: there is a wide gender gap in pay-based negotiations. Men are typically more successful, but that need not be the case. Keep reading.

Negotiating workload

We’ve all been there: coming in early, staying late, and taking on more than your fair share of the workload to get the job done. In the early stages of your career this might be more common, but it doesn’t make it right. Negotiating a workload and establishing clear expectations at the beginning means everybody gets what they need.

Negotiating for your career

Important negotiation tactics aren’t over once you secure that great job. Negotiating career landmarks and a professional development plan that helps you get there is what separates someone who languishes in the mailroom from the person with the corner office.

Negotiating for relocation

You’ve found that dream job. It’s in another state, and you’ve gotten through the interview process to the compensation package negotiations. Now’s the time to step up negotiations so you get paid what you’re worth and don’t lose money on the move. Being compensated for moving expenses might be part of it, but some employers might also consider reimbursed expenses associated with selling your house.

8 important negotiation tactics

1. Define what you want

Before you sit down at the negotiating table, figure out in your head what it is that you want. Are you looking for a more flexible schedule? A bigger paycheck? More meaningful responsibility? 

Have in your mind what you want first, then see what’s on offer.

2. Figure out what employers need

If you have specialized skills that are in high demand, this part is easy. But if your skillset is broader, you’ll need to look deeper. Find out what your potential employer needs. Is it better customer service or more effective working groups? Whatever their needs, be sure to play up your skills in that area.

3. Focus on your value

Focusing on the value that you bring to your employer or your prospective job is a great way to not only secure a position but also negotiate your way to an excellent benefits package. If you are angling for a promotion, come armed with facts and figures about how you have:

  • Saved the company money
  • Led specific projects or initiatives
  • Grown in your current role

Job hunting and in the interview stage? The same points can be made even if you are coming off a long time away from working outside the home. 

4. Know what’s normal for the job

Do your research before you go into negotiations to find out what the high and low end of salary ranges and benefit packages are for the job you’re looking at. It’s helpful to know what’s possible and if it even makes sense for you before you start to haggle.

If you have relocated for a job this is especially important. Salaries and benefits are not the same everywhere.

5. Ask for what you’re worth — and then some

Remember that study that found that men were more successful at negotiating a better salary? Turns out, they get them because they ask for higher starting salaries than women do. Researchers found that women tend to be more accommodating and less assertive in asking for what they want. 

So be more assertive! For example, if you ask for a starting salary of $70,000 (and you’ll settle for anything around $62,000), but the offer comes in at $55,000, try this response: “I appreciate the offer. Given my (experience in the field, proven track record, etc), it would make it easier for me to accept if we could get closer to $65,000. Are you able to accommodate that?”

On the flip side, know your walkaway point when you go in. If they insist on the lower number, with no other accommodations, it might not be the job for you.

6. Use positive language — and listen carefully

Keep your tone and words upbeat, friendly, and positive. Even if you end up on the losing side of a negotiation or don’t get exactly what you want, the conversation is laying the groundwork for all future interactions.  

And make sure to listen carefully to what the other person is saying. They may be saying “not yet” instead of “no.” It’s an important distinction. Don’t forget to ask follow-up and clarifying questions. This can tease out important information that’s useful moving forward.

7. Consider factors beyond salary

If a salary is not up to par, consider other generous compensation instead. This might be in the form of a benefits package, flexible hours, ample comp time, or opportunities for rapid advancement in the company. Some companies even offer help finding housing, with assistance for closing costs (and other expenses, such as packing up or storage fees).

8. Learn from a failed negotiation

If your negotiations are not successful, take it as a growing edge, not a failure. As the saying goes, “What’s not for you won’t go by you.”  You may have lost out on one opportunity to make way for something even better.