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New job? Negotiating your contract dos and don'ts

So you’ve just been offered a great new job. You thought that was the hard part over, didn’t you? Now you’re all caught up in the fun whirlwind that is buying office wear and spreading the news. But there’s more than your first day shirt to iron out. This job is your life now – so you need to make sure you’re happy.

Are you being paid enough? Offered enough holiday days? Have enough flexibility? It’s likely at this point that you’re happy with anything, but you need to make sure you’re getting the most out of your contract. Read your contract thoroughly, and if you do want to negotiate your contract, here are the best ways to do so tactfully – while maintaining a great relationship with your new employers.

Don’t: be afraid to negotiate

First up, don’t be scared to negotiate. You can take your time with it, too. You don’t have to say yes to any offers immediately, employers will offer you a bit of time to mull over your decision when negotiating your contract. Not only that, but not negotiating could even have a negative impact on how your employer views you. Especially in digital marketing, project management or business development positions, employers will be watching to see whether you have a knack for salary negotiation.

Do: Research your industry

We mean, you should have done this one already, but who knows. Maybe you forgot! We forgive you. If you’re asking for a salary increase, you need to know what’s normal for your industry. Do as much research as you can into what’s common for your position, your company, and your industry on the whole.

It’s all well and good asking to negotiate your salary, but if you go in guns blazing asking for 10k over what anyone else is paid, you’ll just look silly. Cue tumbleweed and awkward phone silence… it’s not gonna happen, no matter how good your interview was. Bear in mind your own experience, too. If you’ve had a career change and are getting into a new career without experience relevant to the job, it’s going to be harder to get more money… but not impossible.

See also: Are you ready for a career change?


Don’t: Jump the gun when talking about money

Of course, we all would love to be paid more. But if you go into a job interview and the first question you ask is, “can you pay me lots, please?”, the chances are you won’t get a callback. Go through every stage, make them need and love you, and then at the very end ask how negotiable a salary is. It isn’t the asking that makes you look bad; bosses love an efficient and skilled negotiator, but to jump the gun and ask for more money before you’ve even 100% been offered the job is a little tacky. You don’t want them getting the wrong message. Money’s important sure, but this shouldn’t outshine your passion for the role. 

Do: Ask for realistic negotiations

Alright, of course you’d love Mondays and Fridays off, free beer, and gourmet meals at lunchtime, all expenses paid trip to the Bahamas. But what is actually on the table? What can the company reasonably afford to offer you? Is it feasible that you could work from home one day a week? If you can’t get a salary increase, are there any other extras that you can be offered, like more benefits or extra holiday days? Consider what’s reasonable, and again, do as much research as you can.

See also: How to write a killer career plan


Don’t: be negative

The best negotiating tactic is twofold – to compliment, and to make them realise that you’re a benefit to them. Saying, “I cannot physically live off this amount of money, what are you playing at?” will not get you very far; you seem negative, whiney, and like you don’t actually want to work there. Saying something like, “I really want to work for this company and I believe in what you do” before requesting more money is a lot better. The nicer and more accepting you seem, and the more you make an employer feel like you want them, the more likely they are to want to make things work for you.

Do: Be upfront about what you want

You should never walk into a negotiation wishy washy about exactly what it is you want, and you should never wait until further down the line before you bring up any issues you have. If you’re starting off unhappy in the job and settle for something less than you think you deserve, the likelihood is that you’ll start off on the wrong foot and may want to jump ship quicker.

If you’ve looked at your contract and it’s not quite right, you don’t really have a leg to stand on in two weeks’ time when you ask for it to be changed. Know what you want, and when you arrange to chat about your needs, be super upfront and clear. Don’t just go, “I think I might want a bit more money actually”. Outline what you want, what you’ll accept, and know for yourself what the least you’ll expect is.