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Switching jobs is common in the business world, particularly early in your career, when you're searching for better opportunities. Although most of us would like to avoid negotiating compensation, chances are slim that you'll get everything you hoped for in a job offer. The best way to approach salary discussions is to understand how much you're worth in the job market and know what you need from an offer so that it entices you to accept the position.

What's Your Salary Range?

When negotiating your salary, the first step is to set a range in your mind that works for you and is acceptable within your industry. To gauge your worth, you may need to research the current job market. Try to pinpoint your expected salary range using geographical and occupational data, like the information provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics or other benchmarking websites. You should also factor in your personal needs, such as your household expenses and any increase in commuting costs that you'd need to cover if you accept the new position.

Consider Total Compensation

If the salary is non-negotiable, you may still wish to ask about other forms of compensation. For example, if you're giving up a bonus at your current employer by leaving early in the year, you may ask your new employer about the possibility of a signing bonus to compensate for the shortfall in income. In addition to a higher salary, ask about other company benefits that may be available for employees at your level, such as a car allowance for those who travel frequently. If the new company offers superior health benefits, or work options like flex hours and work at home arrangements, these factors may be important enough to set aside the process of negotiating your salary in favor of requesting certain benefits.

Be Professional, But Firm

During salary negotiations, always present yourself in a professional, knowledgeable manner. Learn how to push back without stalling negotiations — and be polite, but firm when making a request. Don't negotiate salary until you actually receive an offer. If other factors besides salary play into your decision, such as relocation expectations, or expectations of future career advancement, include them in your negotiable items when preparing an initial response to a job offer.

Be Prepared to Walk Away

In the end, you don't want to be unhappy working for less than you're worth. If you cannot get comfortable with the job offer, and the resulting change in salary, have a backup plan prepared. Do you want to continue working at your current job while you look elsewhere? Before rejecting an offer, make sure you've taken into account advancement opportunities at the new company and other non-financial factors. Try to think long-term and decide where you might actually have greater career potential. Consider your career progression at your current employer, even if the starting salary isn't what you'd hoped for.

Salary negotiations may be stressful, but if handled correctly, they can also give you the chance to impress your new employer. If you're able to come to an agreement quickly and efficiently, you'll have the opportunity to demonstrate strong interpersonal skills while also showcasing your ability to negotiate.

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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