How learning to negotiate can add five or even six figures to your lifetime career earnings. Once you read this, you’ll be kicking yourself as to why you didn’t learn to do this sooner.
That’s a very bold title. You’re probably thinking it’s clickbait. Certainly, I wanted to get your attention, but I promise you can get $30,000 in 30 minutes. I’ve done this and so have many others.
Consider a thirty-five-year-old who just got a job offer for $70,000. Instead of accepting the job as offered, she decides to negotiate. She proposes $75,000 and gives her reasons why. The company counters with $71,000. This whole back and forth may have been done in person, on the phone, or over a few emails. She takes the job for $71,000. All told, it will take less than 30 minutes.
Right there, she just got $1,000 more. But our young career climber has a few decades more left in her career. Most likely another thirty years. She was going to work those next thirty years whether or not she got the higher salary for this job. So, what happens over thirty years? She makes $1,000 more a year, each year, for thirty years. That’s $30,000.
Now you’re immediately thinking: who stays at a job for thirty years? And you’re right. She won’t and neither will you. That $30,000 more is the baseline.
First, she’ll get raises. And a 2% raise means 2% of $71,000, not $70,000. The $20 (2% of $1,000) extra may not seem like a lot, but it compounds with every raise. When she gets promoted or takes a new job, she negotiates coming from a higher base. Each rung of the compensation ladder is that much closer because she started a little higher.
Second, negotiating only $1,000 more on $70,000 is a pretty small lift. Down the road in her career, as she negotiates, taking perhaps another 30 minutes when she negotiates her next job, she might get more than $1,000. It might be $3,000 or $5,000 or $20,000. And those raises will follow her year after year.
So far, we’ve only been talking about base salary. She might also negotiate bonus, commission, equity, vacation time, flex time, work from home, professional development budget, or more. Some of those may not be a direct dollar amount but they are all valuable to her. She can negotiate those too, adding to the value she receives.
Once you have basic negotiation skills, as you apply them, doing a thirty-minute compensation negotiation every few years in this example, you can dramatically increase your lifetime earnings by five or six figures or more. But how hard is it to learn to negotiate?
Negotiation is relative. It’s not about being the best in the world. In fact, in this example, you don’t even need to be better than the person across the table from you (although that will take you farther). You just need to get better than you are today. Reading a book on negotiations, or even the negotiation skills chapter in The Career Toolkit, or spending a few hours taking an online negotiation course will give you enough to start. The chapter can be done in an hour, a full negotiation book may be 8-10 hours. That alone can begin to get you a few thousand dollars more as above. You can then go further and continue to improve your negotiation skills for larger results.
Of course, negotiation doesn’t just happen for compensation. We negotiate all the time, with customers, suppliers, partners, even with our co-workers (and our families). Being a better negotiator doesn’t mean you’ll just take more from them, but rather that you’ll find better outcomes, often for them as well as yourself. The benefits of being a good negotiator go far beyond just salary.
Now here comes the bigger insight. It’s easy to see how negotiating can give you a five or six figure return. You can do the math and see how the numbers quickly add up. You negotiate, get some larger number and that number grows over time.
What’s more subtle, but equally true, is that this applies to your communication skills. You can negotiate in thirty minutes and walk away with more money. You can’t just communicate well for thirty minutes and automatically get more money (although communication is part of negotiation). But if you do communicate well, it makes you a stronger employee, setting yourself up for more opportunities, raises and promotions. Being a stronger communicator gets you noticed in your industry and helps you to stand out during an interview process. It’s not an acute thirty minutes of communicating that gets you more money, but the continued application of being a stronger communicator. In other words, if you become a stronger communicator, for example by taking some classes, reading books, or other means of learning, your improved communication skills can also yield five or six figures more in lifetime earnings. It’s not $1,000 at a time, but rather the better opportunities that will come to you for being a better communicator.
The same is true for your leadership, teamwork, management, and other skills. Likewise having a stronger network doesn’t mean you suddenly get X dollars more, but it does mean you get more opportunities. Those opportunities may be with jobs, or clients, or suppliers, or of a totally different nature, and your capitalizing on those additional opportunities will bring you additional success and ultimately additional earnings.
As with negotiations it’s not about being the best. Getting $1,000 more on a $70,000 offer is only doing 1.4% better. A little more than 1% yields $30,000 in your lifetime, as the base! That 1.4% when used in other negotiations can get you six figures more, as shown above. What if you were 1% better not just as a negotiator, but also as a leader, a teammate, etc.? What if it was more than 1%?
Negotiations are just one of many skills which can accelerate your career, and your earnings. Each of them doesn’t require mastery to receive the benefit, they simply require just getting a little better than you are now. Any one of the skills — negotiation, leadership, communication, networking, teamwork, listening, public speaking, managing, creativity, and many more — can start to yield benefit with as little as ten hours of learning and practice. Mastery can take years, but the benefits will start to flow much sooner.
You can start with The Career Toolkit, any of the many books it references, or other recommended books, courses (online or in person), podcasts, or other sources. Investing just a few hours this month can lead to a lifetime improvement.
Have people told you networking is important? What about communication, teamwork, and leadership? For all the lip service given them, how much formal education did you have on such essential skills? Probably little, if any. What are these skills and why haven't they been taught to students?