The use of data in business is rapidly expanding. With this comes strong competition in the labor market for the scarcely available data talent. Deloitte reports that organizations are facing a data talent shortage, with 23% of organizations facing a major or extreme gap between their data needs and current abilities. Also, data jobs rank twice in the top three in LinkedIn’s emerging jobs report. This is great for those applying for data roles as this makes their skills more valuable and sought after.
Understanding your value and scarce skills in this market is essential to asking for what you deserve in the data market. Even if it is your first data role, it is essential to negotiate for a fair salary.
Negotiating a contract and salary is uncomfortable for a lot of people, but in the end, it can be very rewarding. For example, if you are offered a salary that is 5% below the expected salary in this job, and you expect to get raises of 3% per year, it will take 2 years for you to start earning a fair salary in this role. This can equate to thousands of dollars of compensation that you deserved in your career not being paid. This only compounds over time as you switch roles or are promoted.
Managers also expect to have these conversations. This survey found that 70% of 2800 surveyed managers expect candidates to negotiate. In this article, we provide the best practices for negotiating your salary in data, both for new roles and with existing employers.
Best Practices for Negotiating Your Salary
Do Your Research and Know Your Market Value
The first step in the negotiation process is understanding your market value. This will help you determine what you should be asking for in these conversations. Your market value can be determined based on the average salary of others in similar roles, in and companies in similar industries of similar size.
Your goal in these conversations is to demonstrate to your employer that you deserve higher pay. This starts with an understanding of what others make in the role. These insights and this data will help you be prepared to advocate for yourself and supplement your argument on the value you personally provide with your skills and experience.
To start this research process, you can look at sites like LinkedIn Salary, Blind, Glassdoor Salaries, and Indeed. These sites will all give you pay ranges, average salaries, and additional data on different positions. You can also ask colleagues, friends in similar positions, or others in your network for salary and benefits information.
It’s important to understand that your argument should not be that others make the amount you are asking for so that is what you deserve. This value is meant to give you a directional understanding of how the market values similar skills. This data will guide you as a benchmark to help you understand your personal value given your experience, skills, and the specific role you’ve been offered.
Determine Your Ideal Salary, and Your Non-Negotiable Minimum
Once you’ve finished this initial research and determined your own personal value, you should consider all of the important personal factors that go into the negotiation such as your financial obligations, experience, skills, previous pay, your advancement since obtaining that level, etc. These personal factors all contribute to the value you will provide in that role and should give you the confidence to ask for what you deserve.
Once this number is determined, look at the company (eg. location, size, funding, operation budget, industry, etc.). From these two things, set your expectations and go in with two numbers in mind: the salary you’d like to earn based on market value and your experience (be realistic, but don’t be afraid to aim high so there is room for compromise), and the number where anything below that amount would result in an end to the negotiation and you walking away from the table.
These two numbers are determined by you. There is no easy answer to find online. Being both realistic and fair based on your market value is of the utmost importance. This is good to keep in mind for those entering the data field for the first time, as salaries may be lower due to lack of experience.
Another important note is that salary is just one component of the compensation package. Other factors such as PTO, insurance, career and personal development opportunities, etc. can be negotiated to make up for the monetary discrepancy.
Practise your negotiation
Now that you have everything you need to enter the negotiation, it can be helpful to practice negotiating with a friend, family member, colleague, or someone in your network. This can help in solidifying your arguments and presentation, and help you feel more confident going into the process. You should ask the person you are working with to give you feedback and to ask difficult questions to help solidify your talking points.
If it is possible, reaching out to, and getting tips from a recruiter can help a lot with strengthening talking points, counter-offers, finessing, etc.
Set the right tone
Going into the negotiation, setting the right tone is very important. Most people view negotiations as a negative experience, which can cause tension in the discussion. However, it’s important to remember that you have already received an offer, indicating that the organization both wants you to work with them, and has envisioned you as a member of their team. The organization also expects you to negotiate in most cases. Thus, you should always negotiate when you receive an offer.
You should not be embarrassed about asking for more money, worry that your potential new employer will get offended, or be afraid that you may not deserve what you’re asking for. Doing the research suggested above should dispel any doubts or second-guessing, and create a positive mindset going forward. You are owed what you are asking for, you just need to ask for it and align on that value with your employer.
You should come from a position of confidence, not in defence of yourself. Coming across as cocky, arrogant, or needy will hurt your case and your future relationship with the organization. Remember, you will need to work with these people in the future if you accept the position, so conduct yourself in a way that will both help your case and maintain a good relationship with your employer. The company already thinks you are a good fit in terms of your skills and experience, so it is not necessary to be hostile. Being open and willing to talk will go a lot further.
In order to negotiate a higher initial offer, let the employer propose the first amount so that you aren’t limited to your own estimation. Typically, in a compensation discussion, the employer will first tell you that you are receiving an offer, then read the compensation to you and ask if you have any questions. This is when the negotiation should start. Asking for a specific salary before hearing the offer will come across as entitled and may hurt your long-term relationship with the employer. Hearing their offer also helps you understand what your potential employer is currently thinking a good value for you may be and will help kick off the discussion.
Present an iron-clad argument
Once the negotiation kicks off, it is critical that you prove how you will provide exceptional value to the company. You will want to back up arguments with real numbers and results, and highlight what you can offer. The package they offered you is most likely similar to what they offer all people in the organization for similar roles. You must argue why you deserve more than that.
This part of the negotiation should be supported by a strong data science portfolio, with detailed accounts of everything, including the impact your projects drove. Talk like this data role that you are currently negotiating is the role that you are a perfect fit for. Don’t make it all about what others make, leverage your skills, experience and qualifications to show how you outshine everyone else.
Look critically at the offer
You shouldn’t decide on an offer on the spot. Whether it is good, bad, way better than you were expecting, or seems impossible to negotiate with, taking a step back and some time to consider the offer is necessary. This step may be uncomfortable, but a lot of things must be considered in the bigger picture and what’s important to you (career track, benefits, etc.). It might not always be about the numbers in your bank account- vacation days, health coverage, etc. all add up to the total compensation package. These add-ons may make up for a lower salary number. Accepting right away when an offer looks good may be leaving value on the table if you don’t take the time to evaluate the offer critically.
Negotiate No Matter What
You should always negotiate, even if you’re happy with the original offer as you never know what else you might be able to ask for. Everything is up for negotiation. Come prepared with the number you want if you haven’t already, and keep your walk-away number in the back of your mind. If your employer can’t be flexible with salary, then other areas can be negotiated, such as vacation days, bonuses, personal development, equipment, etc., that can offset a smaller salary. Give an example that can add money to their bank account in another way.
It’s important to prove your enthusiasm for the company and position that has been offered. Repeat your value to justify the number you’re asking for, and the benefits you will bring to the company. Mention any competing offers if you have any. This will show that you are honest and transparent, as well as desirable to other companies. Your employer will appreciate your enthusiasm and honesty, which will help strengthen your long-term relationship with them.
Be prepared to walk away
It’s important to remember that once the negotiation process has started, you need to be prepared to either accept an offer, or walk away. Being decisive is of the utmost importance as you don’t want to leave a company hanging and leave a bad taste in their mouth.
Too much back and forth should be avoided, and you should plan ahead to know what you want, and what you deem to be unacceptable. Make sure the offer you accept is one you’re happy with. All of the preparation in the previous steps should prepare you to know exactly what you want and deserve in this conversation and help you make a quick decision.
If you are presented with an offer that does not fit your minimum requirements, and you are confident that what you are asking for is far in regards to your market value, thank them for their consideration and politely decline. This can be challenging in the moment, but it is not worth working a job and being compensated for less than what you are willing to work for.
It is very difficult to negotiate a salary. Many people view this as a negative and stressful discussion to have. However, it is too valuable of an opportunity to avoid. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to succeed. Remember to manage your expectations, and to try and not turn down what might be the data role of a lifetime because of something miniscule. At the same time, make sure you are being justly compensated for the work and value you will be providing.
The negotiation process starts with researching the market value for the position and job you are applying for. Next, determine your ideal and non-negotiable minimum value based on this research and your own personal skills, experience, and personal needs. You can then practice with someone to strengthen your case. Once the negotiation starts, setting the right tone is key to a productive conversation. Present your argument clearly, advocating for yourself based on the added value you will provide to the organization. When you receive the offer, you should look at it critically, negotiate regardless of how great the offer is, and be willing to walk away if you are unable to reach a value that is suitable for you.
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