jabSalary is one of the most delicate topics today. How much do you ask for? How much is too much? How much is not enough? According to the Economic Policy Institute, entry level male workers with a college degree made only 57 cents more in 2011 than their equals in 1973. In 1973, the average male college graduate made $21.11 an hour. That number rose to $23.47 in 2000, but later fell to $21.68 in 2011, with the onset of the Great Recession. Also, according to The New York Times, “the percentage of those jobs that offer health insurance has plummeted to 22.8 percent, from 63.3 percent in 1979.”

There are many reasons why American workers don’t ask for a higher salary. Many Americans are afraid of losing their jobs, afraid of appearing bossy or difficult in the workplace, or they simply don’t know what they’re worth. If the cost of food rose 4.8% in 2011 alone and salaries remain the same or lower, then Americans are getting shortchanged for their work.

Fortunately there are a number of simple ways to fight for a higher salary.

  1. Don’t Settle for the First Offer. When offered a job for $38,000 a year and it’s your first job, ask if the salary is negotiable. Propose a counter-offer of $40,000. Most employers expect you to propose a counter-offer. Even if you are unemployed, you can still ask for more. Think about it, it will be at least a year before you get a raise and if you can get more now, that small bump might help stop the urge to look for a new job sooner than later.
  2. Perform Market Research. Many websites such as salary.com and indeed.com post average salaries for various positions. Ask friends who work in your field you might expect. Take these figures to your recruiter or employer and challenge their offer. Propose a salary close to the salary average for your field and city. For example, if you are a Marketing Specialist working in New York City, your average salary would be $56,000 a year. If you are offered $48,000 and you have solid experience, it would be in your best interest to propose $56,000.
  3. Use Another Offer as Leverage.  We once had a young lady who told us she was offered a comparable salary at her company when she announced her resignation. Instead of asking for proof, we took her word for it and proposed a higher salary. She decided to leave her job after all to work for us. It’s the same mentality as telling your car dealer that you were offered a better deal down the block, so he immediately drops his price to lock you in at his dealership. Do not be afraid to bargain.
  4. Simply Ask. Ask questions such as “What is the salary range for this position?” or “This offer is lower than I expected, is there any reason why we can’t negotiate a higher salary?” or lastly, “I believe my work and past experience merit a higher salary.” Sometimes just asking is the quickest way to win a higher salary.

If you don’t ask for a higher salary, when you rightfully should, you’re only robbing yourself for the work you have done. Think about it, you wouldn’t want to rip yourself off. Likewise, you’d want to find the best way to make money and keep it. That’s why fighting for a higher salary is crucial to your career.

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