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Salary Tug of War: Who is Winning, You or Your Employer?

If you’re a passive type, like many when it comes to negotiating, your current and former employers have probably dictated largely what you are paid with little or no resistance on your part. Take comfort in the fact that you aren’t alone. A recent study by CareerBuilder found that an astounding 49% of job candidates never even try to negotiate initial job offers. The reasons for putting up little or no resistance may be attributed to many things but the end result is the same, less money for your hard work.

Preparation and timing play a significant role in your ability to bargain successfully during these tug of wars. Recognizing when these events may occur are the first step in getting paid what you are worth.

As of January 2014, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics noted the median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.6 years. Assuming the average length of a career is approximately 45 years (age 20 to age 65) means you’ll probably work for at least 10 (45 divided by4.6) different employers over your working life.

Your path to retirement will likely be a series of short visits with many different employers rather than a long layover at a few places. This new paradigm favors people:

* With easily transportable skills
* That communicate well
* Who adapt quickly to change
* Who aren’t afraid to negotiate

On the bright side, based on the statistics noted above, you will likely have many opportunities to negotiate. Even small increases, of say 10% a few times in your career, can have a big impact on how much you earn over your working lifetime.

The example shown below clearly makes this point as we compare two employees and their salary history over a forty year period. In year 1, they each make $25,000 and receive pay increases of three percent per year thereafter. Employee B however, receives a ten percent pay increase in years 10, 20, and 30 instead of three percent.

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While the difference in pay increases may appear small at the time, it has big ramifications on the career earnings for both employees. This seemingly small difference results in employee B making approximately $250,000 more than Employee A over a forty year career.

Don’t let one of these golden opportunities go to waste. Abraham Lincoln famously said, “I will prepare and some day my chance will come.” Are you prepared when your chance will come? Below is a list of those some days in your career:

Performance Reviews –Make the most of this opportunity by showing how your accomplishments and achievements benefited the company. Document them throughout the year.
Promotions – Don’t accept a new position unless you know all the duties and responsibilities associated with the new job, along with how you will be compensated.
Chaos – Change happens quickly and comes in many different forms like co-workers suddenly quitting, company buyouts, and technology disruptions to name just a few. Are you ready to assume new duties without much notice?
The events listed above are opportunities disguised as problems and provide the catalyst for exciting changes if you are ready to embrace them.

Don’t let your employer always win the salary tug of war. Being able to recognize those few negotiating moments in your career will allow you to exploit opportunities lurking right around the corner.

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