I recently caught up with three former attendees of my negotiation workshop, who had success stories to share. Frank, a data specialist, negotiated an expanded role with a double-digit salary increase. RI, a media professional, had been in offer talks with an international company and was stymied in his attempts to uncover additional information. Eventually, he got the details he needed to tailor the right package for him. Jo, a digital executive, negotiated additional severance, despite being in a large company with an “official” policy that offered less (and despite not even being targeted for a layoff).
Negotiation is an important skill, and it can be learned. There are specific steps to prepare for a negotiation. There are many items other than salary that you can negotiate for – start with these 100 items you can negotiate for, or look at the above success examples which show negotiation wins in an expanded role, more severance, and more information, not simply salary. One of the most popular workplace requests is for flexibility, and there are specific negotiation tips to get more flexibility at work.
However, successful negotiation also requires personal qualities, not just skill. Here are three personal traits that helped the above professionals successfully negotiate for their career:
1 – Willingness to change course
Frank, the data professional who landed a bigger role and salary, wasn’t planning to stay with his existing employer. He was determined to accept another offer from one of the FANG companies. However, he kept an open mind and didn’t just assume that moving to one of the big-name companies was automatically the best next step for his career. He was willing to listen to what his existing employer proposed and reconsider staying put, even though he initially thought he had topped out.
Are you looking at all of your options instead of stubbornly sticking to initial assumptions? Frank’s example shows that it’s okay to change your mind. Bigger doesn’t always mean better — It depends on your priorities. In this case, the smaller employer came up with a counter that made more sense, and Frank was open-minded enough to change course.
2 – Willingness to accept help
RI, the media professional who was able to remake his offer to match his priorities, at first didn’t have enough information about the offer to even negotiate. His prospective employer and even his advisor (who ideally would have been advocating for him) were pressuring him to make a quick decision with limited information on benefits and relocation, two of his main priorities. RI was senior in his field but knew he needed help. I didn’t have enough expertise in his niche, but I pointed him to someone else who introduced him to someone who could help.
Are you asking for the help that you need? A lot of negotiation comes down to having the right information, so you need to bring in other people. You don’t have to go it alone.
3 – Willingness to bend the rules
Jo, a digital executive, wanted some time to reshape her career and took advantage of a management reshuffle to ask for a severance package. She wasn’t targeted for layoffs but still got severance. She also didn’t just accept the official severance package, but asked for more and got it.
Are you thinking beyond what is expected, customary or even official policy? If you don’t ask, the answer is surely “no.” Don’t be bound by what the rulebook says. Start with your wish list, and give yourself a chance to get above the average.
All of these professionals developed negotiation skills and prepared for their negotiations. However, they also nurtured personal traits. You will hear “no” when you negotiate for more – after all, if there’s no point of disagreement, you don’t need to negotiate! Stay flexible and change course as needed. Get help rather than trying to go it alone. Stretch your ask. Get more for your career.