I negotiated a $13,000 salary increase (and all it took was $20 and 4 hours of prep)

When I got my first job offer out of college, I said yes. Yes to the job, yes to the salary, yes to the benefits. No questions asked.

Sure, it would’ve been nice to have been offered a higher salary, but $48,000 a year felt livable. Plus I knew that it was my first “real” job, I was working in nonprofit world and we were in the middle of the Great Recession. So I didn’t ask. I was just happy to be employed.

Fast forward a few years, and a few of my work circumstances had changed: I’d gotten a promotion (and a small bump in salary) and the recession was cooling off. Yet I still felt like I wasn’t earning what I was worth.

That’s when I realized: No one was going to hand me more money. No one was going to walk into my office and hand me a briefcase of money because they thought I was awesome. I had to stop waiting around. I had to ask.

I researched, I prepared and I made myself into a negotiation expert.

And in that one year, I asked for a raise at my current job. Shortly after that, I negotiated up my starting salary at a new job. Those two conversations combined netted me an extra $13,000 in income.

$13,000, just by asking.

I used that extra $13,000 to pay down my student loans in under four years.

So why hadn’t I just done this in the first place?

Why it’s so uncomfortable to ask for more money

Asking for more money is hard for anyone, but it’s especially hard (according to statistics) for women. It’s not that women are afraid of negotiating. One study found that when women negotiate a salary on behalf of a friend, they ask for just ask much money as men; but when women negotiate a salary for themselves, they asked for $7,000 less than men.

So why don’t we advocate for what we deserve to get paid?

Some of it has to do with self worth: valuing yourself and your work enough to identify what you’re worth. Some of it has to do with the value we place on maintaining positive work-place relationships – sometimes above our professional or financial needs. And some of it has to do with social stigma (women who ask and assert themselves perceived as aggressive).

Whatever the reason and whether or not you’re a woman, there’s a lot of emotion behind asking for more money. That’s why I knew I had to use as much logic, stategies and numbers to support my case.

Here are the two resources I used to help me back up my case, calm down my emotions and erase my self-doubt while negotiating up my salary by $13,000.

Two tools for getting a raise and negotiating a starting salary

1. For getting a raise at your job: GetRaised.com

When I asked for, I used the website GetRaised.com. The website came recommended by a career and negotiation coach Lisa Gates from SheNegotiates.com.

For $20, GetRaised.com helped me craft the perfect raise request letter. It pulled in the salaries of similar positions in the area to help me back up my raise request with facts and figures. It also helped me articulate my value at the organization and frame my enthusiasm for continuing to grow at that job. I never ended up turning in the letter itself, but I used it as the framework for my conversation. More importantly, it helped me take my emotional reservations out of the equation and just lay down the facts. Best $20 I ever spent.

2. For negotiating your starting salary: Ramit Sethi’s Negotiation Videos

Before I went into negotiations with my new job, I headed over to Ramit Sethi’s website, I Will Teach You To Be Rich. This is hands-down the best website to help you practice for your salary conversation. Ramit has a whole section on negotiation and hours of videos, like this one:

He breaks down exactly what to say if you feel trapped in a corner with a recruiter and shows you how to assert yourself without showing your hand. I spent at least four hours watching Ramit’s negotiation videos, taking notes and practicing what I was going to say. While that might seem excessive, those few hours netted me a few extra thousand dollars. That’s a great return on investment.

A few final tips

The most important thing you can do is to practice negotiating with someone in person. Talk with a friend or family member and say what you want to say aloud. If you’ve never bartered or negotiated something in person, it’s very different from reading a book.

Finally, remember that it’s just a conversation between two people and you both want to get to some sort of an agreement. And it is totally possible for both sides to win.

Good luck!

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