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After the offer - negotiating your way to a better salary

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Updated: 1/25/2013 10:32 am

(BPT) - Your job search has finally paid off. After all the networking events, resume re-dos and mock and real interviews, you finally got an offer for the job you wanted. So now what? Do you just take it or do you dare negotiate?

'You should always negotiate a higher salary,' say Vanessa Jackson, assistant director of career services at The Illinois Institute of Art - Chicago. Jackson adds, 'Hiring managers expect this so they do not offer the highest salary in their range.'

Be polite. 'Say 'Thank you very much for this opportunity. I am so excited to join your company.' Then move into the negotiation,' adds Shannon Delecki, assistant director of career services at The Art Institute of Michigan.

But before you ever get that offer, make sure you've done your research caution Jackson and Delecki. 'Know the average salaries for the position and for the market,' says Delecki.

And this isn't a time to be modest about your potential value to the company. 'Tell the company why you are worth more than you are being offered. Show them how you will contribute to the company's profits and help their bottom line,' advises Delecki.

How much should you ask for? Jackson recommends anywhere from $3,000 - $5,000 above the company's offer. After thanking your future employer, you should say something like: 'but I'm hoping to negotiate a salary closer to $XX.'

There are times that companies may not be able to budge on the dollar amount. This could be an opportunity to negotiate other benefits like vacation time. 'Ask the company whether they can be more flexible about vacation or PTO days,' says Delecki.

And those extra benefits don't end there. Companies sometimes pick up the tab for day care, can offer flex time and even allow employees to work from home on certain days to defray commuting costs. 'I've known people who negotiated immediate vesting in the company's 401(k),' observes Jackson. She also stresses that the higher you are on the food chain the more perks you'll likely be able to negotiate. If you've just scored your first job, your new employer may not accommodate as many requests.

And speaking of requests, make sure yours don't sound like demands. If they do, you could negotiate your way right out of a job. The negotiation is a balancing act. You want a higher salary but you have to remember that you're looking to work with the person on the other end of the negotiation. So be gracious. 'That's why it's important to say 'thank you' and 'I was looking for a salary closer to,'' says Jackson.

Finally, make sure you can live with and on your salary. Jackson counsels job seekers, 'Know what you need to make to sustain your lifestyle.'

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