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Negotiating a job offer or asking for a raise? Here’s where to start

It's all about doing your homework.

It’s that time of year for many workers — crucial but often dreaded performance review season. Meanwhile, others are changing careers in what some experts are calling the “Great Resignation,” as workers leave their jobs in search of more flexibility and better benefits, or simply to escape burnout.

“The job market is absolutely hot and competitive,” says Julie Gurner, a psychologist and executive coach. “Chances are if you’re very good at what you do, you will have no problems finding many opportunities out there.”

Though it may be intimidating to talk to a current or potential manager to negotiate, it is an essential factor in getting exactly what you want. Where should you start? We tapped top experts to get their tips on how to make the most of any negotiation.

Identify the why

If you're looking for a new job, think about what qualities are top priority as you begin your search. Make a list and have that guide you.

“It’s really helpful to get clear on what are your must-haves and your nice-to-haves because that will allow you to focus your search,” says Kathryn Minshew, co-Founder and CEO of The Muse, a job search site. She recommends considering compensation, flexibility and growth opportunities as jumping off points.

Another thing to consider is whether to look company-first or role-first. That can also play a factor in how wide a net you cast. If you want to work at your dream company, it may make more sense to be flexible on the roles you pursue, rather than a specific title and vice versa.

Prepare for your annual review all year long

Both of our experts recommended keeping a running list of your achievements throughout the year. When it comes time to reflect on your progress, it will help you jog your memory — and give you easy access to tangible wins and contributions you've made to the company. Gurner recommends a document or note and Minshew saves emails praising performance in a special folder to make review prep a breeze.

Think beyond salary — and don’t be afraid to negotiate

Whether you’re talking with your current boss or finagling the terms of a brand-new gig, you can always negotiate — but it doesn’t need to be for more pay.

When you go into a negotiation, do your homework on the appropriate salary range for your role. You can do this by checking career websites such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn, and even better if you can ask your friends and extended network for tips on what people with your title make at other companies.

If the offer you get is lower than what you were expecting, think about whether you are willing to walk away before you counter. If you are really excited about the job, Minshew says there is wiggle room in your total benefits package, including signing bonuses, stipends for work travel or professional development, and flexibility. If you are working for a startup, Gurner recommends considering equity in the company as part of your compensation as well.

Should you keep negotiating if the offer is higher than you expect? Gurner says yes. “You’re always going to set the precedent that you’re somebody who’s always going to push a bit, you’re always going to continue to bring yourself to the table, and that you’re not going to be the person who is kind of head down, thank you, that’s good enough,” Gurner explains.

Resign — the right way

You’ve landed the job of your dreams, thanks to a carefully culled search and expert negotiating. Now the hard part — letting your team know your new plan with grace. First, you want to call a meeting with your boss or direct supervisor one-on-one, not during the weekly team meeting. Be straightforward and tell them you have a new opportunity and that you’re leaving the company.

Be sure to check your human resources department or employee handbook — you may be required to submit a letter in writing, which you can keep sort and sweet.

One thing to avoid is airing all your grievances in your exit interview. “I think it’s very important to do your best to end on a positive note and leave with grace, even if it’s been a frustrating experience,” Minshew says. “It can also be a great opportunity to kindly and respectfully raise things that perhaps the company should know or should think about differently.”