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Stuck in a Rut? How to Negotiate Your Career

Stuck in a Rut? How to Negotiate Your Career
Credit: vchal/Shutterstock

There will likely come a time when you feel stuck in your career. Whether you're in need of a higher salary or are simply not enjoying the work you do, you might consider asking for a promotion or applying to other companies. But, sometimes, to get what you want, you need to negotiate.

If you're ready for a change, don't settle on the first position you're offered. Here's how to negotiate your career.

You need to understand what exactly there is to negotiate before laying everything on the line. Both parties – the employer and the candidate – must know what they are willing to sacrifice and what they expect in return.

"In every interaction of your career development, you're trying to get your needs met, and the other person is trying to get their needs met," said Tad Mayer, president of Career Negotiations. "And if either your needs or theirs aren't met, that person will have no reason to agree to do anything."

Focus on what's important to the manager, share what's important to you and bring value to the manager, Mayer said.

"Remember the mindset of curiosity," he added. "Schedule a meeting with your supervisor to talk about what's important to him or her."

Mayer recommended asking what they are trying to accomplish, what challenges they are facing, what about work inspires them, etc. From there, you can work with your manager's responses and offer solutions or possibilities.

"Maybe it's taking on some of their projects, assuming new responsibilities for coordinating with other departments or conducting a series of presentations to other offices," he said. "Maybe you define a test period to see how it goes. Work hard and creatively to find ways to meet their interests, and yours."

You don't want to appear ungrateful to your manager, so don't approach them with a pompous attitude.

Mayer advised against the "promote me or I'm leaving" approach: Unless you have a backup job lined up or you're expecting to fight for a promotion, avoid giving your manager an ultimatum – and never frame it like a threat, he added.

Be honest about your wants and needs as a worker. If your intentions do not match your company's, or they aren't willing to compromise, politely explain that you need to continue your career elsewhere.

According to Mayer, research shows that 45 to 70 percent of jobs are filled by referral, meaning that job seekers should focus on networking.

"Just connecting on LinkedIn is not robust," said Mayer. "You have to become a resource to people in your network so they remember you, value you and go to bat for you."

To make a lasting impression, find common ground with your connections and create ways to benefit them professionally. It should be a win-win situation.

"It can be as simple as sending links to recent articles important to their field that they may have missed, sharing handouts from a best practices seminar at a prestigious industry conference, to explaining how your marathon team raised money, which may be helpful to their marathon team," said Mayer.

Getting to know people and what's important to them is a crucial step to negotiating with them.

"We need access [to industry players]," said Mayer. "For that, we reach out to our network and new connections to get connected to the decision-makers and understand their needs."

Informational interviews are crucial when deciding where to apply and what you can offer to a given company.

"In order to gain access to a new role, company or industry, you have to understand what's important to the people in it," said Mayer. "With that information, you can figure out if the role, company or industry is right for you. Show that you are a fit in a job interview, and directly address what's important to the decision-maker beyond the job description. Without the information, you have the same generic, internet-sourced information as everyone else."

Keep in mind, however, that an informational interview is not a job interview – and should not be treated as such.

"If you launch into a pitch of yourself for either a specific job or to join the company in general, you first give them reason to question your integrity," said Mayer. "Second, you won't get the information you need. And third, you won't build the trust you need for them to ever refer you to a hiring manager. If you follow what you asked for and become a resource to them, they will be happy to refer (and, even better, recommend) you when the right opportunity comes along."

The manager might turn the informational interview into a job interview. Let it happen naturally, but remember why you're there in the first place.

When it's time for an actual job interview, make sure you are prepared.

"Focus on what's important to the decision-maker – the hiring manager," said Mayer. "Most job seekers assume that if they talk about the job description and [do] some internet research on the company, they will be able to address the interests of anyone they interview with. The problem is that the decision-maker probably didn't write the job description, so it does not reflect their interests."

According to Mayer, there are two steps to take. First, research the interviewer, if you know their name. Second, prepare questions that go beyond the job description.

"This will make them think about, and share, what's truly important to them," he said. "After they explain it to you, that gives you the opportunity to illustrate how you can help them accomplish those achievements, which will prove your value and make you stand out."

For more tips on acing your job interview, check out this Business News Daily guide.

Sammi Caramela

Sammi Caramela has always loved words. When she isn't working as a Business.com and Business News Daily staff writer, she's writing (and furiously editing) her first novel, reading a YA book with a third cup of coffee, or attending local pop-punk concerts. Sammi loves hearing from readers - so don't hesitate to reach out! Check out her short stories in Night Light: Haunted Tales of Terror, which is sold on Amazon.