Nelly Movine is the Regional Chief Finance Officer at Jumia, a Pan-African e-commerce firm listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Her biggest career regret is that one day, during an interview, she failed to state the amount she felt was commensurate with her capabilities.
“I had applied for a new job and I really wanted to get it, so I decided to be quiet during the salary negotiations to avoid scaring away the employers. I gave them freedom to give me whatever amount they desired.
“I got the position, but with very little pay. After a while I began to resent my workplace, my managers and my job in general. I was not motivated at all,” she says.
Movine’s story aptly depicts the challenges that many employees face when asking for a pay raise or negotiating for perks with prospective employers. On one hand, there is a possibility that you could lose your job if you bargain too hard and ask for a huge figure. On the other hand, you may choose to stay silent and get a job with a very uninspiring pay slip. So how can one get it right?
What are you bringing on the table?
This should be your fulcrum as you prepare to request for a pay rise, says Patricia Kendi, a Nairobi-based human capital strategist for SMEs. Patricia says that an individual’s boldness and persuasion skills will break or make their case. For example, if an employer says they will pay Sh50,000, you do not have to nod in agreement when you can demonstrate that the value you will add to the company is worth Sh80,000.
“It is not the high salary quotes that turn employers off, it is their inability to illustrate how that high figure matches their abilities,” she says and adds that an interviewee could either be offered a salary that is higher than the amount stated in the job advert, or a lower figure. “The salary range stated in the job advert is not fixed. It can be higher or lower based on the interviewers’ evaluation of a candidate’s worth,” she says.
Determine your worth
You are the only one who can define your value to your employer. Movine says that from the onset, you must be aware that you are your own sales person. “My experience helped me realise that I need to make myself attractive to potential employers such that they base my worth not just on what I tell them, but also on my experiences and achievements,” she says.
In the same vein, while you can quote an extremely high figure as a way of opening up negotiations, you must be careful not to seem greedy. “Be aware of the current rates for the position you have been invited for and make an informed quotation. No employer will allow you to do front office duties at corner office salaries.” Kendi says.
Don’t be too eager
To avoid sounding greedy or disrespectful during the negotiations, do not state the salary you hope to be offered the moment you start to speak. Take time to see what the employer is offering and why. Career coach Ashley Stahl is of the opinion that one is better off asking for a precise figure, instead of giving a range. For example, instead of saying you’d like to be paid anything between Sh80,000 and Sh100,000, just quote Sh85,000 if you believe that it is the amount that matches your qualifications and abilities.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to tell your prospective employer that you are considering better offers from elsewhere. This will disintegrate the negotiations and cast aspersions on your ability to make commitments. It will paint you as an arrogant person and will most likely break the deal.
“Even as you show or state your value, stay humble and professional. Every employee or job recruit is replaceable,” Kendi says.
Movine says that you should not fly off the handle if your quote is rejected.
“It is okay be turned down for stating your worth. That doesn’t mean you are greedy, it shows that you value yourself. Perhaps the company just does not have enough resources to keep you there.
“If your employer tables a counter offer, even if it is a lower figure, it is prudent to consider it. Don’t be too rigid especially if the job opportunity you’re getting is aligned to your career and life goals,” she says.