If I didn’t effectively negotiate my salary during the job offer, am I stuck with the salary I have?

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Marciano Bagnoli, Quality Manager, Georgia-Pacific LLC
Marciano Bagnoli, Quality Manager, Georgia-Pacific LLC

In a word, no, but it might not be an instant recovery. 

The largest increases are made typically when you receive a promotion while moving from company to company. If you recognize you have made an error in your negotiations, understand why your information wasn’t accurate. Perhaps you moved into a higher-paying industry, or your job title didn’t accurately reflect the duties you performed. While free resources for salary information are easy to come across on the internet, the nuances of different industries are often lost, leading to rather large ranges for positions. 

Be mindful, you get what you negotiate, which may not necessarily be what you deserve. Some companies will pay more than others, not necessarily for more work. Companies give compensation differently. Some are based on the market, others are industry-specific. It may help to look at specific industry organizations (like ACS), or at targeted recruiting services that post salaries for open positions to learn more about your new salary potential on the open market. It is good practice to check in on this even when you are not actively looking for a job. 

While it may be tempting to renegotiate, this can lead to some uneasiness especially early in your new position. It is unlikely that a company will give a large raise right after hiring due to poor negotiation on your part. While it may be tempting to pull data and present your case then, it highlights your oversight rather than your value and may hurt your case.  At best you get the salary you want, but after appearing unprepared for a major life change you initially agreed to. I would generally advise to perform well in your new function and after a few successful performance reviews, address the topic during raise season. A track record of success will make it easier for your boss to vouch for your raise, especially moving closer to the median salary for the organization. 

If you find that you could have gotten more elsewhere, and this particular organization does not pay market rate for your position, the process can be similar but it will likely be a more difficult discussion all around. Again, reflect on what are the organization's goals, and how did you contribute to them? Be able to prove your value. Use metrics, milestones, and 360 feedback from your peers to make your case after perhaps a year. Bring carefully researched market data without being confrontational. Likely if what you are asking is outside what they normally pay, they may not be able to do much. In these situations, it can help to open up the compensation discussion by being flexible on how you would like to be paid. If they cannot do monetary compensation, maybe vacation time, or working on a specific project? After all, we get much more from our jobs than money, perhaps there is some valuable experience you can gain in this role that will uniquely prepare you for a better one down the road. 

This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

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