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  Most people enter employment negotiations assuming that compensation and benefits are the only issues on the table, according to Negotiation editorial board member David Lax. By contrast, enlightened job seekers realize these concerns are only part of the picture. In addition to negotiating financial terms, you must learn to negotiate for the tools you need to become a fulfilled and well-compensated person over time.

Negotiate for your happiness

Lax has observed that many people overlook the broader point of employment: satisfaction. It’s true that a well-padded paycheck will put a bounce in your step, but unless the job brings intrinsic pleasure, the glow will inevitably wear off.

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  Early in our careers, it sometimes makes sense to accept jobs we don’t expect to enjoy. A recent college graduate might sign on for a few grueling years as an entry-level analyst at an investment bank in exchange for long-term knowledge and contacts. An aspiring chef who can’t afford culinary school will pay his dues as a dishwasher. Later in our careers, however, most of us abandon such extreme tradeoffs—as we should, given the amount of time we devote to our jobs.

When interviewing for a position, how can you negotiate for your satisfaction?

First, probe to understand your job responsibilities

How would you be spending your day? How many people would be working for you? Who would your superiors be? Continue probing until you have a strong sense of your likely work process.

Next, negotiate the “fit.”

A prospective office manager with an engaging personality might ask whether an administrative assistant could take over bookkeeping duties to free him up for more interactive work. If a prospective employer is reluctant to relieve you of tasks you would not enjoy, this knowledge will help you avoid accepting a job you’d hate. Remember that wise employers recognize that employees perform best at tasks they enjoy.

In addition, encourage your interviewers to be candid about any concerns they may have about your qualifications and skills. This type of feedback may identify the need for other adjustments to your job description; write Deborah M. Kolb, Judith Williams, and Carol Frohlinger in their book Her Place at the Table (Jossey-Bass, 2004).

Ask questions aimed at assessing the organization’s political environment.

What happened to your predecessor? Was she let go, and if so, why? If she quit, why? If you discern that you’d be walking into a political minefield, you might want to consider other opportunities.

Negotiate for your long-term success.

“The job you’re applying for isn’t your final job,” says Lax. “Rather, it’s setting you up for the next job.” When you make this shift in mindset, you’ll begin to notice opportunities to build the expertise you will need in your next job and the one beyond that. Now you can negotiate for the tools you need to grow and thrive, such as resources, a strong support staff, and a title that will set you up for a future career goal.

One tax lawyer in the fundraising arm of a nonprofit negotiated her responsibilities to ensure that she remained up-to-date on changes in tax laws for charitable giving. The organization agreed to send her to industry conferences on the topic, a long-term benefit for the attorney that also added value to the organization.

In general, employers should be indifferent about spending their money on your salary or on benefits you might value more. If added schooling would enhance your on-the-job skills, your employer may be willing to pay your tuition with pretax dollars at a lower cost than you would pay out of pocket.

How far into the future should you look?

Choose time horizons based on your age and experience. Until they find their dream career, recent college graduates and MBA students may want to plan only one or two years ahead. For more established professionals, five-year benchmarks might make more sense.

Tailor your strategy to the organization.

Suppose you’ve negotiated creatively for career satisfaction and success, and you think you want the position. Now it’s finally time to tackle the nuts and bolts of compensation and benefits.

You’ll be well ahead of the curve if you match your negotiating strategy to the organization’s expectations and characteristics. Consider that large, established companies such as Coca-Cola and IBM measure job candidates against well-defined job categories with a set range of salaries. In addition, you may negotiate compensation with recruiters or human-resources personnel rather than with your future boss.

In this environment, unless you’re a senior executive, it wouldn’t make sense to ask for stock options. Instead, try to figure out what pay category someone with your education and experience would receive, then build a case for a salary at the high end of that range.

If an interviewer asks you to name your price, how should you respond? In their book 3-D Negotiation (Harvard Business School Press, 2006), Lax and James Sebenius recommend making a “non-offer offer,” or a statement that could anchor the discussion in your favor without seeming extreme. Suppose your research suggests that you would mostly likely fall into the $70,000 to $80,000 pay range, but the next-highest category seems within reach. Rather than saying, “I think I deserve $80,000,” consider saying, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve heard that people like me typically earn $80,000 to $90,000.” Notice that this statement is not a demand. Yet due to the powerful impact of the $80,000-to-$90,000 “anchor”—a reference point that may or may not be relevant to the discussion—it could very well steer the numbers toward your upper goal.

In sum, you can and should negotiate for a number of immediate concerns during job interviews, including enjoyment, status, compensation, and benefits. Yet it’s just as important to brainstorm creative ways to gain marketable expertise. When it comes to deciding what you want most, the expert advice ends and the soul-searching begins.

Source: Harvard Law School- Salary Negotiation Report

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