11 Money-Sucking Lies Your Brain Tells You About Salary Negotiation

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Every military transition is as unique as the soldier, sailor, airman, Coastie, Marine or Guardian who is living the story. Except for one thing: salary negotiation. Then every single veteran (and spouse) I talk to wishes they had negotiated their salary instead of accepting the very first offer.

It isn't like we don't know negotiation skills are lacking among military transitioners. In a recent LinkedIn poll, I asked what mistake veterans were most likely to make when it came to salary negotiation. Would they ask for too much, too little or fail to negotiate at all? Four out of five respondents said veterans are most likely to fail to negotiate at all.

Which intrigues me. Why do we fail to negotiate when it leads directly to more money -- especially when it is an expected part of the job-offer dance? Why do we choke in the moment of salary negotiation instead of just spitting the words out and getting on with the job? Why do so many of us regret it?

As the transition master coach for Military.com's Veteran Talent Pool, I've helped nearly 11,000 military transitioners, veterans and spouses find their next high-impact job. One of the things I've noticed is how many money-sucking lies our brains think up to keep us from negotiating our salaries like civilians do.

Here are some of the lies you need to look out for when you are looking for a job:

1. BRAIN: You are so weird. No one negotiates their salary.

ME: In industry, it is expected that you will negotiate your salary. If you don't do it, they think you did not bother to read the job offer. In the federal government, they don't negotiate salaries much, if at all. You may be able to make a case that due to your experience, they should move you up a few steps, which ends up netting you a little more cash.

2. BRAIN: There were five other people interviewed for this job, and they were all probably better than you!! If you don't jump on the offer now, they will give it to someone else.

ME: If they offered you the job, you were the preferred candidate. Please know that so many people at their company have jumped through hoops to make you this offer, and again, they expect a little negotiation. You can afford to ask whether there is any wiggle room around this offer.

3. BRAIN: I would never use the term "wiggle room."

ME: Crimeny. You can always say, "Is this offer firm? Or, is there room for negotiation?"

4. BRAIN: You are unemployed with kids and bills and a bad latte habit. If you don't take this offer this minute, you will be unemployed the rest of your life, and you will have to cart your kids around in a wheelbarrow.

ME: Again, no wheelbarrow is necessary. They are not going to take away the offer that fast unless you are shockingly rude. If you do not ask politely about a salary increase or a signing bonus now, you are going to regret it every time the subject comes up at work, at home, in an online news story, on an episode of "Dateline," in the Kiss and Ride line, etc. The possible moments of regret are endless. Trust me.

5. BRAIN: They want to offer you how much???? Woo hoooooooo!!! Take it now before they figure out you aren't worth that much money.

ME: No matter how much they are offering you, thank them and take a breath. Typically, the market determines the price and your self-worth, and military salary history has nothing to do with it.

So whatever they offer you, thank them and ask for some time to consider it. Then frame a request to raise the salary 8%-10%. (Unless they are offering way below market value and then ask for market value.) Be sure to give them a reason -- even a tiny reason -- that you deserve it so they can get it cleared with their compensation department.

6. BRAIN: You are such a greedy guts! No one asks for a signing bonus. They automatically give it to you.

ME: No one has used the term "greedy guts" since 1979. People do ask for (and get) a signing bonus, depending on the market. Right now, there is a lot of competition for certain kinds of workers. A signing bonus can be a way that the company gives you a one-time payment to sweeten the pot when they cannot increase your salary.

You may also be more likely to get a signing bonus if you are in a high-demand/low-supply field, if you were recruited into the firm, if you were referred for a specific position, if you are a highly placed executive. Even then, if you don't ask, you don't get. Just say, "Does this position warrant a signing bonus?"

7. BRAIN: I don't care what she says. If you ask for more, they will think you are greedy. Especially the boss.

ME: Typically, you don't deal directly with the boss about your offer. Most of the time, you are dealing with a human resources representative, and you will never see them again. Unless you are wicked rude to them. Then HR has ways of making regret bloom within you like a profusion of ear hair and a big pot belly.

Remember, a little negotiation politely framed is socially expected. Asking for 40% more than the offer at the top of your voice is definitely unexpected and will get the wrong kind of attention.

8. BRAIN: You don't need to negotiate your salary. You have your military retirement to lean on.

ME: ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?? Your military retirement pay is yours. It was already earned with every moment you worked weekends and holidays and your birthday and your kid's birthdays and your anniversary and under fire or in 20-foot seas, not to mention every minute you spent on deployment. It has nothing to do with your current salary and does not factor in at all to your current offer.

9. BRAIN: They won't like you if you ask for more money.

ME: Negotiating your salary and other benefits is a normal part of the hiring process. You are not buying any goodwill with any future team by failing to negotiate your salary. Keep everything professional and above board, and no one will think any differently of you.

10. BRAIN: Don't ask for anything now. You can always make more money when they see how valuable you are.

ME: I know you. The minute you start working you are going to be very, very valuable. But even the most valuable people have to wait for raises and bonuses, which will all be based on the salary number you set right now.

11. BRAIN: If they say no, you will die, instantly melting into a puddle of despair and permanent unemployment.

ME: If you negotiate your salary and they say no, you will not die. "No" is one of the legit choices. Some companies do not negotiate, and they usually tell you their company policy up front so you won't have to ask. Or they might tell you that they can't offer you more money at this time because of the pay band you are in or due to recent layoffs. Then you say these magic words: OK, thanks.

And that is about it when it comes to negotiating salary. You still get the fun of figuring out a start date and your health care plan and if there is a gas or parking allowance and how many days you get to work from home and whether you have to take PTO when you have a doctor's appointment or whether you can just use your flexible hours.

When you negotiate your salary, it may be uncomfortable for a few minutes. If you don't do it, you will have plenty of time to regret your one chance to make thousands of dollars more for the same amount of work.

Jacey Eckhart is Military.com's transition master coach. She is a certified professional career coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Employment Project and on her website SeniorMilitaryTransition.com. Reach her at Jacey.Eckhart@Monster.com.

Get Paid What You Are Worth

To get more tips on how to get the biggest paycheck ever, sign up for one of our FREE Military Transition Master Classes today. Our newest class is Next Level Negotiation: How to Get The Biggest Paycheck Ever. You can view previous classes in our video library. Questions for Jacey? Visit our Facebook page.

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