Happiness is the freedom to build a successful career and live life on your terms.
The reason most ambitious, career driven people end up hating their career is because they started the job with every intention of succeeding. They had a vision for how they would flourish in their role and help their company grow. Then it all goes downhill.
Here is a timeline of how it happens:
Things are great.
Everything is going as planned.
Then deadlines start slipping.
Disagreements occur internally.
Disagreements turn into arguments.
Arguments turn into misery.
Misery turns into a reflection of your life and career. Longer lunch breaks. Showing up later and leaving earlier.
This is when you realize you’re not living on your terms.
You’re doing it on someone else’s time & money.
You have two decisions:
OPTION 1: Continue through the pain and suffering of showing up to work every day knowing that the work you’re doing has no meaning.
OPTION 2: Live your life and career on your terms.
Let’s be real. If you’re reading this, you want to do Option #2. But we all know, it’s financially impossible and irresponsible to quit for many of us. You have a good source of income that you can’t lose because you want to be “free and happy.”
So, now what?
Happiness is waking up every day and doing what you want to do. Happiness is going to sleep without worrying about work and bills. Happiness is being excited for the next day and not living for the weekend.
This DOESN’T mean that you have to work for yourself to be happy. I always like to say that dream jobs aren’t real. It’s about the dream situation.
The dream situation is, you guessed it: To live your life and career on your own terms. And yes, this means making enough money to support your dream situation. This could be working remote instead of being in the office every day. This might mean working hard Monday to Thursday and having Friday off. This might mean being able to work with people you learn from and appreciate you. This might mean being able to travel every week.
Everyone’s dream situation is different.
How you get there is for another post.
Just know that the dream situation is something you probably think about all the time. Don’t ignore it.
PS: Read the only resignation letter template you’ll ever need.
I honestly believe the biggest problem with mastering negotiation isn’t that you don’t know how to negotiate, it’s just that you don’t have the confidence to negotiate. You either aren’t confident or think negotiation is a slimy, greedy game that you would like to avoid.
I’ve been screwed out of thousands of dollars many times during my career when it comes to salary negotiation, but in the end it’s been the best thing to ever happen to me. That rage inside of me drove me to write this guide with full confidence that it will help others. I know the old way of doing things doesn’t work (here’s looking at you, resume). If you want something you’ve never had you have to try something you’ve never tried. No one enjoys negotiating their salary with their current employer, as I’ve said, it’s easier to just go out and get a new job. But it can be done, as long as you follow my strategy, and regain that confidence that’s been beaten out of you.
This guide is more focused on how to not screw yourself during negotiation and how to get paid what you deserve. A performance review is not going to reflect what you’re actually worth as an asset to the company. If it happens that you end up getting paid more than anyone in your department, then so be it! You deserve what you deserve, and I’m going to do my damn hardest to make sure you get exactly that and not a penny less.
Ready to make some more money? Great, here we go.
Step 1: Know exactly what you want and deserve
Step 2: The answer to all of your negotiation problems: Leverage
Step 3: How to master any negotiation, step by step. (Where the rubber hits the road)
Confidence can be the difference between a $60,000/year to $75,000 a year salary.
The more confidence you have, the better off you are in a negotiation. If you know exactly what you want and what you deserve, the better off you are.
I don’t mean that you should walk into an office and demand a salary and say: “Take it or leave it.” That’s definitely not what I mean and in fact if you do that, you will crash and burn.
Confidence is the ability to define your real value is and back it up with evidence and facts.
I know it sounds a little too far-fetched. Shouldn’t the work you’ve done already speak for itself? Well, that’s not how this works.
So, how do you get confidence? This works even if you are a pushover, although admittedly, it’s a little bit more work for pushovers.
It’s a 2 step process.
I’m not asking you to figure out a couple good reasons why someone would hire you. I’m asking you to figure out exactly why someone would hire you.
This is a simple concept everyone seems to forget: employers will hire you based on your perceived strengths. I don’t think you should fake it to you make it. It’s too easy to see past the fake-ness. Evaluating your strengths, what you’re better at than anyone else, is a great exercise that will not only aid you in salary negotiations, it will help you keep your interview skills, and LinkedIn story fresh and up to date.
No one likes talking about themselves, we would rather discuss other people and their relative strengths and weaknesses. The ability to evaluate and observe yourself in terms of what makes you successful in your industry, is something you must do in order to continue to advance. Unless, of course, your goal is to plateau, but plateau’s are a very boring, and financially stagnant places to be.
This requires a lot of self awareness. Here is a fun activity that you can do to find out what your strengths are. When they reply back with something stupid like “strip at my birthday party,” reply back that you’re really serious. You want to know what they would pay a $1,000 for. The best generic catch all advice I can give you is that you’re most likely going to make money at something you’re good at. It’s right in front of you, but not completely obvious.
This requires a lot of self awareness. Here is a fun activity that you can do to find out what your strengths are.
When they reply back with something stupid like “strip at my birthday party,” reply back that you’re really serious.
You want to know what they would pay a $1,000 for.
The best generic catch all advice I can give you is that you’re most likely going to make money at something you’re good at.
It’s right in front of you, but not completely obvious.
The kiss of death is finding out that someone in a similar role at your company is making a lot more money than you. There is no worse feeling in the world, trust me.
You would feel betrayed, worthless and eventually angry as hell. Angry that this company screwed you and that you accepted an offer much lower (than others, respectively) mainly because the company told you during negotiation that “this was the maximum they can give you.” Once you find out a coworker is making a larger salary, you realize this is bullshit. But by the time you do, it’s already too late, you’re locked into this salary. Your negotiation is over, and you were mostly forced into a corner about it.
Do you know how that happened? It happened because you didn’t know what you were really worth, and even worse, you didn’t know how they really valued you. That gap of information usually ends badly for the job candidate. Remember to always mind the gap.
So, how about we avoid this situation? Sounds like a plan. In order to do this, you need to start by negotiating right the first time and making sure you’re on the high end of their pay scale.
What everyone else does: They go on salary websites like glassdoor.com and view what other people at the company and similar roles are making. Then they come up with a salary based on that information.
I give that approach a 4 out of 7 possible points. Sure, it’s decent info to have, but it shouldn’t be the only activity that you’re doing.
These websites tell you what other people are worth, and not what you’re worth. Believe it or not, you don’t have to get paid exactly what other people get paid. In fact, who cares about other people? You should get paid the maximum value of what you are worth to the employer. And so what if that happens to be more than the standard? Better that you shoot for the moon and land among the stars, than to shoot for the stars and crash into a satellite. No one likes to crash and burn on salary negotiations, regardless of the industry.
So, Robbie – How do I found exactly what I’m worth to employers?
There is only 1 way, and you might not like this offer mainly because it requires work.
I call this “exploring your options.”
The more you interview, the better you become at speaking with future companies that might have the dream situation you’re looking for.
The more offers you receive, the more information you have about what your real worth is to employers. The more information you receive, the more effectively you can negotiate your salary and focus on your worth and how it will enhance the value of your new company. Your worth monetarily is connected to what you can accomplish for the company.
If after a slew of offers come in, and you still think you deserve more, then the next step is figuring out what the real issue is. Maybe it’s a different job in a different industry. Maybe you’re not stressing the value you would bring to an employer. If you’re not getting the responses you’re looking for, there is a missing element in the process that you’ve not yet evaluated.
When I was applying for consulting roles, every offer came in between $120,000 and $125,000 a year. And I mean every single damn offer. It didn’t matter how I negotiated it. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a great wage to have, but I wanted to break that ceiling. I knew I was worth more, but I wasn’t conveying my strengths to the employers properly. I was still viewed as a junior resource.
This realization allowed me to enter into a different phase of my life which prompted me to learn new things, explore different skill sets and finally smash that ceiling forever. It took swinging for the fences and not getting the desired result for me to see there was a hole in my approach. Keep track of your results, and be honest with yourself. We have to continue learning more and trying different things in order to be the best, and if your value isn’t being represented in the offers, some crucial part of your message might not be getting across to where it needs to go.
Nothing else matters when you have leverage. If you don’t have leverage in a negotiation, you can throw every single negotiation tactic, tip or trick out the window.
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how you phrase something. No leverage means you have no negotiation power.
Leverage is the difference between making $75,000 a year or making $90,000 a year for the same job.
Here are some examples of leverage: Basically, when you have leverage you are mentally prepared to ask for a higher salary, aka a salary that you deserve.
Here are some examples of leverage:
Basically, when you have leverage you are mentally prepared to ask for a higher salary, aka a salary that you deserve.
How do you get leverage?
A strongly defined skillset
A strong network
A well defined online brand
As mentioned earlier in this guide, it is enormously important to understand your strengths and to communicate your strengths during interviews and via your online persona.
If you know what you’re good at, have some sort of proof that you’re good at what you do, and a prospective employer needs exactly what you’re offering– then you my friend have some leverage.
In addition to having a strong skillset, you need to become a double or triple threat, as I previously mentioned. This technique was coined by one of the greatest copywriters I know: Neville Medhora.
Here’s an example blatantly stolen from Neville’s article. It’s that good.
Single Threat = Knows a skill. Value = $
Double Threat = Knows a skill + another useful skill. Value = $$
Triple Threat = Knows a skill + another useful skill + yet another useful skill.Value = $$$$$$
For example, let’s say someone selling a high-priced product in the financial industry is trying to find a copywriter. Which one do you think would be the most in demand?
95% of workers are single threats. You have zero leverage as a single threat.
Double threats and triple threats are the job candidates that employers want to hire.
So, if you’re reading this and complaining about your job prospects, ask yourself this question:
What kind of threat are you? How can you increase your value by increasing your threat level? In today’s market we are no longer safe staying comfortable at single threat levels.
I hate it when people say “It’s all about who you know.”
Yes, it is true, but I’ve also seen people who are extremely well- connected and still struggle with their career. It’s mainly because those well connected folks, can’t clearly explain their value to their network.
So, instead of “It’s all about who you know,” it should be “It’s all about who knows how I good I am at what I do,”
That’s what you should strive for when it comes to connections.
If you’re looking for more information regarding building a professional network, refer to the ultimate guide to building a professional network.
I can’t count the number of times I looked someone up on LinkedIn and then met them in real life for the first time, and they were the exact opposite of their LinkedIn profile.
They looked different, what they actually did for a living was much different than they put in their profile.
Your profile needs to be aligned with who you are in real life. It should be the most up to date version of who you are and what you’re doing, that any given day when a person glances at it they find the same information as they would if they met you for an update over coffee that day.
If you’re looking for more information on how to create an amazing LinkedIn profile, take a look at this guide.
Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation. [wikipedia]
Take a look at these statistics when it comes to how we purchase things:
The same applies to hiring. Do you know how much easier it is to get a new job if you’ve ever worked at Google, Facebook or Apple? Every company will assume if that you are good enough for Google, you’re good enough for them. So, working for a brand name company early in your career IS social proof.
There are also a few things you can leverage as social proof. Here’s a small list of social proof that you can utilize:
It is important that others see you being validated by others. You can do this without bragging, trust me. There are several areas on your LinkedIn profile that you can include these validations without looking like you are bragging.
Ok, so you have confidence and leverage and now you want to kick some ass during the negotiation? No problem, here’s how.
There are too many books written on negotiation strategies. Some are extremely helpful and I’ve linked a few of my favorites at the bottom of this section.
With that said, I’m going to dive into the most common tactics that can help you maximize your compensation.
Let’s do a quick recap.
Here’s what comes next.
Maximize Tip #1 – Start High and Know your ZOPA (Zone of Possible Agreement).
The more information you know about what their upper limit is, the better off you are.
Here’s a video I did about this exact topic that goes into deeper detail.
Maximize Tip #2 – Negotiate to a better job title, thus increasing your salary by default.
So, you think you’ve reached their maximum salary limit for your job description? One thing that I’ve done with great success is to start my interviews by asking about the job title above the one they are interviewing me for.
You have to be careful with this, but in some circumstances this makes perfect sense.
So, let’s say the proposed job title is Level 8 Consultant. I would push for a Level 9 Consultant. I did that once and I was able to raise my salary by 35% by just moving up the ladder.
Maximize Tip #3 – Avoid negotiation over email as much as possible.
Want to make a counter-offer? Get on the phone and say it over the phone. Avoid email like the plague.
Several reasons why I recommend this:
Maximize Tip #4 – You can negotiate more than compensation.
Vacation, your work schedule, your work location are the most common items you can and should negotiate.
My only recommendation for this is to really understand what is and isn’t possible to negotiate. This can definitely work out with your favor when base compensation is not available.
Maximize Tip #5 – When someone tells you “We’ll talk about this after you join,” assume you’ll never get it.
You know when someone says, “Well, this is something we can consider in 6 months.”
Sure, that’s a great gesture, but my answer usually is “Why not now?”
I would also set the expectation to yourself that you’re never going to get it in 6 months. Too many things change in 6 months and it will almost never be in your favor. I know that’s cynical, but you should always protect yourself first, because the company certainly is only focused on their own gains. Why shouldn’t you be?
Maximize Tip #6 – Negotiate with the hiring manager, not the recruiter or Human Resources
I know this isn’t always possible, but when given the opportunity, you should push the negotiation conversation to the hiring manager. The recruiter’s main job is to get you to accept the offer letter at the lowest fair compensation possible. They aren’t trying to screw you, but they’re not trying to get you the highest compensation either. They weren’t in every single interview and have a limited view on what your true value is to the company.
The core to negotiation is to understand your value to the company. The hiring manager has a better idea of what your value to the company is than the recruiter, so because of this, you’re able to push the limit a little higher than you would with the recruiter.
The recruiter often has a “max limit” that they can hire you at. They are instructed to not pass that limit unless instructed to by leadership. By dealing with the hiring manager and leadership directly, you can have an honest and transparent conversation about your value to the company and why you’re worth much more than the original offer.
You’ve done your best to prove your value and at the last second they send you to HR or Recruiting to extend the offer.
You can say “No,” and be respectful at the same time. Don’t get coerced into anything you don’t want to do. If you have a gut feeling something is wrong with the negotiations, walk away and don’t look back.
Get what you’re worth! I cannot emphasize this enough. Know what you deserve and go for it like your future depends on it– because it does. Don’t take anything less than what you’re worth.
When it comes to negotiation, I read or buy anything that Deepak Malhotra offers. He’s a Harvard professor focused on negotiation. Here are two books and a video I recommend you buy if you want to go deeper into negotiation, not just salary negotiation.
Negotiate the Impossible
Deepak Harvard Negotiation Speech
Salary Negotiation Guide by Josh Doody. I found this to be an excellent salary negotiation resource, especially for software developers.
PS: Read the only resignation letter template you’ll ever need.
So, I decided to share the good, the bad and the ugly. I think you’ll enjoy it.
I created 3 sections:
Each section is split into multiple sections: Good, Bad, Ugly & Lessons Learned.
I’m going to start with travel because the rest of this piece is in context to travel.
It was a dream of mine to move to Thailand for an extended period of time. I talked about it for a long time, but I never really had the financial means to do it.
In June 2016, it happened.
Me, my wife and my 2-year-old daughter packed our bags, rented out our apartment in Chicago, moved out of my office, took my 2-year-old daughter out of daycare, and my wife quit her job.
Over the period of 6 months, we went to the Middle East (Palestine, West Bank), Thailand , Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, China & Japan.
2016 was one of the best and worst years for FMIBY. The first half of 2016 was dedicated purely to launching products. It was good that I launched them, but then bad because I started too much in a little time. I overextended myself.
Do you know the quickest way to test the strength of your marriage? Tell your wife she has to quit her job to travel the world and oh by the way we’re bringing our two-year-old with us.
Traveling with a spouse is easy. Traveling with a spouse and a 2-year-old child who quite literally does not care about how comfortable you are is super duper hard.
(I’m not trying to gain any sympathy here with this either. What I did was a trip of a lifetime. But, a two-year-old makes you question your sanity sometimes! )
Here’s my plan:
Thank you for listening!
You’ll be hearing from me soon. I’m just not going to tell you exactly when 🙂
PS: Read the only resignation letter template you’ll ever need.