Learning to negotiate. Insightful tips that will help you make a difference in your career.

Last week I led a discussion about negotiation with a group of 40 female employees at the City of Fort Collins. The topic was how to negotiate more effectively. It was an intriguing, inspiring conversation.

We started with a quick survey of how many in the room knew what they specifically wanted to negotiate for–different responsibilities, higher pay, a step up–and fewer than ten felt they had a clear idea. This, it turns out, is pretty typical. On average, about 70 percent of professionals have a difficult time articulating what they want to do next in their careers.

Often there’s the hope that their bosses will come to the rescue with ideas, as in, “You want to grow. I have some ideas for you.” Sometimes managers will have suggestions, but more often they’re juggling their own challenges, and may be short on recommendations. It’s far better to propose some possibilities to start the conversation, as in, “I really enjoyed helping with the monthly report. Could we find some ways for me to be more involved in that kind of activity?”

This same concept works when it comes to pay, also. To say, “I’ve researched the compensation range for this position, and see myself at this level based on my experience and performance. What can we do to close the gap between that amount and what I’m earning now?” is far more effective than saying, “I’m worth more. I want a raise.” Most workers aren’t aware of competitive pay for their specialties, and this kind of information can give you more leverage in attaining it. Check out www.careersonestop.org for data about your specialty.

Finally, we talked about aiming to succeed with small steps, rather than getting discouraged with overwhelming goals. Women are 4 times less likely to ask for a raise than are men. Build your negotiation muscles through smaller, more frequent asks. Challenge yourself to make requests of your manager a few times each week, on a variety of topics. It will make the act of negotiating for what you want more familiar, and ultimately, more likely to succeed.