Negotiating a salary without comparative data points
July 19, 2014 10:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm renegotiating my salary next week in a consulting startup but don't have much to go on in terms of being able to compare to similar jobs because the industry is rather niche and growing fast. How would you go about calculating a fair request with very little information?

Next week I'll be entering a salary renegotiation with my employers - it will be at my 3-month mark, as laid out in my employment contract. I was hired for one position and was going to be promoted at the end of the three months; instead I was promoted on day 3 (things move quickly in a startup).

I work in a management consulting firm in a fast-growing industry (health and safety related) that serves the Oil and Gas sector in a wealthy city in Canada. The industry is strong and due to government regulations is an absolutely solid career moving forward, not just in Oil and Gas but in the municipal and federal sectors as well.

I have four years of tangentially related experience in the overarching field but no experience in this particular facet. I like my work and my employers and have the potential for a long and lucrative career in the industry. I am also very good at my job and easily the top performer in the company and know that I am considered a huge asset (though of course everyone's replaceable, it all depends on their price). I delivered a major time-sensitive project in my first six weeks that a high-paid consultant wasn't able to make progress on in three months and am now in charge of all projects for our top two clients. I work out of one client's office one day a week and am on track to take on client training in addition to my projects.

The reason I applied for the lower position (Executive Admin, which I did for one day) was that due to a complicated divorce and long-distance move I was struggling to find work in a timeframe that wouldn't leave me unable to pay my bills - when I got the job I was a month away from not being able to pay rent or car payments, and the hiring processes I was going through weren't moving fast enough for me to stay afloat. So I dumbed down my resume, got the job, and was immediately told I was on track to go to the higher, unadvertised position.

So here I am, nearly three months later, in a good position to renegotiate my salary. And I'm trying to determine what I should ask for. Because this is such a newly growing field, I was only able to find one listing on Glassdoor with my title. The salary range for that position was $71K to $80K plus full benefits with three years desired experience, posted by a recruiting firm. My current employer has not yet set up a benefits package but they do provide a small allowance (under $200/mo.). For a frame of reference, current starting salary for the original position was $50K and they bumped that to $53K right away and put the renegotiation in my contract because we would figure out my exact title and position in the following weeks. We are all aware that the position I have taken on is worth considerably more, but I was content to work at the salary they originally offered so that I could be given a chance to really prove myself before the renegotiation date.

How do I go into this negotiation? I'm not able to ask others in the field about their own salaries - everyone else is the competition and I haven't encountered any in the city yet, as I'm quite new. The job itself has some elements of project management but isn't straight PM, so looking on Glassdoor for those positions doesn't seem like the right comparison. So how would I break down this position into the "only 3 months but with related experience" down from the three years experience in that posted salary to arrive at a reasonable one for myself? And is there a solid calculation for an average benefits package in Canada? I'd like to go into the meeting with a reasonable request that combines the salary with the benefits package I'm not receiving, but also acknowledging that the experience I'm getting will be a huge career move and that my employers, as a small business (husband and wife team, with ten employees), can't yet fully afford to compete with the big companies? And that I both want to stay at this company and need to show that I know that I have room to grow and improve, and that I've also been given a major life-changing opportunity?
posted by mireille to Work & Money (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would call some recruiters and tell them your story and see if they can't give you some figures, or, alternatively, masquerade as someone looking for your job.
posted by rhizome at 11:14 AM on July 19, 2014

I would aim high. If you're managing multiple projects for key clients, I think the absolute minimum job title to use in a salary comparison is "senior consultant", and my guess is that $80k will come out towards the low end on that (though my experience is in the US at larger firms). Remember that high-paid consultant who failed where you succeeded? Why would you be worth less money than he is?

In consulting, it's important to remember that you have a lot more leverage in salary negotiations than employees in many other industries, because really the entire product being sold is your labor; when a company makes widgets, their factory can't decide to go produce for a competitor, but you sure can. I'm not saying you need to reference this directly - it's an implicit fact that anybody that runs a consulting firm already understands if they want to stay in business, and is the reason salaries in consulting are so high. Do be prepared in salary negotiations to discuss how much revenue you're responsible for managing and delivering for the firm, which is a key measure of how valuable you are to them.

I'm not saying you should go in there trying to screw them over - they've given you a great opportunity and it's quite appropriate to feel gratitude and loyalty, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't ask for what you're worth. If you lowball yourself now and find yourself a couple years down the line managing people who make more money than you do, that's no good for anyone and will probably make you more likely in the long run to leave.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 11:23 AM on July 19, 2014

The two primary factors in a salary are what you could get if you go somewhere else and what the employer would have to pay someone else.

You're lacking good data on this exact job but you know better than us what the nature of the skill set is. What jobs in similar fields could you do, and therefor what similar people exist who could take the job? What would those yield.

How populous is the field? If you're in PR right now, for example, you have a large cadre of journalism people who may have had very similar communications educations and who are unable to find journo jobs. So that depressed salaries. If you're a programmer there's more opportunities than qualified people to take the gig. You need to have an idea of how easy it is to put someone else in the role.

Your opposite side may have as much trouble figuring this out as you do. Personally I think there's nothing wrong with just putting all these cards on the table in the negotiation. A smart employer who wants to keep you doesn't want to make a short term "win" on money if you'll just be pissed off and bail in six months.

You'll have to decide for yourself if they are a smart employer.
posted by phearlez at 12:15 PM on July 19, 2014

crowdsource it!
posted by jewzilla at 9:59 AM on July 20, 2014

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