Here’s how to negotiate your way to a higher salary

These four expert tips will have you get more money in no time. Work your way to a better salary with the help of Brian Barr, assistant director of career development at George Mason University.

cartoon hands in the air for money
© siraanamwong /

Whether you’re starting your first job or looking for a raise well into your career, these tips from Brian Barr, assistant director of career development at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, will help you negotiate your way to a higher salary.

Do Your Research

Before you can give a target figure to an employer, make sure you know what the average salary is for your industry. LinkedIn, and all have helpful information. “Not doing research to see what other people in your same position are being paid is one of the big mistakes people make before going into a salary negotiation,” says Barr.

Aim Higher

If you’re asking for a raise, Barr says the general rule is to ask for 5% above your current salary. “You have to know your worth,” he says. Be sure and revisit your original job description as well, he says, so you can note if your responsibilities have expanded.

Make It About the Company

Yes, this is an expensive region, but bosses don’t care about your personal obligations. “Negotiating for higher pay is not based on personal qualities, like, ‘I need more because I just got my kid entered into high school or I just put a mortgage down on a new house,’” Barr says. “It’s more about what do you bring to an organization. Not to be blunt, but what does an organization care about your private life? Instead, tell them things like, ‘I bring a logical understanding of a specific programming system,’ or ‘I have done this research before,’ or ‘I have written these articles.’ All those different things increase your own personal stock value. Those are the things that tend to increase your salary ask rather than personal life situations.”

Speak Up

It’s OK to talk money. “Salary range is always the most terrifying question to be asked in any interview,” Barr says. “But it’s a totally valid question.” But, again, make sure you’ve done your research so you don’t inadvertently undercut your potential salary.

This post originally appeared in our December 2019 issue as part of the “State of the Salary” cover story. For more cultural reads, subscribe to our newsletters.

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