Here’s what you need to know to negotiate your next salary.
If you’re new to a position:
Negotiate with the right mindset
You never have more leverage over negotiating your salary than when a firm first hires you. Use this to your advantage and use the opportunity to negotiate your salary.
Often, new patent practitioners or patent attorneys are so happy to have a job offer that they accept whatever salary their employer offers them. Typically, employers of law firms pitch a lower salary because they expect you to ask for more money. So, failing to negotiate a higher salary leaves you with money you could have easily acquired if you simply asked for it.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate. The firm hired you for a reason and you both want to be financially happy for effective long-term employment.
Know how much you’re worth
In order to negotiate efficiently, you have to know what you’re actually worth before you accept a job offer. Take stock of your skills and experience and see what they’re worth in the marketplace. If you don’t know what you’re worth, then you don’t know what salary to ask for (and thus the salary you won’t get). Google is your friend, revealing the salaries of other patent practitioners with your credentials. Just know that you’ll usually get averages on these websites, but you’ll at least know what general range to be in depending on your own situation.
Do your research
Always know the range of salaries for a patent agent or attorney in your area well before the interview takes place. That way, you know whether the salary your employer offers you will be right for you.
Conversely, if your employer asks you for an amount, you want to offer one that’s not too large or small. A little research goes a long way in finding the right salary for you.
For example, a patent attorney salary in Ohio ranges from $81,000–$89,000, whereas in New Mexico it’s slightly lower from $77,000–$84,000. Salaries will range depending on what city and country you’re in.
Let the employer offer the number
Imagine you’re at a flea market and spot a nice antique fountain pen (or something else you like). You go to the booth owner and offer a price. They’re ecstatic and immediately ring up your purchase. What you don’t know is that, after researching the pen’s price, you just offered a significantly higher number than what the booth owner probably would have asked for.
This is why you should never be the first to suggest a salary that law firms may offer you. Even if your research suggests that someone with your qualifications should get $70,000, your employer might like you so much that they’ll offer a significantly higher salary. You never know, so don’t blow your chances of the highest possible salary you can get.
Be prepared for an insufficient offer
Your employer may not offer a salary that fits in your ideal range but above what you need to survive. This puts you in a tough spot: do you accept the position even though you’re not completely happy with the salary? What if there’s no room for growth?
Consider any other job offers you’ve received or other opportunities in your midst. You don’t have to accept a job just because it’s in front of you. If anything, saying no to a position might make the company more inclined to offer better financial packages to make you say yes. At the end of the day, though, do what is best for your situation.
Let them sweat a little bit
Let’s say your employer offered you the perfect salary in the negotiation. Instead of jumping for joy and kissing their feet, calmly tell them you will consider their offer and get back to them within a certain amount of time. This shows you take yourself seriously and value your skills and experience. Besides, taking a few days to accept their offer may prompt the employer to throw in a few more financial packages your way.
If you want to negotiate your salary in your current position:
Ask for a performance review
That is, of course, if you don’t already have yearly reviews. Ask your boss to meet with you, not about a raise, but about how well you’ve been doing. If you can prove you’ve been a diligent worker who’s been improving the company, your boss may agree to some of your requests. Just make sure you and your employer agree that you do, in fact, deserve a raise.
If your boss agrees, then they’ll probably have to take the new salary request up to someone with more authority. You’ll have to wait a few weeks, but this time period is crucial. Don’t let your performance slip just because you’ve finally gotten the raise you’ve been wanting.
Just know that a raise may not necessarily come with a higher salary. Your firm may offer you more paid vacations or schedule flexibility rather than more money. In any case, be sure to find a compromise with your employer, using phrases like “finding solutions that work for both of us.” It’s a synergistic process.
Be prepared for rejection
If your requests for a better financial package are denied, there are still non-monetary amenities to ask for. Your employer may be able to give you a better parking space or a new computer, or something else that improves your comfort in the company.
In any case:
The company isn’t entitled to give you everything you ask for and, no matter how much experience you have as a patent practitioner, you can’t ask for everything you want. There will always be something off the table and you must respect that. Perhaps with enough hard work put in, you can achieve a better financial package in the future.
Place the highest value on the job
Yes, you’re getting paid, but what else are you getting? Improved skills, broadened network, resume building, all these things don’t come with price tags. After looking at the big picture and seeing everything you’re getting with a job, you may decide that a lower salary may be worth it.