A few weeks ago, some close female friends and I jokingly toasted that we were now working for free until 2018 because of the gender pay gap. Unsurprisingly to every woman I know, our situation hasn't improved for some three years, and indeed it looks bleaker the more you read into it. In 2017, male full-time workers earn an average 9.1% more than women. An almost 10% gap. In 2017.

Corporate culture and indeed, even working for yourself, can breed a strange silence culture around pay, money and transparency - but today's post is written to say fuck that. Wherever your working and however your skills are being used, valuing your time and effort is not a taboo subject, or a tricky conversation. In this day and age, and particularly for women, defining what you are worth from the outset is crucial to not only your happiness career-wise, but also to your future success and opportunities. And make no mistake about it - that is what a salary conversation is. It is a representation of your worth. So there is absolutely no need or obligation on you to shy away from it - quite the opposite in fact.

I've just had to renegotiate myself and it can sometimes be a very ugly, sticky process. From a purely standard transaction of back-and-forth and sticking points, to more ugly encounters where manipulation and guilting can sometimes come into play - I've gone through a really wide range of salary talks, and I thought it might be useful to share some of the things I've learned along the way with you.

BEFORE ANYTHING, SET YOUR BASE LINE: When coming out of any interview, I ask myself honestly what the lowest salary is that I'm prepared to do the job for. I set that as my base line figure, and decide then and there that any offers lower than this will be met with a polite refusal from me. This is perspective that you gain through experience and having worked for a few different kinds of managers, but you'll quickly learn that a job is a job, and valuing yourself and your time is worth a hell of a lot more than punching in and out of a job you hate for less money than you should be accepting.

To set this figure, factor in the lowest amount you require a month to live (rent, bills, expenses etc.), any relocation costs if you are moving for the job, and then how much the job will add to your portfolio or CV. Always remember that interviews are as much for you assessing how well the company suits your personality and life, as they are for the company to see your fit for them.

ALWAYS AIM HIGH: This might seem counter-intuitive, but I live by 'eyes on the stars, feet on the ground' - when stating your salary expectations, always hit somewhere around the upper limit for what you believe the job to be worth. The chances are, in today's climate, that you'll be low-balled at the outset of negotiations, so having a stance where the halfway point is still acceptable to you puts you in a much stronger position, or so I've found.

MAKE A CASE: That being said, you can't just pluck a figure out of thin air - do your homework. Sites like Glassdoor enable you to get a good handle on industry averages, local averages and to see where your company stands amongst its competitors in terms of pay and fair treatment of staff. It also helps to weigh your experience into this figuring - if you're entering a job role with three to five years experience behind you, your cost is going to be higher than someone coming fresh out of university - don't apologise for this. If a company or client desire you and your expertise, they should be prepared to pay what's appropriate for your work.

USE POSITIVE LANGUAGE: How you frame a discussion around salary can be so crucial - very often, you'll be having this discussion with an HR or Finance representative rather than your future boss-to-be, and these are people who have these kinds of conversations every day. There's no need to be apologetic or overly saccharine - I've found phrases like: 'This offer is below what I was expecting - as stated at interview, my expectation was around this figure. Can we work together to find a compromise that reflects my skills and experience and fits the pay grading of this role?' You never want to dwell too long on the negative - things like compromise, working together, finding a halfway, help to guide the conversation in a more constructive direction.

BUT DON'T BACK DOWN: I received an offer once that was some £6000 off where it needed to be. That's quite a gap to close, and no amount of compromise was going to bring them near enough to what I expected. When you find yourself facing that kind of gulf or feeling defeated at a really low-ball offer, be upfront and polite: 'The lowest figure I would be prepared to accept this offer at is xx.' Going in with this strategy does leave you open to a rock and a hard place situation where you've stuck to your guns and might have to turn down an offer, but if you feel in your gut that the offer they've made is massively unfair, sometimes it's the best way to get through.

AND FINALLY: You are almost always worth more than even you know, and definitely worth more than a figure someone will assign to you. Salary negotiations should make you feel excited, valued and great about accepting an offer of work, and not dissatisfied, guilty and downtrodden before you've even begun. If a company or person aren't willing to treat you well during negotiation time, chances are they'll be painful to work with moving forward. Trust your gut, trust your skills and your worth, and be confident in what you ask for. You'll nail it!

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