How to negotiate your salary as a developer
Developer Careers Eyal Matzkel
Salary is one of the biggest taboo topics in work environments. Developers, like other employees, want to know whether they’re getting paid well enough, how they rank compared to their peers, and whether they could be getting more somewhere else. Yet, people have a hard time asking for a raise – in fact, “how to ask for a raise” is one of the highest ranking “how to” questions on Google.
The war for talented developers is no secret. According to the European Commission, the current shortage of coding ability in Europe could result in a deficit of up to 900,000 ICT professionals by 2020. But when looking at compensation, it’s important to appreciate it as a whole. Some companies reward in more than just the salary - with prestige, equity or benefits. The following are some tips which will give clarity to your renegotiations.
Understand how the market determines salaries
There is no global definition for how much each person is worth, but there are ways to learn the market. In any given time there are global trends that influence what filling a specific position is worth for a company. Factors to consider include:
• Geographic location and the cost of living there
• The demand for your skillset and the number of people to fill it
• Tech trends, such as the popularity of new technologies
Use the tools of a HR-manager
It may come as a surprise to an employee that HR professionals can face the same struggles when defining a budget for the position. There are tools that exist for this matter, and as a talent you’ll need to think like a recruiter in order to know your worth. It’s very common for companies to subscribe to services that give their HR department access to average salaries for many positions, and any HR manager from your industry could help in understanding your worth. It can help to gain access to HR-oriented salary surveys – if you aren’t a HR manager yourself, try and ask one. This is especially true as companies rely on the same surveys to budget for positions.
Review job boards for similar positions
Tech trends shift every day and if you’re reading blogs and following the news you should already be aware of most. By reviewing job boards periodically you could also get a feel for the demand in different areas. Also try tools such as Google Trends to keep an eye on the rise and fall of your favorite technology.
Understand that titles do matter
In many cases your title will not fully explain what you do; general titles such as “Architect” or “Software Engineer” might not fully cover it. Be sure to learn what title is the most accurate for your job. Establishing your title will allow you to better focus your salary research and tailor your online profile and CV.
Break down your tasks to reflect your title
Sometimes you’ll you do more than just one thing. This is especially true with smaller start-ups and companies that encourage initiative. When you don’t fit one title I have found that the best way to define yourself is to break it down.
Let’s say that you’re a Support Engineer, but you also spend some time developing tools and writing code, performing some professional services when it’s needed. It would be a shame to avoid including this into your salary calculations, so assuming development takes about 15-20% of your time, just add this to an average. Your salary could be defined as 80% the average of a Support Engineer plus the 20% of a developer. Your CV should reflect both aspects as well. By breaking it down you can not only explain your worth to yourself, but also to your manager when you’ll be asking for a raise.
Come prepared to the negotiation table
Each company has their own mentality and principles, and some will have a policy of not changing salaries mid-year. This doesn’t mean that you should wait long months to discuss your salary. The key to raising the topic is doing a lot of preparation work. You will want to argue that you are worth what you’re asking for - naturally this puts pleading or threatening out of the question.
• Set a one-on-one meeting with your manager
• Present all the good work you’ve been doing
• Support this by explaining that your salary should reflect all aspects of your work
• Don’t be afraid to support this with numbers
Stay active with new opportunities
Always stay aware of what you’re worth. Even if you are not actively looking - it’s good to periodically open your ears to job offers and advancement opportunities. Apply to a couple of places if you see your “dream job” coming up - by staying active and out there you’ll always be updated with hiring trends, and most importantly, if it gets to a point where you get an offer from another company, you’ll know exactly what you’re worth. This is the best position to be in when negotiating your salary. When someone else offers to pay you more, it will take most of the sting out of discussing a raise, and will give your company incentive to match the offer.
Take care of your salary and put the topic aside
Ironically, the bottom line is that there are other things that are equally or more important than your salary at work. This is exactly why it’s important to take care of your salary and put the topic aside. It takes only half an hour to formulate your work and figure out your average pay. It would take another couple of hours every year to maintain your CV and keep an eye out for advancement opportunities. Invest this time so that you’ll be free to focus on what really matters - being good, staying happy and sharp, and doing awesome work with wonderful people.
If you are interested in what you could earn as a developer in Berlin, try out Honeypot’s developer calculator.
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