Salary Negotiation Challenges and Strategies for Immigrants

Salary negotiation is easy, said no one.  It is even more challenging for immigrants who are struggling to adjust to their new environment, prove their worth, and gain back their confidence.  But through research, strategies, and preparation, you can successfully negotiate your salary.

In this post, I will talk about 3 things:

  • The reasons why it is more difficult for immigrants to enter salary negotiations,
  • General salary negotiation tips, and
  • What I did to successfully negotiate a salary increase.

Note: This post focuses on negotiations for salary increases but can be used for initial salary negotiations as well.

Negotiation Skills Can Be Learned

Reason Why Salary Negotiations Are Difficult for Immigrants

Career consultants continuously advocate negotiating for salary or benefits.  However, many people find their negotiation skills lacking.  Plus, additional challenges present themselves to immigrants. 

Adam Galinsky Talks ABout Range of Acceptable Behavior, Power, and Factors That Influence Our Power

Let us analyze the salary negotiation barriers to immigrants using Adam Galinsky’s TEDtalk on How to Speak Up for Yourself. He mentions that each of us has a range of acceptable behavior.  This range is dynamic and is determined largely by our power.  In turn, power is influenced by several factors:

  • Presence of options.  If we have other employment alternatives, we go into negotiations with confidence.  But not many immigrants have multiple attractive job options.
  • Being new to a country or organization. People who have already proven their worth in their current work environment may have greater power.  But immigrants are often plagued with the need for Canadian experience.
  • Level of investment in a relationship. Organizations value employees with rare skillsets.  However, in today’s economy, keeping businesses afloat is difficult and so is giving a huge raise.

These factors influence our power and range of acceptable behavior when we go into salary negotiations.  Although immigrants seem to be at a disadvantage, there are strategies that can help enhance our negotiating powers.

Missed Salary Negotiations Result in Compounded Loss of Potential Income
Missed Salary Negotiations Result in Compounded Loss of Potential Income

Salary Negotiation Tips

  • Establish your worth.  Show them what you’ve got early on.  Find the line between bragging and getting recognized for your skills, knowledge, and hard work.  Now is not the best time to be humble.
  • Keep track of your accomplishments.  Use numbers to substantiate your successes whenever possible.
  • Do your research. Job search sites such as Glassdoor and PayScale are great starting points in finding out salaries for similar positions in your industry and location. 
  • Understand the manager’s limitations.  Managers may want to give you the desired salary. But, their decision is influenced by the company policy, salary structure, and financial health.
  • Make a script and practice.  Analyze your ask from the employer’s perspective. Emphasize the value you can bring to the company. Ask in a way that is firm but respectful.
Successful Salary Negotiations Can Influence Your Job Satisfaction, Lifestyle and Quality of Life
Successful Salary Negotiations Can Influence Your Job Satisfaction, Lifestyle, and Quality of Life

Personal Experience in Successfully Negotiating a Salary Increase

I successfully negotiated my salary early in my career in Canada

I imagined myself squirming in my seat feeling awkward and stressed.  But if I don’t give it a try, I will always berate myself for the compounded income loss.  I knew that salary increases and bonuses are a percentage of the current pay.  Moreover, I knew that I deserved what I will ask for.

Of course, I was uncertain.  I knew that I will be negotiating with little power.  First, I didn’t have job options.  Second, I was new to the company and the country.  Lastly, I liked my job and company. 

So what did I do?

Show how I performed above and beyond expectations. Before the meeting, I reviewed my job description and made a list of how I fulfilled each expectation.    

Do labor market research. I looked for comparable jobs in similar industries in our area to know the current pay scale.  My research gave me a wide range of numbers, so I presented those that were on the higher end.  This gave me a bit of wiggle room for negotiations.

Made a script.  I did not ask for a higher salary increase.   Instead, I asked for a job evaluation in light of the labor market.  I chose this strategy for several reasons.  First, any reasonable HR practitioner will not refuse this request or make the company appear to be below labor standards.  Second, I will preserve my relationship with my employer because there is no overbearing pressure from me.  Third, they will have an option of modifying my responsibilities or benefits at par with the jobs I have shared. 

After a week, I found out that my strategy worked!

Salary negotiations are difficult for most people, especially for immigrants.  But a bit of research, strategizing, and preparation will ensure that we walk away from the negotiation table with satisfaction.

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