How to negotiate a pay rise

Want a pay rise? Company car? Corner office? Jason Mountney asks the industry’s top negotiators how you can broker the best deals without having them on speed dial.

You know why you deserve an extra 10 grand on your base salary, a no-questions-asked expense account, that schmick corner office with a water view, a new company-paid Beamer to impress impressionable clients, an annual trip to Vegas for a conference, the ability to work from home on Mondays and every Friday afternoon off to ‘liaise’ with sources and customers at the pub.

But how can you convince the person about to hire you to sweeten their offer? Or how can you butter up an existing boss who has been oblivious to your incredible talents during the past three pay reviews?

Markson: A mistake people make during negotiations is to talk

Celebrity agent Max Markson talks money for a living. The brash Englishman went from representing three medium-profile sportsmen – Jeff Fenech, Greg Matthews and Wally Masur – to running a talent agency that has brought former US presidents and Danish royalty to Australia. In addition to organising big-name celebrity visits to the country, Markson brags he “can make anyone famous” and has certainly extracted publicity and hefty appearance fees from people with a pretty questionable entitlement to fame – yes Corey Worthington and the chk-chk-boom girl, we’re talking about you.

Despite his reputation for an upfront manner, Markson recommends reticence when twisting a boss’s arm. He says getting a better deal often involves putting the onus on the potential employer or client to do all the talking.

“One of the key mistakes people make during negotiations is to talk,” he says. “Say what you want, then shut up. He who breaks the silence, loses. If you want $50,000, say ‘I want $50,000…’

“Don’t then start talking about why you deserve the money and things like that. They have to answer you. The other key point is to start high – you can always come down.”

If you do walk away, Markson says, it is important that everyone leaves the negotiating table happy. After all, you may have to deal with them again – particularly good advice for the incestuous media and entertainment industry. “Never burn bridges,” he says. “You can always come back. They should leave thinking ‘that was a great deal’. You could have a lifetime of work ahead with these people.”

Uncomfortable talking cash with a complete stranger? Tough luck. Belinda Kerr, of media recruitment company ICUR, says there was once an understanding that money would not be discussed until a second interview.

“That’s old hat,” she says. “You need to know what’s on the table.” And if there is no more money to be extracted from your boss or potential employer, Kerr says there are extras worth asking for that won’t blow their wages bill and can make your package a little sweeter.

“Ask about things like training courses,” she says. “Or you can ask for flexible hours, the ability to work some of the time from home or get support for residency applications if you are from overseas.”

Tony Ladiges, of Melbourne’s Ynot talent agency, who represent actors such as TV regulars Steve Bastoni and Melanie Vallejo, as well as sports figures including boxer Sam Soliman, says: “Negotiations should never be dollar focused to begin with, especially when dealing with employment or endorsement-based contracts. Pitching too high can quickly overvalue you and remove you from contention. Negotiation isn’t about winning, it’s about structuring a workable relationship.”

Like Markson, Ladiges recommends trying to “meet at a point where both parties walk away content with the outcome”. Of course, there are some sectors of the industry where the laws of supply and demand are simply not in your favour. Kylie Connell, whose agency Misc represents many up-and-coming actors, says while actors and crew members have scope to push big-budget productions such as Baz Luhrmann films, for many smaller projects sometimes “you should just be happy you’re getting paid”.

“We do recommend you get everything in writing, though,” says Connell.


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