Top 5 tips for commanding a higher salary

By Robert Half on 10th May 2017

Do you feel as if you're failing to maximise your earning capacity? If you're working in a complex, challenging role, and adding significant value to your employer, ask yourself if you should be getting a higher salary for your efforts?

Professionals have every right to query pay, and to consider whether they are deserving of higher salary and an improved benefits package. Across the UK, many thousands - potentially even millions - of skilled and experienced workers are earning less than they potentially could be. You can check if you're being paid what you're worth with by downloading the Salary Guide.

Whether due to complacency, an unwillingness to push themselves, or a fear of raising salary issues with their employer, individuals are settling for less than their true market worth. And as cost of living continues to rise in the UK, this could be impacting on their overall quality of life.

The question is, how can you go about boosting your earning capacity? Professionals have a number of options - some of which require short-term action, and some a long-term commitment to bringing about change.

Each individual is in a different position, depending on the role they work in, their level of skill and experience, their location and the organisation they work for. But in general, there are a number of tips that can help you get that higher salary:

  • Negotiate a higher salary with your current employer

This is arguably the simplest way of boosting your income, since there may be no need to take any disruptive course of action. However, since it involves directly asking your employer for more money, this can be one of the most daunting to many people.

If you feel your employer is failing to recognise the contribution you make through the salary you are paid, then speak to your manager about this. Having a frank, open discussion about career development and wage expectations could lead to an improved offer being made.

This all depends on how much your current employer values you and the services you provide. If you are considered a top talent - somebody who is indispensable to the organisation - the chances are a revised pay offer will be forthcoming if you hint that you may be looking for another job elsewhere. Your employer will be eager to keep you, and such, you may be able to secure a pay rise - with or without extra responsibilities.

However, if you are failing to perform in your job as expected, or your employer believes you will be easy - and inexpensive - to replace, you may not be able to negotiate. Where employers are unsure about the return on investment, they may take the chance that you choose to leave.

If you are going to negotiate with your existing employer on pay, make sure you prepare a strong case for a salary rise before raising the subject. You need to develop a well-formed argument as to why you deserve more money, and be able to cite examples of your achievements. Essentially, your employer will want you to tell them why you are special - even if they already know the answer.


  • Change jobs

Getting a new job can enable you to increase your earning capacity, particularly if your existing employer's salaries are not particularly competitive. Consulting the Robert Half Salary Guide will offer some indication as to what level of pay you can expect on average in particular parts of the country.

If your existing wage is at the lower end of the salary band for your role and grade of employment, then on the balance of probabilities, you may receive a better offer by moving. But if you are already earning above the industry average, some employers will be unable or unwilling to match this level of remuneration.

Typically, a hiring organisation will try to offer their preferred candidate at least as much money as they are currently earning, if not more. But if your salary expectations far exceed what the employer is looking to pay, it may well be that they turn their attention to other candidates.

Benchmarking your current strategy - and establishing where you sit on the pay scale - will help inform your job search. In some cases, employers will advertise the salary with the role, allowing you to steer clear of jobs which are unlikely to meet your salary expectations. Additionally, working with a recruiter will help you match your job and salary expectations with roles that will be well suited your level of experience and desired opportunity.

  • Work in a role that can command a higher salary

The Robert Half Salary Guide reveals which skills are in particular demand, and how this is impacting on average levels of pay. Where employers are unable to attract professionals with the skills and experience they require, they will usually be willing to pay more. Often, organisations need to pay a premium as they compete in a 'war for talent' with rival operators.

The upshot is that, where candidate demand exceeds supply, salary inflation occurs. Professionals working in niche, in-demand roles have the opportunity to pick and choose their new job - or interim placements - and negotiate more attractive remuneration packages than before.

Depending on the skills you have, and level of experience in a particular field, it may be possible for you to target a number of different positions. For instance, an IT programmer or developer with generic skills could choose to work in various industry roles - and it makes sense for them to target positions where there is a skills shortage. Not only are they more likely to succeed at interview, due to the relative lack of competition, but they may able be able to prise a higher wage offer from the hiring manager.

  • Get a job in London or the south-east

One way to almost guarantee a higher wage offer is to target roles based in London and the south-east of England. Professional roles in the capital typically pay around a third more than those in the north of England, Scotland and Wales, meaning there is scope for an immediate earnings boost.

Obviously, the higher cost of living and tax will eat away at these additional earnings, but this depends on each individual scenario. Professionals who already own a property, or do not need to commute to work, will not have such a high level of expenditure. As such, they may be better off as a result of working in the capital.

One possible benefit of working in London is that, in the future, should you choose to move back to the regions, new employers may offer a higher salary which matches - or near matches - your London wage. As ever, this will depend on how eager they are to recruit you, and how effective your salary negotiation skills are.

  • Invest in professional development

Longer term, the obvious way to boost your earning capacity and earn a higher salary is to invest in your own career development. This means updating your skills where possible, gaining qualifications and accreditations - and generally keeping 'on the pulse' in your industry sector. You need to be engaged with everything that is going on - for instance, the latest developments, product launches, mergers and acquisitions, and regulatory changes - and be able to put theory into practice.

In many roles, career development puts you on a natural path to promotion - which can lead to future opportunities internally as well as externally. The higher you go within your organisation, the more you are likely to earn. And if there are no opportunities for progression with your current employer, there is bound to be another organisation willing to give you a chance at the next level up - particularly if your CV demonstrates dedication and expertise in your chosen professional.

Think about ways you can position yourself as an expert in your industry. As well as taking on extra responsibilities at work, and engaging with industry bodies and cross-sector groups, you can use the internet to create a strong personal brand. Blogs, social media comment, journals and other thought leadership pieces - those which add value to wider debate within your field - can help you build your profile. If you know your stuff and demonstrate the capacity for creative thought, other employers may take notice. You could even find yourself headhunted for a new role - one which comes with a higher salary than that you are currently earning.

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