No matter if you’re an hourly or salaried, non-union or union nurse, you will ALWAYS be able to negotiate your salary. This is especially true if you have a year or more experience with any advanced certification or qualification.
In this series you will learn how to prevent years of missing out on higher wages by setting five goals to get you ready to negotiate your nurse salary. Before we get to these goals, let's establish our foundation.
Yay! A new nurse job!
Don’t do what I did.
I once interviewed for a non-union nursing position not long after finishing grad school. I was an experienced nurse in a new role with a new certification and eager to start using my new skills. When the interviewer asked me what salary I would accept, I said something like, ‘Well, I currently make $35 an hour so I need to match that.’ The person interviewing me practically jumped with excitement, while screeching, “Done!” and promptly ended our meeting.
I low-balled myself so much that the interviewer responded to my offer like an eager traveler who had just found an error sale on a flight to Greece. I knew immediately that I had made a mistake, but I didn’t know how to renege my low-ball offer for a job that I genuinely found interesting. I was offered the position by the end of the day and gratefully accepted it - with a lot of excitement too, I might add.
Even though I was tickled with my ability to rapidly secure a good job that I was interested in, I look back on this and realize this was an extremely rookie move. It affected me for the entirety of my work life in that position. How? Because when you agree on a starting salary, you have pre-determined your ability for financial advancement for your entire life within an organization because your new salary is the base of all future raises.
So as you’re preparing for your next interview, remember 3 things:
Your negotiation goals should be almost scandalous! They should raise the eyebrows of the interviewer and they shouldn't result in an an immediate deal. You will know your goals have brought you success if the person you're negotiating with asks for time to seriously consider if they can meet your request.
I’m already employed as a nurse and want to negotiate my current salary. What about me?
Oh dear, don’t you know I’ve been here too. The absolute easiest time to lock in your highest possible salary and benefit package is when you are interviewing for a new role or a new position. But if you’re like me and you low-ball offered yourself and gratefully accepted a role that you were more than happy to fill, now that you’ve become your future self, you have to ask yourself 2 things.
Even armed with all the data in the world, significant internal salary adjustments are next to impossible to come by. I once had a job where it was blatantly obvious my salary was well below the market rate. More specifically, I was working as a nurse practitioner but my pay had fallen below what I would’ve been making as a nurse on my union pay scale. I had data, spreadsheets and tables including how my salary increase across the years hadn’t kept up with the market minimums. I also had data showing that executives had prioritized their own 10% pay raise by the board of directors over the 2% raise granted to our provider team in the same years.
I brought all of this information to the president - yes, the one who was enjoying their 10% pay increase. The president asked me, “How much money do you make?” and when I told him, his response was simply, “That’s more than enough” and waived his hand dismissively in my direction. That was the end of that conversation with that organizational power-holder.
Later I took the issue up with the executive director. She did listen and was interested to see the data I had collected. She agreed that salaries needed to be raised (win!) but cautioned me that it wouldn’t happen for years since she would need to raise the issue and get approval from the president (you know where he stood on the issue) and the board of directors.
I stuck around for another year or two after that meeting. Another cost of living adjustment came that just covered the cost of our new insurance premium, but didn’t really help cover the sky-rocketing costs that came with living in the center of Seattle within walking distance of my work. I finally gave up waiting, and I put in my notice.
Oh, that was tough. I poured a lot of emotional energy into that negotiation that lasted years. After I leaving, I rapidly secured a new job and nearly doubled my salary using the same negotiation tactics that I'm preparing to share with you.
I tell you this story not to discourage you. I am sharing it with you to be realistic. If you are attempting to negotiate your salary while you are already doing the work for an organization, you are starting from a point of disadvantage. This kind of negotiation will take patience and determination. It will very likely include many failures and at times feel humiliating as you absorb notions from leadership that the work you put in isn’t worthy of a raise. Internal negotiations will test your patience since they will likely take years of work before you see success, if you ever see success at all.
So if you’re gearing up for an internal negotiation, ask yourself, and be brutally honest, ‘How hard am I ready to work for this? How long am I willing to wait? How will this impact my future self?’ Are you ok with your real answers to these questions? If so, good luck!
Your nurse super power for fearless salary negotiation
The very best way to bravely enter a salary negotiation is by being financially independent or having plenty of cash savings. Use my zero based budget cash flow sheet that I've perfected across 10 years of work to do this - it's in the Financial Vitals Kit. Why? Because when you feel financially secure and don’t feel a need to urgently make money, you don’t show up to an interview out of desperation or with any personal financial pressure.
Going to an interview with financial security on your side means that you show up because you have decided the work you will do is of interest to you and worthy of your time. You show up with the belief that you are offering a company something of high value. Out of mutual respect, you expect that a company will show up in a way that shows they value you too. And if they don’t, you emotionlessly walk away from the opportunity and continue looking for something worthy of your time and talents.
I understand that many of you who are reading this book won’t yet have achieved financial independence or have your emergency funds fully funded, and that’ s okay. I know by reading this series you are actively working on this. I have great confidence this security is in your future!! Until then, I am loaning you my financially secure confidence to take with you to your next negotiation. Take this confidence and work on these five goals:
In this series, I am helping you create a bulletproof plan using these 5 goals of Salary Negotiation for Nurses. Make sure to subscribe so you can get notification for all future series focused on helping nurses achieve financial independence, security, by investing for wealth. For even more benefit join our private and supportive group of Nurses Investing for Wealth on Facebook and follow for regular musings on Instagram.
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- Valuing Your Time & Skills
- Going Rate
- Your Salary Ask
- Emotionlessly Negotiate