Why Salary Isn’t the Only Important Part of a Compensation Package

You filled out a job application, went through a few rounds of interviews, and you’re this close to securing the new job. But there’s just one hurdle left—the dreaded salary conversation.

I get it: Talking about money is uncomfortable. You might be worried they’ll pass if you go too high, or you’ll regret it if you go too low. But how do you know when you’ve hit that sweet spot and are asking for just the right amount?

To answer that question, it helps to shift your mindset and think beyond dollars and cents.

By that, I mean that salary is just one aspect of the negotiation process. Compensation is multifaceted, and is more than just your annual take-home pay—it includes benefits like paid time off, working from home, and other valuable assets your employer can offer you.

When negotiating an offer, it’s crucial to look beyond just your salary requirement, not only because you can and should take advantage of the benefits a company offers, but those benefits may end up being invaluable should you not be able to negotiate for your ideal salary number.

Here’s what you need to know so that you can walk into any negotiation comfortably and walk out with not just a better salary, but a whole compensation package—perks and all.

It’s all about the research

To start, a successful negotiation begins before you even enter the building. You’ll want to research not just the average salary for the position on the market and what this particular company usually pays, but what benefits they typically offer, so that you can get an idea of what you’ll want to ask for in addition to your salary requirement. This is how you start imagining your compensation package, which will be important if the salary offered is below expectations (more on that later).

Luckily, there are many tools to help you with the research process. Use sites like Salary.com and Comparably to confirm how much people in your industry make; then move on to Glassdoor, where you can learn what the specific company you’re looking at pays and what benefits they offer or have been willing to give in the past.

Once you have your range in mind, you should think about the other aspects that count as part of your compensation package, like gym memberships, co-working space memberships, 401(k) matching, tuition reimbursement, student loan repayment, and more. When considering these and what you’re interested in asking for, it’s important to think about what you value, both in your career and more generally. If you have your eye on a degree program or a specific certification, for example, including tuition reimbursement in your compensation package might be the best move for your career and your wallet.

Finally, you should then take the information you gain from your online research and test it with your network to validate it. What I mean by that is—you should talk to people in your field, mentors, colleagues, and other people currently at the company you’re interviewing for (if you can swing it) to go beyond what is published on sites. While online information is a great starting point, the data provided is just ballpark figures, and doesn’t account for all the factors that make up a specific person’s market value. By working with your network, you can finesse what you’d ask for in a compensation package that approximates your current market value better than online estimates can.

Why compensation isn’t just a number

Which brings me to a very important point—why salary isn’t the only important part of the compensation package. While some companies have a strict budget and might not be able to meet your salary goal, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should turn down the job, especially if it’s one you really want.

When you’re negotiating and not getting the number you’re looking for, it helps to have your list of benefits and perks that can be included as part of your compensation package, as they can make up the difference where the salary falls short.

For example, let’s say that they’re offering $10,000 below your ideal salary. You can leverage a few things to make up for that $10,000 by redeeming it in the form of benefits and perks. Take a look at each perk in your ideal compensation package, such as more paid time off and flexible hours, and consider the value of each—AKA, do the math to see exactly how much each amounts to. This way, if the company is willing to offer you these other benefits, you can still hit your number when taking into account your total compensation package.

Compensation encompasses much more than just salary. It might feel scary to you to ask for more than just a higher salary, but in a negotiation, it’s important to remember that you have more power than you think. Most companies want to make sure you’re happy with what they’re offering you. That means that the entire process is a two-way street, and both parties want to arrive at a compensation package that works for you. So make your list, and negotiate for what you’ll want and need to feel valued at the next stage of your career—aside from salary amount.

Negotiating the right compensation package is a challenge, as is making sure you’re working toward your career goals effectively. SoFi members can get in touch with a SoFi career advisor today to help them make empowered decisions at every turn. Not a SoFi member? Head to SoFi.com to see how SoFi can help you.

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