Career

4 Things You Can Negotiate Before Taking Up a Job Offer

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Joanne Poh

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When you were at school, people tended to take everything the teachers and principal said as the gospel truth. So, the school doesn’t want to let you take Bio instead of Physics? The only way is to get your parents to come down and make an appeal.

But if you carry the same submissive attitude into the working world, you’re going to find yourself getting shortchanged again and again. When you enter into an employment contract, it’s an agreement that cuts both ways. Nobody is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to take up a job with terms you don’t agree with.

That also means that virtually anything on your contract is negotiable, no matter how small of a fry you think you are. I know someone who, at the tender age of 19, managed to bargain her intern pay from $400 up to $700.

While most people immediately think of salary when bargaining is mentioned, there are other terms that are also open to negotiation, such as the following.

 

Job title

SMEs can be unwilling to offer you a higher salary than what they’ve promised because of the whole “cheaper, better, faster” mantra they seem to go by. But it costs them nothing to give you a better job title. If you’ve retained the same job title for a number of years, you should definitely ask to be moved up a rank, at least in name.

Now, why bother taking on a loftier job title when you’re being paid the same amount, you might ask. Well, unless you’re planning to stay in that company forever, a better job title can hasten your climb up the career ladder and help you snag a higher salary in your next job. Look, there’s a reason Robin will forever be Batman’s sidekick.

(But comic fans will know that the first Robin, Dick Grayson, changed his superhero name to Nightwing and became a solo act.)

For instance, if your previous job title was account executive and you’ve already been doing that for years, you can ask to be promoted to senior account executive or account manager. Even better if you manage to wrangle better projects or take on more responsibilities as a result. That should give your application more weight when you apply for your next job.

 

Benefits

You’re making a mistake if you think that the only thing you get out of working with a company is the salary. Benefits like annual leave and medical insurance are a significant part of your compensation package—so much so that many Singaporeans have said that more annual leave is at the top of their wishlist.

Some benefits you might be able to bargain for include not only more days of annual leave but also reimbursement for studies and courses or transport allowance, especially if you live far from the office or have to work late.

 

Flexible working arrangements

Most SMEs know that their staff want flexi-work arrangements—heck, the government is even giving them money to implement flexi-work programmes. Yet depending on the boss, some are still reluctant to give their employees a bit more freedom because they don’t trust them.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask. You might be surprised, but even the most controlling employer is usually willing to accede to some form of flexibility when they’re desperate to fill a position.

Many companies, including stat boards, are starting to allow employees to work staggered hours, meaning that if you come in an hour early, you get to leave an hour earlier, too. You might also want to ask to be allowed to work from home a certain number of days per month (might not hurt to state that many civil servants now get to do this).

Considering 57% of Singaporeans in a 2015 survey stated they would pick better work life balance over a higher salary, being able to wrangle a flexible work arrangement could do wonders for the quality of your life.

 

Asking for stock in the company

If you’re bringing a considerable amount of expertise to the table and are working for a startup, you might be able to ask for stock in the company, especially if your proposed salary is below market rate and they know it.

While receiving stock in lieu of a market-rate salary might be a gamble—if the company tanks, your stock is basically worthless—you can be sure that it’ll motivate you, because you’re now personally invested in the performance of the company. And if it hits the big time, you could find yourself sitting on a nice pile of cash.

Of course, don’t expect to get anything if you’re a fresh grad being hired to do what the 20,000 other people in your graduating class can do just as well. But if you’re interviewing for an indispensable role (eg. lead developer in a tech start-up), you have a good chance of getting what you ask for.

Have you ever tried negotiating for any of the above? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.