How developers can negotiate a salary increase

Tools and tips for figuring out your value and how (and when) to approach your boss.

The mindset of software developers is changing, and employers need to take note Princeton Professor Ed Felten believes software developers today are looking to make a positive change in the world, and employers need to understand their needs.

It's no secret software developers are in high demand. But as marketable as they may be, like everyone else, they still have to negotiate when it comes to seeking a raise.
 
If you feel like early 2020 is the time for a salary bump, go for it. But be smart about it. First, check the market to understand what is going on in similar companies. 

But don't take average wages as the one and only truth. Remember that many variables affect the numbers.

SEE: How to build a successful developer career (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

There are many developer roles among Glassdoor's 50 Best Jobs in America for 2020.

"There are thousands of openings for developers across the country, not just at tech companies, but also at companies across industries, from retail to finance," noted Sarah Stoddard, career trends expert at Glassdoor.

"With the demand for tech talent outpacing supply, employers are also willing to pay top dollar in order to attract highly skilled developers," Stoddard said.

Negotiating tips

For anyone looking to negotiate their salary, advance research and preparation are key elements for success, Stoddard said. Know your worth.

"For developers specifically, Glassdoor has a wide range of tools and data available to help set realistic expectations about how much more they could earn in a negotiation," she said.
 
Workers can leverage publicly available average base salaries on Glassdoor or get a personalized salary estimate based on their job title, company, location and experience using Glassdoor's Know Your Worth tool, she said. 

This will help you understand the current market value for what you have to offer an employer, which will give you a leg up in the conversation, Stoddard said.
 
Other useful sites include Salary.com and PayScale.
 
"In addition to conducting salary research, workers should prepare specific examples to help make the case to their employer as to why they deserve to earn more money," she said. 

"This is where developers may have an advantage, as the most effective and in-demand tech workers not only have a mastery of the technical requirements and certifications for their role, but also demonstrate top-notch communication, time management and people management skills."
 
The ability to balance a mastery of hard and soft skills "could be the edge that puts a little more money in their pockets," Stoddard said.

Paul Farnsworth, CTO of DHI Group, parent company of job site Dice, said, "Developers can set themselves apart by going beyond their understanding of technology–it's important to be able to articulate technical concepts to those that aren't as technically well-versed." 

"It's imperative to be able to communicate well, especially when you're the expert attempting to level up," Farnsworth added.

Prove your worth

Before the negotiation, review your accomplishments and personal growth, experts advise. You should emphasize that you have been consistently progressing and demonstrate that you have grown into higher qualifications.

The best time to ask for a raise is right after a successful project, especially if it was finished on time or under budget, experts say. This gives you solid footing to start the negotiations. 
 
As a developer, you already have some "aces in the hole" because developers are and will continue to be in high demand, Farnsworth said. 

"However, it's critical not to assume that you and your manager are on the same page in terms of your full skillset. Be sure to articulate that you not only know core concepts, but you're familiar with underlying tech, architecture, frameworks and how high-level decision making happens at your company," he said. 
 
To really stand out, provide examples of your work on GitHub to show that you document code in a way that helps others learn, contribute to open-source projects, or provide your expertise to those learning your trade, Farnsworth said.

It's vital to recognize and share the value you bring to your boss' boss in addition to the value you bring to your work and to your team, he said. 

Know your current market value

Employers expect you to negotiate, so do your research on the current market value for your role—and even aim a little higher to kick off the negotiation, Stoddard advised.

"The worst they can say is that what you are currently earning is the best they can offer you at this time," she said. "An employer should never penalize you for trying to re-negotiate your compensation." 
 
When talking about your potential salary increase, remember that it's a negotiation, Farnsworth said.

"However, tread carefully when talking about what other companies pay; this could be misinterpreted as a threat to your current employer when that's not your intention," he said.

Lastly, be sure to consider the value you personally derive from the benefits you receive like training or perks–these are part of your compensation as well. Also, remember that you can negotiate more than just a salary bump.

"Focus on the value of the entire offer and remember you can also negotiate elements beyond pay such as paid time off, location, travel, flexibility in work hours, perks, support for continued education and so on," Stoddard said. "If you've built a quality case for why your employer should sweeten the deal, they'll be more likely to find ways to ensure you're satisfied at work."

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