How to Negotiate Higher Pay, From a 27-Year-Old on Track to Earn $1 Million This Year: Know ‘Your Absolute Wants and Your Absolute No's'

Helen Zhao | CNBC Make It

At 22, Lauren Simmons became the youngest full-time woman trader on Wall Street. Now 27, Simmons is an author, producer, TV host, podcast host and angel investor, and serves on the board of multiple finance companies. She's on track to earn around $1 million this year alone.

But Simmons previously found herself in a position familiar to many Americans: She wanted a raise. While working at the New York Stock Exchange in 2017, she earned just $12,000 a year.

"The minimum wage at the time in New York City was around $60,000," she tells CNBC Make It. To anyone else feeling underpaid, "I'm right there with you."

For Simmons, the most integral part of asking for a higher salary is knowing "your absolute wants, your absolute what you can compromise on and your absolute no's." This list can consist of anything, from more money to more vacation days, or even help paying off your student loans.

It's important to remember your salary alone isn't everything. "There are so many things that go into your salary package," Simmons says. "I want you to think outside the box of, 'I only want this dollar amount.'" You should always ask yourself, what are the other things I want?

It is also worth remembering both your short-term and long-term career goals. There were certain items on Simmons' negotiation list that were OK with in the short run, but didn't make sense when considering her long-term career.

For instance, her company initially agreed to bump her up to $8 an hour instead of $7. Short-term, she was OK with that because "I loved my job." But once Simmons began to think about her long-term future, it wasn't enough: "I had to have an internal conversation with myself of the absolute non-negotiables of what I was going to do going forward."

For Simmons, that meant pledging to never accept a salary less than $120,000, because she knew those around her were making that amount, with more days off to boot. Other non-negotiables for Simmons were her mental health and wellbeing. "Those things I absolutely could not compromise on," she says.

Simmons also emphasizes the need for a backup plan. If things do not go your way in a salary negotiation, it is important to know what you want to do. The company will either agree to the full amount you ask for, although Simmons says this is "unlikely," or "they will give you a pay increase, but you will still be unsatisfied in your job because you don't feel like you're getting paid what you should be getting paid."

If you find yourself not getting the raise you deserve, "I would be putting my exit strategy together on what your next steps will be," Simmons says.

All in all, going into the negotiation with both an exit strategy and a list of non-negotiables will go a long way in getting you what you want from the conversation.

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