Here's What Military Spouses Need to Know About Salary Negotiation

Here's What Military Spouses Need to Know About Salary Negotiation

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About the Author

Michelle Aikman is a military spouse and career management expert.

Unless you are catching up on some much needed sleep, most likely, you are working. Military spouses are extremely active at their homes, in their communities, and at their jobs. “Work,” of course, refers to everything from housework to managing multimillion-dollar construction jobs, holding public office, and volunteering.

With all this work experience under your belt, are you getting paid what you are worth?

According to MOAA's 2013 military spouse employment survey report, 90 percent of responding female spouses of active duty servicemembers are underemployed, whether in terms of being overqualified or undercompensated. High rates of reported underemployment strongly indicate compensation is not aligned with the quality of the individuals' education, experience, and capabilities. 

Employers need to be part of the solution, but military spouses must learn how to effectively negotiate their salaries. There are plenty of resources available that can help you develop your negotiating skills. 

Here are five reasons you must know how to negotiate:

1. No one is going to do it for you.

2. Past compensation doesn't have to dictate future compensation. You might have realized many employers look for candidates with similar past experiences then base offers on your most recent pay. This is an easy way for employers to pay as little as possible, and you unfortunately get locked into pay that isn't increasing. The effect is compounded if your job responsibilities or job market supply and demand have changed. Furthermore, regional differences can mean a higher cost of living or industry variations. Research thoroughly to understand your earning potential with each new opportunity, ask for it, and be prepared to defend your analysis. Be aware that asking for previous salary information is an illegal employment practice in an increasing number of states.

3. Frequent moves mean frequent opportunities to negotiate. New jobs are a great time to negotiate. Although salary can be reassessed and negotiated at any time during employment, the best time to negotiate is when the job is first offered.  Recognizing there is a chance the job offer will be rescinded if you make a counter-offer, negotiating a higher starting pay will give you more for any future percentage-based pay increases.

4. You deserve to be compensated appropriately. Military spouses often have diverse experiences and skill sets, so it is difficult for an employer to place a proper valuation in terms of compensation. If you feel an employer's offer or counteroffer is off the mark, take it upon yourself to help them understand why your assessment is different. You deserve to paid for your qualifications.

5. You are about to do a lot of work to benefit your employer. Apply some of that same drive, skill, and attention to negotiating your pay and benefits. Many people are scared of negotiating, so they jump to a quick "yes" and don't negotiate at all. Focus on reaching a fair deal - your family will thank you.

 Negotiations start when someone says "no," so to even get to that point, you have to know what you want and ask for it. If that makes you uncomfortable or uneasy, get to studying and practicing! You and your family deserve for you to be compensated appropriately by your employer.

Find more career tips inMOAA's Military Spouse Employment Guide.