A client recently said to me, “It’s not in my nature to talk about my work. I just wasn’t sure I could learn how to negotiate.” Another client was preparing for her performance review and was planning to ask for a bigger title that better matched her responsibilities. We had been talking about her accomplishments for 45 minutes before she mentioned that she had tripled her sales last year. Tripled! And it hadn’t occurred to her to bring it up sooner.
Modesty isn’t a bad thing, but when it comes to advocating for yourself, no one is going to step up for you but you. You’ll have more success negotiating when you can make a strong case for why you’re worth it. That means you have to have evidence, and you have to know how to share it. But that doesn’t come easily to everyone. If you feel stuck and aren’t sure how to toot your own horn without sounding full of yourself, you’re not alone. Here are three common pitfalls my real clients have faced and how you can avoid them.
Example 1: Not being specific enough about your accomplishments
OK: “We’re very operationally effective.”
Better: “We noticed we were losing business at a certain point in our funnel. So I worked across multiple teams to find ways to streamline our sales process. I recently worked with our tech folks to make a minor website tweak that wound up saving 15% of a team member’s time.”
In the second version, the speaker takes credit for her individual contribution. She also uses this simple STAR framework to share a specific example that highlight her contribution to a particular result:
Situation (losing business)
Task (worked across teams)
Action (made website tweak)
Result (saved 15% of team member’s time)
Example 2: Assuming your work speaks for itself
OK: “As you know, the team is doing really well.”
Better: “We’ve had a great year. Our sales this quarter beat expectations despite some staff turnover. I’ve onboarded my two recent hires to bring them into our culture as well as our processes. Unfortunately we made the decision to let Matt go after several attempts to bring his performance up to par, but I’ve since put in extra effort to make time for team building.”
Don’t overestimate how many details your manager knows about your behind-the-scenes work. In particular, women are less likely to get credit for teamwork, so make sure your accomplishments are known, and take credit for your contributions to the team.
Example 3: Missing an opportunity to frame past success as future opportunity
OK: “Yes, I’ve migrated a home-grown employee intranet to a professional system before.”
Better: “I know what challenges you’re facing with this upcoming migration. In fact, in my previous role I led the team that redesigned and migrated the employee intranet over to a professional system. I started by requesting proposals from top design firms, gathered feedback from our leaders and employees, and worked with the technical team to build the new site. Surveys show that people love the new intranet because it is faster and better organized.”
Previous experience isn’t “been there, done that.” It’s your evidence that you’ve done it before and you can do it again. It may seem obvious to you, but your interviewer is looking for examples that give her insights into how you’ll perform at the new company. You’ll make it easy for her to say yes to you when you give her the exact examples she needs to make the case that you’re the best person for the job.
This post originally appeared in Women@Forbes, where Alexandra Dickinson is a contributor. She writes about how to use a negotiation mindset to achieve your goals.