Ask A Progeek: When To Negotiate

Now here’s a good question, especially in these tough and crazy times?

“How advanced in your career do you have to be before you can negotiate your terms?

I’d say that the real question is not “how advanced in your career do you have to be” is really more “when should you negotiate?” So lets take a look at how you decide when you can negotiate.

Situation 1: You Get An Invitation To Negotiate.

Sometimes, if you have a specialist skill-set or are in an area where you’re in demand, some people will virtually invite you to negotiate.  They’re expecting it.

If this situation comes up then, hey, negotiate away.

Situation 2: Negotiation is Expected

This is the flipside of #1, and requires some experience in your field – this is when you’re in an area where people expect someone to negotiate.  Area of management, art, consultation, contracting, etc. are places where negotiation is virtually expected.

The answer to this is when you know negotiation is expected, then you can negotiate – when you’re not sure, it’s probably not (always) expected.  Also knowing you should negotiate is often a sign of being “advanced enough” in your career.

Situation #3: You Have Something Special

If you’ve got a special edge, advantage, skillet, etc. that you know is valuable, then you can definitely negotiate – as long as the person you’re negotiating with knows how valuable that is.  That’s something you can’t forget – they may not know how awesome you are

If the person you’re negotiating with doesn’t get your value, you need to communicate it carefully.  There’s also a chance that they may not “get it,” which should make you question if they’re the right people to work with.

Note that this Edge may or may not indicate significant advancement in a career or seniority – but like #2, knowing it is enough to show you’re probably at the right level for the job anyway.

Situation #4:  They’re under-valuing you.

You may need to negotiate if it appears you’re being under-valued by your potential employer.  Unless you’re desperate for a job, accepting one with pay and benefits well below your appropriate level can be an invitation to trouble – you could be exploited, or they could fear you’ll leave, etc.

Always make sure when negotiating in this capacity that you should ensure the potential employer sees your value.

Note For Progeeks:

Now for us progeeks, we have a few issues that both help and hinder us.

Help – these are things that make us worth negotiating with:

  • We have specialty skills.
  • We have specialty knowledge,
  • We have unique hobbyist experiences to call upon
  • We are connected with people of similar interests of skillets.


  • People may not understand what we do, and thus the value we bring.
  • We may be dealing with cultural gaps as people don’t “get” us.
  • You may not get a cultural gap or you may misunderstand value issues (hey, it goes both ways).

OK folks, go forth and negotiate . . . or not.  Depending.

Steven Savage