For military leavers, finding a new cyber or IT role can be challenging – so when you’re made a job offer, negotiating for a better salary can feel intimidating after being accustomed to a set MoD wage, pension and benefit structure.
IT and cyber jobs are prolific, great news for both those entering the field and those progressing their careers, and offer good salaries. Cyberattacks can be extremely expensive for companies, and the tech industry is evolving faster than any other.
Therefore, skilled and enthusiastic people are in demand and well-positioned to achieve remuneration equalling the value they bring. However, you don’t have to accept the first offer you’re given. Companies generally prepare a salary range for a role which usually has room to manoeuvre, so you’re only benefiting them by accepting it point blank.
Negotiations are normal to career progression, particularly in a diverse industry like tech – in fact, they’re expected. Negotiating additional salary can create long-term benefits.
When should you negotiate?
Even if you’re applying for your first tech job after military service, your existing skills and experience could justify a higher salary. If you’re inexperienced in your cyber or tech role, you might not know how to negotiate a better package and progress your career.
Negotiation is possible in most situations: consider whether it’s appropriate, how you’ll support your proposition, and if your employer is able to provide your requests. If you get an offer, consider its worth compared to industry salaries and your intrinsic value.
It’s common for cyber and tech professionals to work hard, for long hours, and you should feel like your efforts are being fairly rewarded – especially as you progress.
Your worth and what to negotiate for
Building a strong salary negotiation starts with doing your homework. You can’t negotiate without knowing your worth.
- Research comparable IT, cyber and tech salaries in your area. This is key. What are your living expenses, and how do the numbers relate to your current salary and benefits package? Cyber salaries vary, but learn which roles earn the most. If you’re new to the cyber and tech field, this can also help you direct your career.
- Consider your role responsibilities and working conditions. What does your current or prospective role involve and what’s the work-life balance like? Your salary and the overall value of your remuneration package should reflect this.
Decide on a fixed number comparable to higher salary brackets in your area. You’ll be able to start the negotiations discussing your worth, not just an amount you’ll accept.
Higher salaries accompany jobs that require greater skills, experience and responsibilities, so know where the limits are on your negotiations. If you’re in, say, a junior penetration tester role, your earning potential is less than a highly experienced cybersecurity engineer or leader within an IT firm.
Supporting your salary negotiation
Be clear and confident about your existing experience, education and qualifications. As a tech newcomer, military experience and specialist skills could boost your negotiation power. For more experienced tech workers, make sure your skills and experience take centre stage.
Even if you’ve put in time at a known tech business, you won’t appear as impressive if no growth, leadership or improvement took place there. Employers value leadership: it makes you a long-term asset, and is certainly a transferable military skill.
Education, especially at degree level, may give you an advantage in negotiating a salary. Professional qualifications are especially valuable, such as:
- (ISC)2 Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional
- ISACA CRISC
- ISO 27001 Lead Auditor
- ISACA Certified Informations System Auditor (CISA)
- EC-Council CCISO
- CompTIA Security+
- EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- (ISC)2 Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
Since military leavers will have varying educational qualifications, discussing past experience is advantageous if you’re entering a new job. Variety of experience is appealing and tech employers are especially interested in real-world skills.
Even if your experience isn’t directly tech-related, talk about it. Whether it’s an internship, volunteering or entrepreneurial efforts, it shapes your professional persona, and ex-military offer unique, unteachable skills that cyber employers value.
Demonstrate the value your transferable skills bring: it’s likely they’ll fulfil a need that can save the company money while improving your position.
Salary negotiation isn’t all about money – think about the value a great overall package can offer:
- Flexibility in working hours and location
- Childcare and lifestyle support
- Growth opportunities, certifications and training
- Health and fitness perks
Tech companies often offer job benefits as compensation. If you’re entering a new IT, tech or cyber role, find out if there’s an annual bonus, whether it’s company or performance-based, and what percentage employees receive. This percentage helps you work out what you’ll actually get.
Some tech companies, especially startups, include stock options as benefits. They can increase salaries without affecting profits.
Junior positions can’t negotiate for huge increases, but if you do successfully negotiate a higher number, this will show proportional annual increases. If you renegotiate for promotion later in your employment term, this proportional increase expands again.
Preparing for your salary negotiation
- Ensure you’re up to date: Be informed. How is your field evolving? How in demand are your skills, what have you achieved and how have you grown? What are comparable salaries?
- Practise your delivery. You’re not rehearsing a speech, but have a friend or colleague practice speaking, answering questions and building your confidence. Be prepared for unexpected questions, and stay honest without undermining yourself.
- Prepare your counter offer – Prepare a number near the top of the range, according to your bargaining position. What’s your optimum salary-benefit combination, and could you flex on – but what’s your ‘bare minimum’? Take time to consider their offer, but show you’re passionate about their company.
Outcomes, challenges and takeaways
Ultimately, you have to ask if you want a better salary. If you have in-demand skills, employers will want them, no matter the ‘current climate’.
Highlight your abilities and experience, and keep negotiations positive. Your employer may also feel awkward, so treat it like a discussion, not a face-off. Focus on important things rather than haggling every detail, and think about when you’ll be rewarded, not just how.
- You don’t have to accept the first figure that’s offered – within reason.
- Open discussions by being upfront about your current earnings and precisely describing your idea of fair compensation.
- Avoid ultimatums, and be patient in awaiting a response.
- Get everything in writing – salary, job description, responsibilities and benefits.
Be positive, polite and human. And stay confident – you’ll know when a salary negotiation is the right step.