What is the best way to increase your salary as an IT professional?

Use these 7 expert tips to negotiate a higher salary with your current employer, or as you move into a new IT organization
646 readers like this.

This time of year, an IT pro’s thoughts often turn to salary. Perhaps you’ve delivered some results that put you in a strong position to negotiate a raise at your current job. 

Or perhaps you’ve decided it’s time for a new job – for several reasons – and the raise that will come along with it. You’ll have to negotiate your salary during the offer process – and this conversation throws many people for a loop. Consider this: Only 39 percent of professionals even tried to negotiate a higher salary during their last job offer, says a 2018 survey of close to 3,000 people conducted by global staffing firm Robert Half.

[ Does your LinkedIn profile tell the right story? Read 5 LinkedIn tips to strengthen your personal brand. ]

Remember, salary is only one piece of how to decide when it’s time for a new IT job. Once you’ve decided whether to stay or go, what’s the best way to increase your salary? We’ve rounded up six key pieces of advice:

1. Keep your cool

This is a time to show your emotional intelligence, not impatience. Says Katie Ross, recruiting partner for Heller Search Associates: “Remember, you don’t have the job yet! Your salary negotiation is a reflection of how you’ll do business and maintain relationships in stressful situations.”

If you’re negotiating an increase with your current employer, this advice remains just as important. You need to demonstrate growth, not impatience or immaturity.

2. Do your homework

“One reason why professionals often avoid salary negotiations is a lack of preparation. Being ready can give you the resources you need to feel confident in this conversation,” says Jim Johnson, senior vice president at Robert Half Technology, whose firm creates an annual salary guide with data for over 75 positions in the IT field.

In addition to that Robert Half resource, Glassdoor.com’s Know Your Worth salary calculator may help you gauge the competitiveness of your current pay.

You should use these tools (and your personal network) to gather numbers related not only to your role, but also to your region, vertical industry, and specific skills – such as data analytics or security skills.

On a related note: Even if you’re not job hunting, you should take recruiter calls occasionally to stay current on the going rates for your region, industry, and special skills.  

[ Some IT roles are headed the way of the dinosaurs. Which of todays IT roles are vanishing? Read  4 dying IT jobs. ]

3. Consider the state of your certifications

A host of certified and non-certified tech skills are in demand, according to the latest quarterly update of Foote Partners’  IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index. As a result, IT leaders are paying a premium for certifications – an average of 7.6 percent of base salary for a single certification and 9.4 percent of base salary on average for certain single, non-certified skills.

The fastest-growing competencies include risk analytics/assessment, cryptography, advanced analytics, data governance, data science, Apache Spark, artificial intelligence, and penetration testing.

Open source skills remain hot – especially those related to cloud, containers, and DevOps.

However, certifications will only get you so far – especially in an IT organization that is using Agile or DevOps methodologies.

In fact, in a DevOps shop, your ability to spot trouble and turn around failures now trumps certifications, says Robert Reeves, CTO at Datical. “DevOps is about identifying friction and resolving it,” Reeves says. For DevOps teams, companies need people who can think on their feet – and communicate clearly to all kinds of people, from marketing team members to engineers. If you can demonstrate those skills to a DevOps shop, it will speak louder than certifications as you negotiate a salary.

4. Show you’re a master of soft skills

Soft skills lead the list of skills every IT resume requires right now. That’s for good reason: In the age of digital transformation, IT pros are working in cross-functional teams with people from many parts of the business, as well as with customers and partners who are often non-techies. You need to be able to explain concepts in plain English, listen wisely, persuade people, and negotiate conflict, for example.

As many IT leaders tell us, these so-called soft skills are hard – as in hard to find and hard to teach.

“It’s funny that we even talk about these skills as ‘soft,’ because they are very hard to master and are frequently the cause of more trouble than lack of ‘hard’ skills,” says Anders Wallgren, CTO at Electric Cloud.

If you have excellent soft skills, that gives you leverage with your current boss – or your potential new employer. Think about how your recent wins for the business demonstrate your soft skills and use the most telling anecdotes to your advantage. 

By the way, if you feel behind the curve on these competencies, now’s the time to start building your soft skills.

Community of business-minded IT leaders exploring the evolving role of CIOs as they drive business strategy and inspire enterprise-wide innovation.