How to Convince Your New Company to Pay You More

Dear Recruiter,

I’ve worked for a large nonprofit for roughly five years in a management role. I’ve quickly moved up the ranks, having been promoted three times during my tenure here. While I love the organization I work for, I’ve reached a point in my life in which I can no longer afford to stay.

I’ve applied for positions in the private sector. In many of the applications they ask for current salary and “required salary” for the position. How do I handle the large increase in what I am asking for compared to what I’m currently being paid? I’m worried that working for a nonprofit where we all tend to be paid 30% below the salary range for positions in the private sector is hurting my chances at landing a better job. What should I do?


Industry Switcher

Hi Industry Switcher,

Imagine a world where every shirt in every store costs $20. Sounds nuts, right? That’s because we know each shirt’s value is calculated by more than just the name “shirt” and includes factors like style, fabric, designer, and even retail location. We embrace this concept when we buy consumer goods, but we often can’t seem to apply the same logic during the hiring process.

Think of yourself like a shirt. Multiple factors go into your “cost” beyond your job title—your education level, the industry you work in, where you live, and your skill set just to name a few.

Change any of those factors and your compensation should change. You wouldn’t walk into Prada and expect them to sell a classic white T-shirt at the same price as H&M. So why would you expect a private sector job to pay you based off of what you were making in a nonprofit role?

I myself went through the same process a few years ago switching from the nonprofit to the for-profit sector, and I have some tips that’ll help you make the transition.

First, you have to embrace that what you were paid before doesn’t relate to your future pay. You need to enter salary negotiations confident that you’re worth whatever you’re seeking for the specific industry and role.

When I was asked for my numbers, I’d always respond: “Because I am changing industries, I do not believe my previous salary is relevant for this conversation. Based off my research, I’m seeking between $70K-$85K annually, which feels accurate for this industry and for my background and skill.”