Top 10 tips for salary negotiations - Veterinary Practice
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Top 10 tips for salary negotiations

Often people are too excited or anxious to broach the topic of salaries, only to regret it further down the line. So how can we make the most of and feel confident when conducting salary negotiations?

The Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeon (SPVS) logo

Most employers expect a salary negotiation when they make a job offer, but does this always happen? How many people have been either so excited to start a new job or too scared to question the salary that they have just agreed straight away, only to regret it further down the line?

Don’t be worried or scared about broaching the subject of salaries, but when you do, be considerate of the time and manner in which you do so. Make sure you give your employer as much notice as possible and schedule the meeting for a date that allows you and your employer time to gather any relevant data and consider options without being under too much pressure from stress or time. It’s also crucial that both parties understand the subject of the meeting – so just be honest and, most of all, be prepared.

This article provides 10 practical tips on how to negotiate a salary, either with a completely new employer or within your current role.

Top 10 tips for salary negotiation

1) Be realistic

Ultimately, you need to be realistic.

Your employer (if they are any good) will know the industry trends, and you should, too. So use the SPVS annual salary survey to help you. The survey looks at the region you are in, your position of responsibility, the number of years you have been qualified, the sort of animals you treat and whether you have a diversified career pathway to produce a median, lower- and upper-quartile value for your salary package. It normally has at least 1,700 responses and is the most accurate and up-to-date salary survey in your field. You can also use other job adverts to get a “feel” for what counts as a “fair salary” too.

Remember that things like type of work, eg small animal versus equine practice, and if there is any out-of-hours work will make a difference to your package.

Before you go into your salary negotiation meeting, have in your head what a fair wage would be and how much you are prepared to compromise.

2) Benefits and perks or salary?

Remember to think about the benefits and perks of the job as these will make a difference to your life – often more so than your salary.

Remember, negotiating a job offer and salary are notthe same thing. Try not to get too fixated on money. Of course, have a fair wage in your head, but think about the responsibilities, holiday days, location, flexibility, opportunities, work-from-home time, etc, alongside this.

3) Justify your reasoning

You will need to justify your reasons for wanting a higher salary during negotiation. Don’t just say “I want to get paid 10 percent more”, as it will not be well received without back-up. If you can’t justify it, you should be questioning if you are asking for the right raise.

If you can’t justify it, you should be questioning if you are asking for the right raise

Build your case up. Is there currently a pay scale in your practice already? Where are you sitting on it? If you believe you should be higher, ask yourself why.

In the practical veterinary industry, think about extra qualifications, being competent at complex surgeries and medical cases, and taking on increased responsibilities, such as mentoring, helping with protocols and dealing with complaints, as justification for salary negotiation.

Also, look at your financial performance, and if you don’t have access to this, ask for it. You might want to look at your turnover in relation to your salary. Historically, “good vets” are thought to turn over five times their salary, but what does this mean? The term “turnover” often causes confusion surrounding which figures to use; however, the salary figure used in these calculations is your salary package, which includes your national insurance and pension. So, for example, if you are on a salary of £40,000, your actual package is more likely to be around £45,000. This means a productive vet should turn over £225,000.

However, you need to remember that net turnover is used for the five times salary calculation (ie without VAT).So if you are analysing the financial data, your actual turnover would need to be £270,000 if you are on a salary of £45,000 to be a “good”, productive vet who is adding to the bottom line.

If you have these figures to hand during your salary negotiations, it is clear evidence you are being efficient, productive, hardworking and a real asset to the practice.

4) What can you offer in the future?

As well as building your current case, think about what you could offer the practice in the future in terms of potential growth. For example, if you have completed a certificate, is there scope to consider external referrals to your practice?

5) Have an honest conversation

If you have been offered another job but would prefer to stay in your current one, it is worth having an open, honest conversation with your current employer. Don’t just give them an ultimatum – explain the changes you would like to make to your current job to match the new one. Be very clear that you don’t want to go. You will be surprised at how receptive employers can be to this.

6) Is there scope for flexibility?

Despite doing all the above, your employer may not be able to change anything. Sometimes there are salary caps and clear budgets that really prevent any changes in your salary. If this happens, consider if there are any other things that would help you in your role and find out where the flexibility in the company is. For example, they may not be able to increase your salary, but they may be amenable to giving you extra holiday. Remember things can change, so even if there is a negative response to salary negotiations now, you can always revisit the conversation in the future.

Sometimes there are salary caps and clear budgets that really prevent any changes in your salary. If this happens, consider if there are any other things that would help you in your role

7) Be truthful

Always be truthful, and do not lie. If you are going for a new job and they ask about your current salary, be honest about it. People often think interviewers ask this question so they can pay new employees as close to their current salary as possible. However, it is more likely that the employer is checking they are going to make you a reasonable offer, considering your current salary.

8) Everything, all at once

If there are a few different factors you want to negotiate, try to do this all in the same conversation. For example, if you negotiate a better salary, don’t wait for the outcome and then ask for one more thing, as this may not be well received.

If you do have a few factors to negotiate, consider mentioning the relative importance of each

If you do have a few factors to negotiate, consider mentioning the relative importance of each. This means that if only two of the four things you put forward are agreed on, they are more likely to be the most important ones to you.

9) Who’s satisfied?

Remember that ideally, both parties need to walk away satisfied after the salary negotiation. This is hopefully a long-term relationship, so it needs to be a positive experience.

10) Don’t make quick decisions!

Finally, don’t make any quick decisions. Don’t be forced into agreeing an outcome there and then – go away and consider your options. Make sure you are happy with your agreement before you shake on it.

Good luck!

Vicki Farbon

Vicki Farbon, MA, Vet MB, GPCert (SAM), PgC, SADI, MRCVS, graduated from Cambridge in 2003 and has worked in the same independent practice in Bedford ever since. Initially it was a mixed practice but over the years has become a small animal and exotic practice. During her time there she has gained her GP certificate in small animal medicine and is currently an advanced practitioner in small animal diagnostic imaging. Vicki became a director of the business in 2013 and a shareholder in 2018. Alongside the clinical work she has a passion for business development, responsible leadership, promoting financial literacy within the practice and encouraging an excellent standard of EMS. She joined the Society for Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) board in 2021 in the hope she can make a difference and inspire and encourage more young women to join the organisation.

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