Whether you're about to accept a job offer or you've been part of your company for years, negotiating your pay can sometimes make you feel like you're part of the ultimate standoff. You would like more money. Your employer or prospective employer would like to offer less. So how do you bring the two sides together?

Do Your Research

The first step in negotiating a raise is to do some homework. How much is the market currently paying for your type of skills and level of experience? Can you cite examples of similar jobs in the area that are offering better compensation?

Prove Your Point

"When you're negotiating, you have to know what you want and back it up. Give your boss a reason to pay you more," says Nancy Fraasch, an independent career coach and senior consultant at O.I. Partners, who is also a past president of the Minnesota Career Development Association.

Fraasch says, "Your accomplishments and your potential are the key to your argument. You have to know what you're worth."

Negotiate With Confidence

Salary negotiations and raise discussions typically require multiple conversations. Be prepared. When a manager makes an initial job offer, he or she expects the candidate to come back with a counter offer. When you negotiate a raise with your manager, remember that it's not just about money. Your boss may be able to provide you with intangibles such as extra vacation, flex time or other rewards, some of which could be even more valuable to you than a bump in pay.

Follow Through

Once you've discussed a raise with your manager, make sure to follow through on the decisions that are made. "It's amazing how many people think it's pushy to ask for things in writing, but that's exactly what you should do," advises Fraasch.

Decide What's Next

If you've done your best job negotiating, but a raise isn't forthcoming, it may be time to think about whether the company is a good fit.

"People really need to think of themselves as independent," explains Fraasch. "If the company is going in a different direction and your skills are no longer important or you don't feel valued, you might need to consider other opportunities."

Top Negotiating Tips

  • Conduct your research so you know what the market is paying.
  • Find out what skills are important to your boss.
  • Prove you're worth a raise.
  • Find a satisfying middle ground.
  • Remember vacation time, flex time and ther perks all have value.

Kelly Burkart is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer.