What advice would you give to women in startups or tech who are negotiating pay differences? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Rebekah Rombom, VP of Career Services & Business Development at Flatiron School, on Quora:

There are two different scenarios where you might be negotiating your compensation: Starting a new job, or asking for a compensation change in your existing job. In either situation, though, the first step you take is the same: Figure out market compensation. Market compensation is the range of compensation rates for individuals in a similar position: Similar roles, similar experience levels, at companies of similar size and industry.

You'll never get a perfect read on market compensation, and a great HR department will continually gather data from the market, and re-evaluate compensation bands against it. Still, doing your own research - on Glassdoor, Salary.com, government data, or by looking at job postings for similar positions that include compensation ranges - should give you comfort around what a reasonable salary is, and can help you evaluate or negotiate an offer once you get it.

After you get an idea about market compensation for your role, the process changes a bit, depending upon the situation:

If you're negotiating an offer for a new job:

  • Discuss your compensation as relates to the market - not to your prior salary. Many companies will begin a salary discussion by asking about your prior compensation, but if you're starting in a new job, your old compensation isn't necessarily relevant. Bootcamps like Flatiron School, for instance, build brand-new software engineers. Before Flatiron School, you could have been a banker earning a six-figure salary, or a busboy making $9 per hour. None of that matters in your next job, because what you did before is irrelevant: You're now a software engineer starting your first job, and should be compensated as such. We release anonymized and aggregated compensation data for our new grads every year, precisely for this reason -- new graduates can go into compensation discussions armed with this information, even if their prior compensation was much lower (or higher). If an employer asks what you were making before, but you're interviewing for an entirely different role, having market compensation in mind makes this a more straightforward conversation: "Since my last job was as an experienced English teacher, I'm not sure discussing my compensation in that role makes as much sense as talking the market compensation for this software engineer position -- the skills and responsibilities are so different. I'd love to discuss market compensation for this position, which I know that, at companies of similar size and in similar industries, tends to be in this range. Is that along the lines of what you've budgeted for the role?" You may still end up with an offer that's above or below market, but with a relevant range -- not your past compensation -- guiding that discussion, you'll know where on that spectrum you stand, and be able to evaluate the offer accordingly.

If you're asking for a raise at your current job:

  • Demonstrate the value you've added to the company. If you've added enough value to a company be asking for a raise, you probably have a good idea of what's important to the organization, and what you've done to contribute to those objectives. Think about them. Write them down. Talk about them in terms of the value you've created -- and what you've proven you can contribute in the future. Communicating your value in terms of the company's objectives and the value you've added already makes it easier to advocate for a compensation increase. On the contrary, if you've done work that was new or difficult for you, different from your last position, or not what you expected, those all might be good topics to discuss with your manager, but as far as your manager and CFO are concerned, may not warrant a comp increase.
  • Communicate what's important to you. If, similar to the above, your contributions are stellar enough that you're being considered for a compensation increase, it's worth thinking hard about what aspects of compensation are most important to you. Don't assume all you can ask for is cash -- especially at startups, where cash might be tight, there are other ways to increase compensation that might be more readily available, like stock, paid time off, or a professional development opportunity. An open dialogue with your manager about your priorities as relates to compensation makes it much easier for her to advocate for what you care about, and land on a package that will make you the happiest -- or help you discover a path within the company that can get you there. You can certainly communicate that cash is important, but if, say, you're a new mom, you also might want to negotiate for one work-from-home day each week, or more paid time off. If you're currently earning $35,000 and want to double your cash compensation, maybe you can think creatively with your manager about supporting your professional development along a lateral but higher-paying path - like moving from editorial assistant to software engineer inside the same company. Enter that conversation with a clear idea of what's most important to you, and discuss together what options would be feasible.
  • Be a partner to your manager: Start a discussion. If you have a good understanding of your market value, you're ready demonstrate your contributions to the company, and you come to the table with an understanding of what's important to you in a comp package, you're armed with an arsenal of information that gives you leverage in a comp conversation, and that treats your manager as a partner in getting what you want. Ask for a discussion with your manager to talk them through, and for a clear next step when the conversation is over.

Last: Say thank you, but don't apologize. If this all goes well -- you got an offer, or you got a raise -- always, always express gratitude. Over and over, we've seen that gratitude -- as opposed to entitlement -- actually puts you in a better negotiating position, by cementing and building upon a positive, rather than adversarial, relationship with your negotiating partner and soon-to-be manager

But if you do receive a package that's less than market value, negotiate: Being grateful for an opportunity and asking for fair pay are not mutually exclusive. Peg your desired compensation to the market and to your potential or demonstrated value add, and ask again, with gratitude, but without saying sorry.

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Published on: Mar 6, 2017