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"Pssst! Did you know that Peter is making $45,000?”

Finding out that someone with your title and job description makes more money than you can rattle your nerves. Here’s how to handle it:

Gather salary information from various sources, such as Salary.com.

Show initiative by saying to your boss: “I understand from multiple sources that the company pays my colleague significantly more than I am paid. I’d like to understand what I need to do to be paid at that level.”

Don’t assume that salary is the only negotiation point. “If the company cannot budge on base salary, consider asking for other things,” says John Touey, principal with Salveson Stetson Group.

Examples: paid parking, flexible hours, the ability to work from home or extra days off.

Time it right. Some employers can adjust salary only at performance-review time. If that’s the case, keep notes on what you plan to say and save your thoughts for later. That way, you’re less likely to hear “No.”

Soft skills trump technical skills

Good communication skills are more valuable than knowing PowerPoint inside and out, according to a new survey, in which 67% of human resources managers said they would hire an admin with strong soft skills even if their technical abilities were lacking.

The way HR managers see it, technical skills are easier to teach than soft skills.

The survey then asked HR managers which soft skills were most important to them. Their rankings:

Organizational skills 87%

Verbal communication 81%

Teamwork and collaboration 78%

Problem solving 60%

Tact and diplomacy 59%

Business writing 48%

Analytical skills 45%

Bottom line: Now is the perfect time to take the plunge. Target a soft skill you’d like to improve upon, such as verbal communication or negotiation. Then sign up for a course, seminar or conference to help you do it.

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