You have reached the most powerful moment of your job hunt: the moment after you’ve been offered a job and before you say yes. This is the ideal time to negotiate your pay and benefits.

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You’ve received a job offer. Congratulations!

But wait — don’t relax yet. You have reached the most powerful moment of your job hunt: the moment after you’ve been offered a job and before you say yes. This is the ideal time to negotiate your pay and benefits.

You might be saying, “But I can’t negotiate!” Maybe it’s a job that pays a set rate, or maybe you are so desperate/eager for work that you are afraid to rock the boat.

But you can always negotiate something. Optimizing your situation is not “rocking the boat”; it’s smart. And people respect people who are smart. Here’s what to do:

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First, know the going rate for your kind of job. (How? This is where your network comes in handy. Ask people.)

Also, know how much you want. Normally, this is somewhere between your ideal pay (the number you’d be proud to flaunt) and your rock-bottom price (the number right above the one you would hate yourself for accepting).

Next, realize that negotiation is a game, and make up your mind to have fun playing it. Be pleasant, calm and honest. You may, however, need to be a little evasive.

A lot of employers think it’s reasonable to base salaries on what you got paid at your last job. But what you want is the market rate. So if your potential employer asks, “What is your current salary?” remain cool. Say, “My research shows that the market rate for someone with my skills and experience is $X. Does that coincide with your range?”

Don’t forget to consider perks. Bonuses, extra vacation days, flexible hours, good insurance or a company car can make up for a less-than-amazing salary.

Once an offer has been made, don’t answer immediately. Ask for a day to think about it.

If, after thinking and crunching the numbers, you decide to take the job, ask for the offer to be put in a letter or email that spells out both your responsibilities and your compensation. This can save you a world of heartbreak later on.

Throughout the process, remember the first law of negotiation: If you don’t ask for something, you will never get it.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at wg@karenburnsworkinggirl.com.