Thursday, June 3, 2010

Negotiating for a Job

[The following is a contribution from a reader. I hope you find this as interesting and useful as I did! -Hannah]

I just read your list of things to negotiate for in a job offer in the AASWomen Newsletter for 11/13. There were things I hadn't thought of on that list (great!), but since you also solicited for personal experiences I wanted to let you know about mine.

A few years ago I was offered the job I have been attempting to groom myself for over the last decade. Fortunately, I was expecting this offer and had mentioned it to a few friends before it came. I don't know exactly who put it into my head, but some combination of internet research and discussion with friends led me to realize that if this was truly the job I planned to stay in as a career, and that this was my best (and possibly only) chance at negotiation. When the job offer came I didn't accept immediately (which took great restraint) but took some time to think about it.

I followed some advice from a savvy friend who had just negotiated his way from a short-term contractor position into a full-time position at the base salary he was aiming for at a nearby company. I listened to him: clamped my mouth shut and tried not to tip my hand to my employers. I swear this was one of the hardest things I ever did, and I was shaking inside as I walked into that meeting. Everything I read about negotiating said it was harder for women because we don't hold the line as hard, so I hung on tight and felt lucky I was negotiating with other women.

I did my research: what would a job like this pay in another institution? What would my fairly high level of education gain me in other institutions? How much did that education that prepped me to be the perfect person for this job cost me? I also laid out my own budget and long-term goals. With all of this I calculated out the salary I thought I deserved, the salary that was warranted by the industry, a salary I would be happy to settle for, and the minimum salary I would accept. I had an ace in my pocket: I knew they wanted me. I'd been with the company for almost 5 years, and they had been preparing me to take this position. They also had an ace: they knew I wouldn't leave, I loved it too much.

Then I wrote this all down on a cheat sheet. I'm embarrassed by that sheet of paper - it lists a bunch of brag-worthy things about me, and "what I think I'm worth" to that institution. I went into the meeting with this, and tried my hardest. I gave them my reasons and my top couple numbers. It took them many more words and was put much more eloquently, but they told me I was dreaming. Well, I knew that part, but you start high, right? They said they'd get back to me with another offer. We went around about this a couple more times over the next few days, and at the end I asked for an extra week of vacation (actually, to accrue vacation at the rate of someone who had been with the company for 5 years longer than I had been), and settled for a start salary 2% below my minimum. I'm still proud I got them to up their offer 15-20% and give me that extra week.

I'm not regretting being what felt like a hard-nosed negotiator now. I'm feeling like I'm in a better position, and a more committed position than most of my coworkers.