Friday, November 20, 2009

What Can You Negotiate in Your Job Offer?

(The following is posted on behalf of the author, Michele Montgomery)

In last week's issue of AASWomen (Issue of November 13, 2009), we listed some items that women can negotiate in their job offer. What we did not address is who should ask for what that depends on which job. For example, what should graduate students negotiate in their job offer for a post-doc position? What should post-docs negotiate in their job offer for faculty positions? What should someone negotiate in a job offer at a planetarium, for an outreach position, at a museum, at a laboratory, at a telescope, for a government position, for a policy position, for a teaching position, etc?
I took a mostly teaching position with some research as I am geographically constrained. Since salary was non-negotiable, I negotiated time: By only teaching on Tuesday/Thursdays, my other days are available for research. Others have made some excellent suggestions, some of which we include here.
David John Helfand from Columbia University offers "teaching assignments! When they start (first semester off to acclimatize?), what is the first course(s), what's the second course, how many different preparations in a typical year (or three-year period), how are teaching assignments decided, how much TA and other support is there, what are typical class sizes and student expectations? etc."
Kristen Larson from Western Washington University suggests, "If the job is an academic one, I would add course load, course assignments, and teaching support such as graders or TA's. Summer support and support for students may also be items to consider. I would add the caveat that some of the items on the list may not be negotiable due to state law and union contracts at public universities. Use caution before pushing too hard against such firm constraints. And timing is everything. Items like spousal accommodation often require approval by multiple layers of
administration and therefore take much more time to resolve in your
favor. Items like teaching assignment, usually left up to the
department chair, can be brought up later as negotiation progresses
and you learn more about the department."
Kris Sellgren from Ohio State adds imporant items to the list with
" - startup money (unrestricted research funds!)
- publication costs

For non-tenure positions:
- the ability to serve as a research advisor to students
- the ability to serve as a PI on external grants

For tenure-track positions:
- teaching relief for the first year
- summer salary for the first year
- early (or delayed) tenure
- funding for an undergraduate research assistantship
- funding for a graduate research assistantship
- funding for a postdoctoral fellowship

Also, your institution may have little or no maternity leave policy. If you want to take time off for N months for maternity leave (paid or unpaid), you had better negiotiate this up-front. In a tenure-track
position, consider asking for a year delay on the tenure clock per
child, as well as some teaching and/or service relief during that year."
Tammy Smecker-Hane of the University of California-Irvine also focuses on teaching duties with her contribution: "Teaching: Most people negotiate to get at least one quarter or semester off of teaching in their first year. Sometimes also in their third year when they'll be busy writing papers to prepare for tenure. Which quarter you get the teaching relief is very important to observers, who might be anticipating long observing campaigns that take them away from campus for extended periods of time. You can also negotiate **which courses** you'll teach the first few years. Make sure to balance lower/upper division undergraduate and graduate student
teaching so you can demonstrate your expertise at each. Another good thing to do is to negotiate to teach two classes in one quarter/semester in order to get a quarter/semester off of teaching. In my experience, that works well when you don't have children, but not when you do."
Lastly, we add that if you are applying for a faculty position, then you might want to read a fantastic article in Science Careers, "Taken for Granted: Shocked, Shocked! to Find Disappointment on Campus" ( This articles provides good insight into the happiness of faculty at different types of colleges and universities. Bottom line is that your happiness is what you make of it in your position. However, negotiating the job offer can ease some stressors.

1 comment :

M M Montgomery said...

Two posts were mistakenly omitted in our original list and we include their [edited] comments here:

I was pleased to see Michele Montgomery's recap of the points that one should consider negotiating when offered a faculty position in the 11/13 issue of the AASWomen newsletter. I wanted to suggest a few more, and also suggest that perhaps you might want to have a differentiated list for what prospective postdocs should consider negotiating in their postdoc offer. I think most postdocs probably feel that the details of their offer are likely a done deal, since the position is often already defined as a line item in a grant. Many (most?) of the things on your list are things postdocs should at least broach with their prospective postdoctoral advisor, although there may be less flexibility on some than for faculty (for example, unlikely that the appointment title will change and the salary may be more limited when defined by a grant budget). But, perhaps the biggest one that postdocs should discuss in advance are the expectations for the position. Some particular issues to discuss are:

- can you take your project with you when you leave your postdoc?
- similarly, can you continue to work on any data you collect?
- supervisory responsibilities (e.g. undergrads, grad students, technicians)
- opportunities for teaching or other outreach
- participation in other professional development opportunities
- expectations and/or process for re-appointment
- an important subset of benefits: leave policies for postdocs, sick, vacation, maternity/parental. if no formal policy, discuss with PI *in advance* what the practice will be!


Katy Flint


Hi AAS Women,
Although my job is not in astronomy research, but in informal astronomy
education I thought the experience might apply for other girls out there. Just over a year ago I was offered the job I have been attempting to groom myself for since 1998 and possibly as early as 1996. When the job offer came I didn't accept immediately (which took great restraint) but took some time to think about it. I was shaking inside as I walked into that [negotiation] 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. 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. I had an ace in my pocket: I knew they wanted me. I wrote down on a cheat sheet 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 [sheet]. I gave them my reasons and my top couple [salary] numbers. They told me I was dreaming. 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 and [I] settled for a start salary 2% below my minimum. 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.