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Negotiating 101

confidence courage job offer negotiation
Woman shaking hands in a negotiation

When my goddaughter accepted her first job out of college, she was over the moon. A top performer from a top Jesuit university, she had graduated summa cum laude, with two public relations summer internships under her belt – and job offers from both. Katie accepted the job from the New York firm and was off and running. A lifelong perfectionist, she far exceeded all expectations and targets, garnering glowing reviews from management.

Around her one-year anniversary, Katie’s friend Jamie, from her college a capella singing group, called just days before his graduation, with the fabulous news that he had accepted a job at her firm, on her team. Katie was surprised – Jamie was a biology major; he hadn’t taken any marketing classes or interned at any agencies – but she was thrilled. Working as long and late as she did, she hadn’t made time to socialize much, and Jamie would soon fix that. After completing his orientation week, they had their first “date” at the local lunch counter. Katie foot the bill and Jamie was grateful. “I hope to reciprocate as soon as I get my six-month pay bump, Katie,” he said; “but you’ve gotta tell me: how did you make ends meet in Manhattan on 75 thousand?” Katie was speechless. She hadn’t made “ends meet” on 75 thousand because she still wasn’t earning that much.

Barely able to hold it together for the rest of lunch, Katie called me from her building’s lobby, sobbing. Jamie didn’t graduate with honors! He didn’t do an internship, had no experience, took no relevant courses even – and he was making more than she was. How dare he! I let her vent for a while, and then told her that her anger was misplaced on Jamie. The perceived injustice of their pay wasn’t his fault, it was hers. She hadn’t negotiated for a better package when she was originally offered the job (despite her godmother’s urging at the time) and Jamie clearly had. Good for him, I thought to myself.

“So, Katie, rather than be angry with Jamie,” I advised, gently, “be grateful to him because today he helped you learn a good lesson – and you’re going to put it to work when you meet with your manager tomorrow.” Here’s what Jamie inadvertently taught Katie:
1. Everything is negotiable.
2. Never accept a promotion or job offer without asking for more.
3. It’s on you to make sure you’re fairly compensated because no one else will (or should).

I’ve dedicated most of my professional life to teaching these truths to women, so they won’t make the mistake Katie (and legions before her, including me) made, but it has barely moved the needle. Heck, my own goddaughter ignored me one year earlier and here she was in this mess. Fortunately, Katie is young, her career has just begun, and she has already learned to advocate for more and better pay. In fact, her boss promptly gave her a nine thousand dollar raise to lift her above Jamie’s salary, with a promise to bump her again if she made her six-month numbers. But the average American woman professional loses 1.5 million dollars over her career, by not negotiating effectively. Don’t let yourself be one of them!

Negotiating is difficult for everyone – even professional dealmakers. Sadly, being a woman is statistically proven to make it more difficult. And if you have a gap on your resumé and a few skill deficits (perceived or real), well, that ups the ante even further. In short, if you are reading this blog post, negotiating an offer is probably something you wouldn’t consider doing because you’d be so grateful to receive any offer for any job, right? But you’d be so wrong, because job offers always have “wiggle room” in them and if you don’t take that extra cash, it’s going in someone else’s pocket. Usually, a man’s.

Beginning today, here is how you should handle every job offer for the rest of your professional life:
1️⃣Step 1: You receive the offer. YAY! Compose yourself and say: “Thank you so much for the offer! Once I’ve received it in writing, I’ll review it and get back to you within 24 hours.”

2️⃣Step 2: Review the offer; every facet of it including: base pay, commission, bonuses, equity, PTO, health benefits, retirement benefits, lifestyle benefits, flexible workplace options, flexible work schedule options, job title, other perks – and ask yourself these questions for each part of the offer:
Does this align with what I want? If not, how does it fall short? Will I accept this part of offer as-is? If ‘NO’, this is what I’d like to counter-offer. Write it down.

3️⃣Step 3: Craft your counteroffer of more pay + more of something else, and present it confidently:
“Thank you for the offer. If we can bring the base salary to $X so it’s more in line with the comps I’ve researched, and my worth, and up the PTO by four days, I’m all in and ready to start next week.”

4️⃣Step 4: Have a B plan. Know what you would accept if/when the hiring manager comes back with a counteroffer – and know when you’d be willing to walk away.
Perhaps the most important part of your negotiation is believing – and through your behavior, showing – that you are worth being compensated fairly and well, and that you can walk away from a sub-par offer because you always have other options.

For help planning and executing your next negotiation, use our free Negotiating template! 

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