I got my first non-academic job. Fish out of the water… I made a typical mistake (typical for me…). I under-valued myself. When I was getting ready for the conversation, I did some research to figure out what to expect as a first salary offer and how to negotiate up from there. I was offered a salary about $10,000 higher than I expected – in fact, the exact number I was hoping to get after a lengthy and painful negotiation! I was so shocked I bleated “that sounds reasonable!”
“Why didn’t you negotiate? The first number is never the final number, it is always lower than what they are willing to pay you.” – my husband was shaking his head later that evening. “You can still ask for more money tomorrow, before you give your final answer.” I did have enough brain power to ask if it was ok to get back with the final confirmation on the following day.
“But I can’t! I already said $xx,xxx was a reasonable number! I feel so ashamed begging for more money. It feels uncomfortable. It feels undignified. It feels weird!"
“Fine, then don’t “ – he said – “but this is why women get paid less.”
I agonized over this all evening. I thought about how to justify asking for more money. I thought about the salary offer – it really was quite decent. Could I get more? Probably not. Especially not since I boxed myself in by saying “that sounds reasonable”.
The following morning I made the phone call to the HR person I’ve been talking to. I asked her if it was a good time. I asked her about how she came to work for XYZ. She told me her story and how happy she was in her current job. Without thinking too much, I took the plunge.
“About the salary… You offered me $xx,xxx. I did some research and found the average salary for medical writers is $yy,yyy ($10,000 more than the offer) and even higher for people with Ph.D. I realize this is an entry-level position and that I don’t have much experience. What can you do around $zz,zzz ($5,000 more than the offer)?”
The answer went something like “Oh, I don’t know… [pause… I didn’t say anything]. What you are asking for is what they typically pay Senior Medical Writers. We offered you a salary that is very close to that…. [pause… I just kept my mouth shut]. Well, I can talk to the hiring manager, if you want me to.”
An hour later, she called me back. They agreed to the new salary $zz,zzz but wanted me to start a week earlier than previously discussed.
Asking for more money got me more money!!!! My husband smirked and said “Of course! Told you so!!!” Honestly, it wasn’t all that uncomfortable, or embarrassing, or any of those things I expected. It was strictly business.
But... if it wasn't for my husband pushing me, I would have gladly settled for their initial offer...
Now I am off to figure out childcare for our three kids for the summer.
What is your salary negotiation strategy?