Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thank you, husband dearest!

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?  

Monday, June 15, 2015

Back to work

Looks like I’ll be going back to work in a month.  I am excited and terrified at the same time.  I’ve been home with the kids for 16 months.  I am used to the flow of things, to the convenience of being home for my family, the evenings that I can spend any way I want (reading, mostly).  This new job – it will be really new.  Career-changing new.  I am leaving the bench-work science behind and starting out in medical writing.  Writing full-time…  I am scared. 

I will not be able to produce well-written material.  I will not be able to meet deadlines.  I’ll be horrible at my job.   Everyone will realize I am a fake and don’t qualify for this position.  My life will be over.  I’ll never see my children again.  My children will hate me.  My 16-month-old will no longer love me.  My children will miss out on xyz opportunities because I’ll be at work.  They will be failing school.  They’ll grow up and require extensive psychotherapy because their mother chose to work rather than be home with them.

Ok, breathe!!!! 

They offered me the freaking job!  I completed their writing test – and the team liked it enough to interview me and to hire me!  My writing is fine.  I earned a Ph.D  - that’s no walk in a park.  I know how to work.  I’ll be ok.

I’ve worked before and I was happy and the kids were fine.  In the past, I was able to work out a schedule (get-in-early-get-done-early) that maximized the time I spent with the kids.  My life was a little crazy but – overall – I was happy.  The kids did really well as far as learning/development stuff.   My daughter acted out a lot but she does that when I stay home, too.  We’ll be ok.

This opportunity is great in so many ways.  I will be learning a lot.  It is a new field for me.  The money is good.  The commute is good.  I liked the people.  There will be opportunity to work from home a few times a week once I get established.  Down the road, if I like it, I can continue with the company – plenty of opportunities for promotion.  If I decide it is not for me, with the experience I get there, it will be much easier to get into freelance writing (or find a job at with a different company). 

There is a lot to figure out in the next few weeks (childcare...  backup childcare...  schedules... ).  I better get on it!  I know I will feel more relaxed once these things are resolved and I have a clear view of how our life is going to be organized starting in July :)

How do you find childcare and/or nannies?  I always seem to struggle with this...

Friday, January 9, 2015


It is never too late to learn.  I'm learning things about myself that I should have known...  I've been impatient with the kids and unproductive all around,  blaming it on being tired... being stressed... not getting enough "me" time... not getting enough sleep.  Really, all along it's been this undercurrent of discontent.  It's been eating away at me, spoiling the present and making me feel so uncomfortable inside my own skin.

The difficulty is - I am not certain what the cause of the discontent is.   Is it that I'm staying home with the kids and not working? Is it that I am being so cowardly about pursuing the next step in my career? Is it that I have so easily slid into the role of a stay-at-home mother and wife?

My youngest is 11 months.  I am no longer in a "survival mode".  The older kids are 6 and 4.  Perhaps this discontent is because I am getting restless and ready to get back to work full time.  And yet - it is so nice, being home.  Seeing my oldest off to school and picking him up from the school bus.  Taking the kids to the park or the library on Monday morning.  Things like taking kids to the doctor, or grocery shopping (no crowds to fight on Thursday morning), or letting a sick kid stay home from school - so much easier now while I am home!

On the other hand, I feel like I am being lazy and wasting my PhD...  you know, staying home, doing nothing.

Sure, it is convenient to stay home.  I take care of the kids, cook, do laundry.  I really grew to enjoy most of this stay-at-home stuff.  The question is, will i still be doing all the same things 10 years from now?  Is that what I want?  After the youngest was born, it was in everyone's best interests for me to stay home for a while.  Then, I lost my job (problems with funding).  So now what - do I just stay put (not sure that is so good for me or the family long-term), get back into research (meh...) or start something new?

If I am to be honest with myself, I am terrified.  I am afraid of change.  I am afraid to try something new.  I feel so cocooned right now, so snug in my current situation.... but it is not good for me, I know.  If I will be too afraid to make changes, changes will still happen (such is life!) except that I wilI will be caught as a passive "deer-in-the-headlights". Not good.

Are you content with where you are in life?