Part of the reason that women traditionally earn less than men for the same job is that they don’t negotiate their salary as often. Keep in mind too, that often the best way to increase your salary is to change jobs and negotiate for a higher pay.
My rule of thumb is to always negotiate. What’s the worst that can happen? Your potential employers say no, revokes the job offer, your significant other leaves you in disgust, your children disown you out of shame, you lose your home due to poverty and you find yourself in fingerless gloves warming your hands over a trashcan fire, listening to a man without teeth rant about the government.
The upside though is that you may squeeze a few thousand dollars out of your future employer. Weighing those outcomes against each other, I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t negotiate!
Nobody cares about your money more than you do and no employer is going to bid against themselves. Most of the time, or at least some of the time, the salary offer initially on the table is only the starting point. Isn’t the possibility worth the request? The worst outcome that will arise, my joking paragraph above aside, is that your potential future employer says no and you have to re-evaluate. And if there *is* a negative repercussion from merely asking for more money, that tells you a lot about how the employer values their employees and is a good lesson on bullet dodging.
So how do you negotiate? Speak confidently and know your worth. Intelligently discuss your request with data and numbers to back up your position. Before law school, I worked in the insurance industry. In negotiations for a new job, I sent the recruiter the email below, asking for more money. I dug through my Gmail account to find this, so it really is the actual email (stupid typo and all) with key details redacted.
I crunched all the numbers this weekend, and although it’s a very tempting offer, I will have to decline if the salary isn’t raised. I’ve only been working for 3 years, but every year, I get extremely high reviews and large raises, so I know I’m making pretty good money right now. My exact salary is $53,100 after my review about a month ago. They match 7% of the 401k at $0.85/dollar. For the first year at [potential employer], I would make:
[Potential Employer]: $55,000 – $90/month for insurance = $53,920.
Whereas, if I stayed at [Current Employer] that year, it would be:
[Current Employer]: $53,100 + $3159.45 (matched 401k) – $108.00 for medical, vision, dental insurance = $56,151.45.
I also have to take into account the discount I get on my car insurance from working here. On the 3 cars my parents and I own, it’s discounted nearly $800. Plus, I get 2 days off per month at [Current Employer], whereas I would only get 1 at [Potential Employer]. The $3159.45 from my 401k grows at (very conservative estimate) 4% per year. I’m only 23*, so that is a good chunk of change in 40 years.
I was very impressed w/the company and the people seem very nice, but I can’t take a step down in my career pay-wise at this point. If the offer is upped to $60,000, I will take it. I understand that is a significant jump and they will be unlikely to offer that much, but I can’t justify taking walking away from [Current Employer] for any less.
That email worked and I did receive an increased offer. I don’t remember how much it was exactly, but I know it was at least close to the full amount if not the full amount.
The second time I remember negotiating was when my law firm asked if I wanted to move to Sydney. My initial reaction was, “Yes! Holy Crap, yes! When do I leave?” They offered me a cost of living adjustment and I gaped in delight and again my initial reaction was, “Yes! Holy Crap, yes! When do I leave?”
But I resisted that impulse, kept my mouth shut and ran more numbers. I couldn’t find the actual email I sent because I used my work email account that no longer exists, but here is my best attempt at a dramatic re-creation.
Yo yo yo HR lady,
I am so thrilled about the offer and the prospect of moving to Sydney, but I’m having a bit of trouble reconciling the numbers. The cost of living in Chicago is amazingly affordable, so while I understand that the cost of living adjustment proposed would be a wonderful deal for someone in the NY office to move to Sydney, it’s sadly not great for me. I calculated the cost of rent and the fact that I would have to buy all new appliances in Australia. Including airfare home to visit my family and the higher tax amounts I would have to pay, moving there would be a terrible financial decision.
Have you checked the exchange rate lately? The Australian dollar is very strong right now and it’s nearly on par with the U.S. dollar. I’m hoping there is some wiggle room here and you can consider my request.
I don’t remember how much I asked for, but I know that email DID net me an increased cost of living adjustment and a one-time moving allowance in my first paycheck in Sydney to offset the cost of new appliances. Woooooot!
It doesn’t hurt to ask! Also, it always helps if you’re prepared to walk away. The most valuable thing money can buy is freedom from worrying about money. If you’re not living paycheck to paycheck and are master of your cash, you have a LOT more room to negotiate. You won’t feel obligated to take the first offer that comes along. You’ll know your worth and your potential future employer will also understand your worth.
I was fully prepared to stay at my current insurance job during the first negotiation I described above because I was already considering law school. I was also fully prepared to move to Sydney for a LOT less money than I received for the firm job, but they didn’t know that.
I know I wrote earlier in this post that my rule of thumb was to always negotiate because I like grand pronouncements, but the truth is a bit more complicated. I only stayed at the second insurance company job for a couple of months because I unexpectedly saw an advertisement for an international flight attendant position in the very town I was living in. I interviewed and when I received an offer, I immediately accepted without a peep.
I didn’t request more money for this position because I just wanted the experience and frankly, I knew my qualifications weren’t up to snuff. The brochure they handed out during the group interview clearly listed the height requirement as at least 5 feet, 2 inches tall (157.5 cm for you metric people out there). As tall as I am in my head, in reality I’m only 4’11” (149 cm) in height. During my one-on-one interview, I took my heels off and mimed loading a bag in the overhead compartment, indicating how long my arms were and thanking the universe when the interviewer seemed appeased.
This may or may not surprise you, but the pay as an air hostess was substantially less than I made in insurance and I never for a second considered saying no because of that. The lure of the adventure made up for the decrease in compensation and I never regretted my choice for a second. Money isn’t everything. Money just gives you the freedom to make your life what you want it to be. And, at that point, I wanted to be a flight attendant.
And although I did end up negotiating for more money to move to Sydney, I did not receive the entire amount I requested. Financially speaking, I would have been better off staying in Chicago. Again, the opportunity outweighed the monetary setback and all that jazz. I was in a strong enough financial position that I could have walked away, but like the flight attendant position, I wanted my life to be global and I had the freedom and flexibility with my money to make it so.
*Yes, if you’re doing the math at home, at that point I was 23 and had been working for three years already, which means I graduated college at 20. I’m technically a genius. I told this to my uncle who indicated that *he* graduated college at 17. The moral of the story is that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others. Unless you’re better than them. That’s the subject of another post though.