Negotiations - More than just money

Negotiations, such a daunting word, especially when you know what you want but don’t know how to get it. Having the confidence to go after it is a whole other story. As a woman it’s even tougher knowing that we are already at a disadvantage - only making 82¢ for every dollar a man makes. I am of the opinion that, as long as we prepare ourselves, we can get the exact salary we deserve. If not, we walk away to something better, but we need to at least try.

I see so many individuals forego the opportunity to squeeze a little bit more lemonade into their glass simply because they are afraid of asking. Whether you are buying a home, applying for a job, or asking for a salary raise, it’s important to prepare yourself so you are quipped for these discussions. Here are a few things that have helped me throughout the years, that I hope you will find useful:

  1. Know the market value for your position in the city that you are in. If you google what an Associate Lawyer in Medical Malpractice makes in Boston but are applying in Nashville, the salary ranges are going to be drastically different. Make sure you have your facts straight so you aren’t going into the discussion with a ludicrous salary expectation.

  2. After you have figured out what the market value is, use that range to figure out what your desired salary is. Helpful tip: Never ever ever ever ever ever give a salary range. If you walk into that same law firm and request a starting salary of $60,000 -$72,000, what incentive do they have to pay you even $1 over $60,000? You just told them they can save themselves $12k by offering you $60k. Tell them the top end of your range, in this case $72,000 and let them negotiate you down.

  3. Before you head into the meeting, take note of other things that are important to you. If more vacation days are important or working from home X number of days a week, then use that as a tool for negotiation if they don’t give you the salary you requested. We once hand someone negotiate that they “don’t want to put their time into a time tracking tool” because they think it’s a waste of time. For certain companies and positions this is feasible, if you are billing clients it might not be. The point here is that you can be creative.

  4. Come with facts and figures, things that take the emotion out of the discussion. The people across the table from you think in numbers and efficiencies, so beat them over the head (not literally 😉) with the amount of money you have saved them and/or previous companies via efficiency, process and technology improvements. But don’t tell them that your wife just had a baby or that your basement just flooded. This has nothing to do with business and should be left out of the discussion entirely.

  5. Always carry an Ace. Any time you walk into a negotiation, always remember you have the opportunity to walk away from the table. I find that when I go into the discussion with multiple offers on the table already (job offers outside the organization), then I am the best negotiator I can be. Why? Because I know I can walk away to something equally as good or better. What I won’t let myself do is suffer in silence and accept a lousy offer someone has put on the table. All it takes is a little bit of your time to apply. And, who knows, you might find another company you like even better throughout the process.

I’m not telling you to do anything I haven’t done. In fact, I continue to negotiate certain policies within our organization. The big one that I continue to fight for is  a better maternity leave policy. I negotiated my personal maternity policy leave two years ago because I refused to agree that a partially paid short term disability policy is a policy. I did that using steps 1, 2, 4, and 5 (there wasn’t anything else that was important to me other than a great policy for all women). Our company has since made changes for the better and for that I am grateful; however, I told them I wasn’t completely satisfied and that we will continue to have women shy away from our company for this very reason. So instead of being angry, I continue my fight.

Don’t ever sell yourself short, but also be realistic. Don’t feel like you need to ask for a very low salary just so you can get yourself in the door because you are just undervaluing yourself – and that tells companies that they, too, can undervalue you. We won’t ever close that pay gap if women aren’t willing to stand up for what they truly deserve. So put your big girl pants on and prepare yourself for a great negotiation.