Never Fear a Bold Negotiation

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The Levo League discussion topic? Negotiation. I admit, even though I had a story to share and I’m not a shy person, I paused at least twice before telling my story at the LocalLEVO Philly #Ask4More discussion. And that’s a shame in and of itself.

Why? Because all of us women have a negotiation story, and we should all openly share it, whether we consider it to be a failure or success. There’s no reason for us to hesitate discussing how we asked for our value. In fact, one of my proudest moments is a bold negotiation I made because of the lessons I learned from a failure.

Yes, I admit, I failed at a previous job negotiation. Some might disagree with me on this point, but the facts are that I once agreed to take a job without fully understanding or having a clearly articulated role and path forward in an organization. I considered it an exciting risk in a great organization. Why seek clarity on the specifics? But I learned there are a few things we should understand during the negotiation phase before accepting a new opportunity:

1. Fully understand the organization and your role and responsibilities within that organization.

Seems simple, right? Oftentimes it’s challenging to understand something from the outside in that we have not yet experienced. Even if we don’t know someone in the organization to personally ask candid questions, many websites such as glassdoor.com, salary.com, and others provide us with culture, position, and salary data that help us gain a better understanding of the situation we are about to enter. And make sure the job description and career path are very clear so you know how to meet expectations and how you will be rewarded when you do meet them.

2. Ask lots of questions about the compensation structure and range of benefits.

This will help you understand if the time and energy expected is worth the value you will receive. We deserve to know what we can and can’t expect from our hard work. This is especially important for startups or new positions in a company that may sound exciting, though are unchartered and therefore the path and structure may not yet be well thought out.

3. When you receive your offer, ask for more.

Of course, raising the base salary is in our best financial interest, but additionally we can ask for a bonus or minimum first bonus, more vacation days or more flexibility, such as working from home once a week. Even if we don’t receive what we ask for, just asking shows our bold selves and provides us with insight into the flexibility of our potential employer and if they are willing to make any concessions now or promised for the future—officially and in writing!

So how did I apply these lessons to make my next negotition a bold one? Upon receiving an initial offer, I believed from my market and company-specific research the base compensation and level were too low. “This offer is insulting,” I said, in an even-toned and unemotional way (in hindsight, I don’t believe “insulting” is the best choice of words; next time I will say I am “disappointed” or that it “did not meet the expectations I developed throughout our interview discussions”—it’s all about continuing to learn from our negotiation experiences!).

I then went on to very calmly and conversationally remind the hiring manager of my professional accomplishments. I shared my belief that while this type of offer may be common to someone with my years of experience, it doesn’t take into effect my unique accomplishments and assets we both agreed I would bring to the company. I asked many questions about the differences in levels and understanding the compensation structure, including bonuses and benefits. I asked for time as I continue my search and he agreed we would reconvene later.

When we did, he presented a second offer. While the second offer still did not meet my highest expectations, I accepted because of the dialogue that followed. You see, I felt bad for previously using the word “insulting,” and began to apologize during this second negotiation when the hiring manager suddenly cut me off.

“Stop right there, before you even apologize. You did everything exactly right,” he said. “When I thought back to how the conversation went, I don’t think I’ve ever had a more pleasurable experience where I’ve been called insulting.”

“Just to clarify,” I replied, “I didn’t call you insulting. Only the offer.”

We laughed and after some witty banter, I realized that I got one more thing out of that initial negotiation that wasn’t written in the second offer: Respect.

I accepted that second offer because I knew this hiring manager and organization worked their best to meet my request and could accept the boldest version of me. And that’s the type of boss and job I know I want to have. Don’t you? Then be bold and have no fear… just ask.

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