Picture this: You’ve been hunting for a better job for six months. Today, your phone rings. “Congratulations! We would love for you to join our team!” You thank your lucky stars that they can’t see you jumping up and down through the phone. Then, disappointment. The salary offer is lower than you expected, and you’re going to have to negotiate.
Cue the internal monologue: “I should ask for more, but how much? What if they rescind the offer? There are probably a lot of people out there who want this job and would work for less. What if they think I’m too pushy or difficult?”
Why Don’t Women Negotiate?
There are many reasons why women don’t negotiate. Some include fear and a lack of guidance on how to negotiate a salary. An often-cited study by Linda Babcock, Women Don’t Ask, argued that a woman who fails to negotiate her salary upon being hired could sacrifice over $500,000 over the course of her career. Yet, women who do negotiate pay a social cost that doesn’t apply to men.
There is no question that negotiating your salary, especially your starting salary, leads to long-term benefits that compound over time. Let’s take a simple, real life, example, using some more modest numbers. If you start at $50,000, assuming a small 3% raise every year, you will be earning $126,217.65 in year 30. Your total earnings over the 30 year period would be $2,378.771 If you negotiate an additional $5,000, you would be making $133,499.44 in year 30. Your total earnings would be $2,616,648. Negotiating that additional $5,000 in starting salary earned you $237,877 more over a 30 year period. Women who negotiate benefit from the ability to contribute more to their retirement funds, earn more money to pay off debt, and have more discretionary income for spending.
Fortunately, there are ways that women can negotiate without sacrificing too much of their social capital. When you are initially given a job offer your new job will tell you what they would like to pay you. Even if you’re lucky and your offer is higher than expected, there is probably room to negotiate a higher salary.
Bring Facts, but Not Numbers
Take time to research the salary range for the role that you’re being hired to perform. Think about your current skills et, strengths that you will be bringing to the company, and how you were able to help your previous companies in positions that you worked previously. Come prepared with evidence for the legitimacy of your salary request.
However, never state a number. The employer likely has a range that he or she can offer, so give your reasons to request a higher salary and let your employer come back with a number.
Be Confident When You Ask
Asking for what you want can be scary, especially for women. It doesn’t matter if you’re asking for a raise, the window seat for your next flight, or extra sour cream for your burrito. The process of putting yourself out there is a huge risk, and with risk comes the possibility of being told “no.”
Practice your negotiating skills with a previous colleague or supervisor who is also considered a friend. Get their feedback on what they look for in a healthy and successful negotiation. Make sure your voice is clear and steady, and look the employer in the eyes. Show that you are 100% confident that you deserve what you’re asking for.
Prepare for Yes or No
Figure out how you will react to either answer you may receive. If you prepare for getting a positive response or a negative response, you take control of the situation.
If you get a yes, wonderful! If you get a no, all is not lost. Begin thinking about finding new opportunities to increase your salary as you begin working in your new position.
Negotiate at Every Opportunity
Don’t forget that there will be more opportunities to increase your salary as you work in your new position. Keep track of your successes and contributions to the organization’s bottom line. At your yearly review, you will have evidence to present and justification for a raise higher than the standard.
Asking for what you want is not rude, aggressive, or abrasive. It is part of the process of taking care of yourself.