The Importance of Learning How To Negotiate

by Erika Torres
15 comments

My first job out of college was as a reporter’s assistant for a mid-sized metro newspaper. When they hired me full-time, I was thrilled at the idea of having my first grown-up job. For the first time in my adult life, I was offered health insurance, a 401K, and a cubicle to call my own.

It never once occurred to me to negotiate my salary or to ask for more than they offered. I was simply under the impression that everyone was offered the same amount. After my salary was determined, I felt that I should have been offered more, and I was sorry that I had failed to negotiate. This was a costly mistake that I unfortunately repeated with my next two jobs before I finally got smart.

When I interviewed for my fourth job after college, I was determined to negotiate my salary. When I was asked what I expected my salary to be during the interview, I asked for $8,000 more than what I was making at the job I had.

The man interviewing me scoffed and cited the poor economy at the time, offering me $2,000 less than what I was making—a $10,000 difference from my proposed salary.

Truthfully, I never expected to get an $8,000 raise, but I had to leave some wiggle room for negotiation. I also knew that as a salaried employee, I would be expected to work many nights and weekends, and I wanted the increase in salary to reflect the extra work that would be expected of me.

As small as the hiring manager made me feel for asking for a higher salary, I stood my ground, because I knew what I was worth. I thanked him for his offer and told him that while I understood his position, that I wasn’t an entry-level PR professional anymore. I had experience and was well-connected in the industry.

After a few more exchanges, we settled on a salary that was $5,000 more than what I was making at the time. I attributed our final salary agreement to my persistence, and refusal to accept anything less. When he had tried to offer me $10,000 less than my starting offer, I flat out told him I wouldn’t accept anything under the amount we finally agreed to.

Had I been younger and not as wise by this time, I probably would have accepted his original offer and just been thankful that he offered me the job. As an experienced employee with bargaining potential, though, that was not an option for me.

Successfully negotiating this salary did wonders for my confidence, but it also made me wonder how much money I had lost in previous years because of my fear of negotiating, and subsequent failure to do it. How much money did I miss out on simply due to fear of the word “no”?

Women: Why are we selling ourselves short?

We’ve heard it over and over again: Women make only 77 cents to every dollar paid to our male counterparts (National Women’s Law Center). While there are a variety of factors that contribute to this discrepancy, how much of it can be attributed to our lack of strong negotiating skills?

Sheryl Sandberg says in her TED Talk, that 57 percent of men entering the workforce from college negotiate their first salaries, compared to only seven percent of women. And the people who do end up negotiating generally receive an average increase in salary of seven percent more than non-negotiators.

You may think seven percent isn’t that much to be missing out on, but the reality is that your salary is a base rate. Every time you’re considered for a promotion or a  raise at that position, it will be based off of your initial salary. If your initial annual salary is $100,000, your three percent raise will be worth $3,000, compared to $2,700 if you started at $90,000.

Why are women less likely to negotiate?

In my case, I was too young and inexperienced to realize that negotiation was even a possibility, and no one told me, either, for that matter. There’s no “Negotiating 101” college course to give you the tools necessary to successfully negotiate your salary. And even when I started to wise up, I was afraid to ask for what I was worth for fear that I would be shut down.

But the worst your negotiator can possible say is “No.”

Not negotiating my salary from the beginning is a costly mistake that I will never repeat. As much as I wish I could go back and redo this from the beginning of my career, I obviously can’t.

So my best advice to women starting out in their careers is do not be afraid to ask for what you’re worth. You deserve it.

 

This post is part of BlogHer’s Women@Work editorial series, made possible by AFL-CIO.

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15 comments

rayban 店舗 September 9, 2013 - 5:16 pm

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モデル メガネ September 9, 2013 - 5:16 pm

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Connie @ Savvy With Saving July 29, 2013 - 9:15 am

Straight out of college, I didn’t realize that I could negotiate – I was just happy I had a job. Now, I feel like it’s a must. The worst case scenario is that the offer stands as is. No harm there.

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Budget and the Beach July 28, 2013 - 11:58 am

I just wrote something similar in The College Investor. This is yet another thing that should be an option to learn in high school and college, especially for women.

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Tanner July 27, 2013 - 7:21 pm

Great points, though it also depends on your situation. At the time, you already had a job, and assuming you didn’t NEED to leave it, the ball was on your court. YOU could have said no instead of the recruiter. If you had been at the brink of losing your current job, unemployed or in a toxic environment or something that needed that change, I wonder how the cards would’ve lined up? Would you have pushed as hard as you did for a better salary?

That said, I didn’t negotiate my initial salary because it was at par with what I had requested. It was my first ‘career’ job ever, I had no experience whatsoever, out of school, and the proposed salary was just on point with the industry standard. Now, when I move out of state in 2 years, despite the possibility of not having a job, I think I will push for a higher salary. I am building my skills and resume to justify higher pay.

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Em July 27, 2013 - 6:26 pm

I have a fun one. My boyfriend and I were working at the same company, same position (although he has more experience in the industry overall in various roles and is 4 years older). We were contacted by the same recruiter, for the same position. We both decided to interview, because why not? He asked for $30,000 more than I did. He got the job AND the salary (shy of about 5k). Lesson learned: the guys negotiate HIGH, and still get the position. Don’t be afraid to ask for more!

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Tushar @ Everything Finance July 27, 2013 - 2:42 pm

Negotiating is such an important skill. Some people are born with the skill and some aren’t, but anyone can learn it. Many people don’t negotiate salary in their jobs.

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smallbusinessloanMinD July 27, 2013 - 12:20 pm

I do agree that negotiation is a great skill, but would also like to say that negotiation often takes a wrong turn when one of the negotiators of either of the two parties is a better and more experienced negotiator. Since negotiation is a process, it allows both parties to present their concerns and ideas about a deal. It takes a lot of expertise, both intellectual and social, to properly present and argue deals. If the talent level is lopsided, this can lead to deals being struck in favor of the better negotiator as opposed to the best interest of the two parties — it can also lead to manipulation.

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Liz July 26, 2013 - 3:24 pm

I didn’t negotiate my fist job either. I was so thrilled that I don’t think I cared when I accepted that contract.

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Emma July 26, 2013 - 2:31 pm

Loved reading this – I started a new job back in April and I negotiated for the salary I wanted. It really helped me to not be desperate to leave my job at the time, so if they weren’t willing to go that high, I wasn’t willing to leave my job.

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CeCe @Frugalista Married July 26, 2013 - 12:12 pm

Glad you have learned to ask for what you are worth. I have never been at a job where salary negotiation was an option. My previous job didn’t entertain it. You started at X and you got X percentage of a raise every year. That was it. My current job is a state job. There is a scale and you get plugged in based on years in and position. I know exactly how much I’ll make every year for however long I’m here. No negotiation allowed.

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krantcents July 26, 2013 - 11:12 am

I think the most import ant part of negotiation is being willing to walk away. A lot of people feel something is better than nothing, but hat is not true. You beginning salary influences your increases and show how they feel about you and the role.

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Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies July 26, 2013 - 8:48 am

Sometimes you can negotiate benefits, too. Like instead of getting moving expenses paid ask for a signing bonus and arrange all the moving yourself for a lot less $. Pocket the difference for thousands of dollars! That’s a gimme that a lot of people don’t negotiate.

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SavvyFinancialLatina July 26, 2013 - 7:59 am

I made similar mistakes. I didn’t negotiate my offer. I think I could have negotiated for at least $5,000 more. Honestly, probably could have pulled off $10,000. So now, it’s going to take me three years to achieve the income I didn’t negotiate. I’m missing out on so much money. 🙁

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Mo' Money Mo' Houses July 26, 2013 - 7:26 am

I definitely made some of those mistakes when I was fresh out of college, good thing I know better now!

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