By Hannah Seligson
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So what? You didn t negotiate your salary; how much could you really be losing out on? According to recent statistics, by not negotiating a first salary, an individual stands to lose more than $500,000 by age 60, according to Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, authors of Women Don t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide (Princeton University Press, 2003).
If you didn t negotiate your salary you are part of a growing cohort of women - 22 million to be exact - who say they never negotiate at all, even though they recognize negotiation as appropriate and even necessary.
Deva Kyle, 27, the project director of the Younger Women s Task Force in Washington D.C., a nation-wide grassroots organization, didn t realize how much she could negotiate.
Starting out in my first job there was quite a bit of negotiation that I didn t participate in. Now that I m on the hiring committee at my office, I see the type of negotiations that are possible. I ve learned that you can always get a better deal.
Similarly, Anna Sachs, 28, said she was hesitant about playing hardball when it came to negotiating her salary as an entry-level employee at a male-dominated television station.
I felt like my employer s mentality was there were many more people who wanted this job and would be willing to take a lower salary to do the job, although no one ever explicitly said that to me, Sachs says.
Tory Johnson, the founder and CEO of Women for Hire, and the co-author of The Ultimate Guide to Getting a Job (Perigee, 2002), says that women have to recognize they are entitled to negotiate and might even be looked down upon if they don t. The majority of managers expect you to negotiate, she says.
Plus, it can also look like a bad business strategy if you don t. Remember the corporate mantra, Don t accept their first offer.
But adopting this mentality is often a challenge for women. I think it s really a gender issue, Kyle says. I thought someone offers you a job and you just take it. Women are told be thankful instead of putting on your game face. I think there needs to be more basic education for young women about how to go about this.
Most of salary negotiation, as Johnson points out, comes down to just having the confidence of thinking that you are worth it.
It s the trap that Sachs said she fell into.
I felt like my employers couldn t justify paying a single, 24-year-old girl as much as they could a man with a family. At the end of the day, I didn t think there were as many strong arguments for me to make as much money, Sachs says.
Johnson cautions, though, that salary negotiation should not be based on personal factors and issues. Salary negotiation is about getting the fairest compensation for the work you are doing.
So even if you think your personal circumstances don t warrant you to be making the same amount as the guy with three kids in the next cubicle, that shouldn t factor in.
It s not about being a salary martyr.
Johnson s key tips for executing a successful (read: lucrative) salary negotiation:
1. Do your research: It s important to know what the position you are negotiating for should pay, says Johnson. Salary.com is a good resource.
2. Find out where your salary falls in the range. You generally can t ask how much Kelly or John makes, but you can find out where your salary falls in the general range and that will give some explanation into your compensation, she says.
3. Don t make it emotional. I see many women base their salary negotiation on personal issues. For example, women think if they ask for too much their employers aren t going to like them. It s an issue of removing the emotional thought process. Remember: your goal is get the fairest compensation, Johnson says.
4. Have a plan B. Too often we put all our eggs in one basket by just asking for more base pay. If that isn t possible, we walk out empty-handed, Johnson says. You have to have a back up plan. Maybe it s negotiating for an extra week of vacation, a signing bonus or a tuition reimbursement.
5. Understand your benefits. A woman called me in tears because she thought she was making more money in base pay and it turned out, when she got her pay check, she was getting paid less because of health insurance deductions. Her previous employer had paid 100 percent of her health insurance. You have to be aware of what things are going to cost you, Johnson says.
6. Even a little can make a difference. Raising your base salary by even a few thousand dollars can make a big difference in subsequent positions, Johnson says. In the worst case scenario, if they won t budge, ask your employer to agree to a salary renegotiation in six months as opposed to a year. Even if you just get them to agree to that, you have still negotiated!
Hannah Seligson is a writer based in New York currently working on her first book, New Girl on the Job: How Not to Cry at Work to be published by Kensington Books in the spring of 2007.
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