When The First Negotiation Doesn’t “Stick”
Elizabeth joined us at Bossed Up Bootcamp knowing that she wanted make a big career change, but she was worried about the enormous drop in pay she anticipated being a necessary part of such a transition.
But let me tell you – this boss knows how to stand her ground when it comes to salary negotiation! I sat down with Elizabeth to get the whole story – and hear how we all can learn from her persistence.
Emilie: So tell me – why the career transition in the first place?
Elizabeth: It was a tough choice! I went to school for emergency management and I was being paid really well to do it in real life – which is kind of a dream for some people, to work in the field they paid to go to school for. But I had spent my emergency management career traveling and following disasters and moving a lot, and I was frankly just tired. I really wanted to see what else was out there and try the regular 9 to 5 thing, but I also really didn’t want to feel like I was starting over from graduation day, you know?
Emilie: Ah, the old golden handcuffs left you feeling stuck, huh?
Elizabeth: Yes! It was really scary to leave a high-paying career path. It wasn’t that I was worried about being able to do the job well, it’s that I couldn’t afford to go back to the bottom of the ladder with an entry-level salary. They already offered me a salary that was too low, but had never opened the conversation up to signal whether they would even consider a different salary. It left me worried that they weren’t even open to negotiation at all.
Emilie: Yea, that can be scary, but very common. Employers rarely roll out the red carpet for your counter-offer.
Elizabeth: Right. So I just let the interviewer know that I would not work for less than a certain salary. We ended up going back and forth a bit, and I ended up getting a much better compensation that I felt was fair, which included some of my salary request being met through other means – namely quarterly installments.
Elizabeth: Thanks. Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the story…
Emilie: Uh oh. What happened?
Elizabeth: Six months into my new job I took a closer look at my paycheck and realized that things weren’t adding up. I wasn’t actually being paid the higher amount we’d agreed to at the end of each quarter. I had to stand up for my negotiated salary AGAIN and asked for my employer to help me understand why the agreed-upon amount wasn’t being reflected in my pay. Then it happened AGAIN at the end of the calendar year. I had received my W-2 and still couldn’t feel comfortable with how the numbers were shaking out. I had to approach them about my negotiated salary that, once again, wasn’t aligning with what we’d previously agreed upon.
Emilie: Oh my goodness, what a nightmare. Bet you were happy you had that discussion documented in writing, huh?
Elizabeth: Yes. Thankfully, in both instances, we were able to reconcile the issues with very open and honest dialogue. And I don’t really think it was even malicious or mal intended. But just imagine if I hadn’t had the courage to stick up for my worth again and again and again? They probably wouldn’t have caught the error on their side of things and then my initial negotiation would have been for nothing.
Emilie: That grit and tenacity will serve you well. Do you feel like Bossed Up helped you in channeling your inner boss then?
Elizabeth: Totally. I’m not sure I would have fought as hard during all those pay issues without knowing there was a group of women who would support and encourage me each step of the way. I felt like I couldn’t let them down by not standing up for myself.
Emilie: Awesome. What advice do you have for other women dealing with salary snafus like you did?
Elizabeth: Knowing your worth and being able to stand by those numbers is a key skill for any boss. I came up with my counter-offer by first knowing what I could make elsewhere, assessing what skills were transferable, and understanding all I could about the new industry I was entering. Because I did the legwork up front, I felt really justified in defending that number time and again.
Do your research. Know your numbers. And practice saying them and explaining them out loud. The more you hear it from yourself the more you’ll believe it. You’ll be ready to own it.