Have you ever felt like you could strike a mean bargain in the shops of Mumbai, but when it came to salary negotiations, you didn’t know how to channel your shrewd inner businesswoman?
My first experiences with bargaining were in the air-conditioned shops of Mumbai. I’d watch my relatives and mother offer half of the asking prices of lovely saris and gold-embroidered salwar khameezes. The shop owners charged us extra for our funny accents and Bisleri water bottles, but we’d still walk away paying far below the sticker price for our treasures (and by the way, I didn’t feel guilty about this — these were the middlemen who probably still overcharged us, knowing that we were converting rupees to dollars). I’d try my hand at bargaining for purchases here and there, starting with a very low offer and trying to get to a price that made both the merchant and me happy. I learned that some deals were worth walking away from.
Regardless of the outcome, I’d relish the thrill of deal-making.
I also bargained for the first car I ever purchased, and far from being daunted, I loved that I was fighting to get a deal. And every year, at the LA County Fair, I loved getting the doodad and thingamabob sellers to throw in a free one of this or an extra set of that after bargaining down the price.
Unfortunately, early in my career, my bargaining success didn’t quite translate to my salary negotiations.
In some cases, it didn’t occur to me to bargain. I’d think that the offer was generous.
Or I’d worry that bargaining would make me lose the offer.
When I did bargain, one time I’d come on too strong, employing the Mumbai-style starting counter-offers that were far above the original offer. Turns out this strategy isn’t so good when it comes to salary negotiations. If your counteroffer is too high, the other side may feel that you would never be satisfied with a salary that they could pay you.
One thing is clear, though. Bargaining for salary is essential, ESPECIALLY FOR WOMEN!
Studies have shown that men bargain for salary far more often than women do, causing differences in salary that only escalate across our career lifetimes.
Ok, ok Indian American Mom, I get that salary negotiation is important, but HOW DO I DO IT?
1. Read Up
Check out a great book, Ask for It by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, which explains all about how women can negotiate at work, using examples of real women. There are probably other books out there, but this is one that I read and liked. Please chime in in the comments if you know of other good books on the topic.
2. Take a Class
Take a negotiation class where you learn from an expert and practice the strategies in a workshop setting. I’m doing that this month–post on the Facebook page next month, and I’ll tell you how it went.
3. Do Some Market Research
Calculate a reasonable salary using this tool. Consider the type of work that your organization does in determining a reasonable salary. For example, a public interest organization is likely to have a lower salary than a large law firm. On the other hand, if you break down your salary by hour (yearly salary divided by expected yearly hours), the public interest salary may be competitive with the large law firm. If you’re looking for a government position, you may be able to assess the expected salary increases over time using online charts. Consider all of this when determining your target salary range.
4. Develop Talking Points
During the negotiations, you want to focus on the value that you’ll bring to the table. This means you have to know your most relevant accomplishments like the back of your hand. Try to quantify these (e.g. Increased sales by x percent, managed x number of client accounts, etc). When you are negotiating, you want to emphasize the value that you bring to the table. You can also discuss why your salary demands are reasonable given current market rates for someone with your qualifications. Also, think of what, beyond salary, the employer can include to make it worth your while (e.g. a better title, the ability to work from home, a bonus at a certain date if you reach certain goals, etc.).
5. Role Play
Role play your salary negotiations with your most intimidating friend. If your negotiating partner will be a man, use a male friend–sometimes women are intimidated by men and you don’t want this to mean a lower salary for you. Practice convincing this person that you should get the pay you deserve, which is probably higher than the offer. Keep in mind your reasonable salary range from the prior step and remember to use your talking points.
6. Negotiate In Person
Once you have an offer in hand, schedule a face-to-face appointment to negotiate salary. I wouldn’t recommend trying to negotiate during the interview phase. During that time, you are trying to convince the potential employer or client that you are the best woman for the job. Emphasize your past accomplishments and what you would offer to your organization if hired. When this person extends an offer, it means you’re the best candidate, and they want you!
Negotiating in person is far preferable to negotiating over the phone, because you can use nonverbal cues.
7. Think of the Kids
Sometimes, as women, we just aren’t willing to fight hard enough for ourselves. Sad, but true. Get around this by thinking of what fair pay will mean to your children. Maybe it will mean you can afford that after-school activity or put away funds for college. Maybe it will mean you can hire someone to clean your house while you spend more time with them. Use the instinct to advocate for others to get yourself a better deal, and as Suze Orman says, “Don’t put yourself on sale!”
8. But Don’t Admit You’re Thinking of the Kids
On the other hand, don’t provide your kids (or any other reason related to your life, such as your mortgage, a recent divorce, etc.) as a reason that you deserve a higher salary. Put yourself in your potential employer’s shoes. Do you think THEY want to hire someone because that person has a mortgage or braces to pay for? No. They want to hire someone because it will help them be a more successful organization. Period. Your talking points should relate to why you will help make that organization successful and what level of compensation is fair for you to be able to do that.
9. Think Win-Win
Approaching a negotiation as an adversarial process can be counterproductive. I’ve had success with framing the negotiation as a shared goal — you want something and the other party wants something, so work together to achieve that shared goal. In the case of salary negotiations, the employer wants you to come onboard, and you want to be paid fairly to do so. You can use a phrase such as, “I am really excited about your organization, and I want this to work. What can we do to make that happen?” When no one’s feeling defensive, negotiations can be far more fruitful.
Would you share your tips for negotiation with the I Am Moms community? Share your success story here, and be a role model for other moms. Please respond in the comments.
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