This International Pharma Exec Stopped Worrying About Being Fired and Doubled Her Salary Instead
A smart ask success story
Annette Saldana is a mindset and communication coach for clients navigating the business world. Her Smart Ask Success series relives the successes her clients were able to achieve by working with Annette to make a smart ask: a request for a higher salary, promotion, or raise that changed the narrative and allowed for her client to advance their career and pay. By sharing these stories, we hope to give an example for readers who are interested in achieving the same types of success.
When Angelina called me, she was at the end of her rope. All she wanted was to keep her job as a business development manager for her company that had recently been acquired by an NYC-based international pharmaceutical company. The idea of doubling her salary, let alone taking on greater responsibility and a bigger role, wasn’t even remotely on her radar; she just wanted to avoid being fired.
Angelina had allowed her career to run on autopilot for quite a while. She’d been working for her original company — an NGO that focused on women’s health in developing countries — for seven years and hadn’t had a raise in three. She had accepted this lack of salary advancement by rationalizing that she didn’t want to ask for more money when her company wasn’t profitable and also it was okay since she was truly passionate about her job helping women. All she really needed was to be liked and for her boss to tell her she was doing a good job; that would be reward enough.
Now, however, she had a new boss and was returning from a hotly contested four-month maternity leave her original employer hadn’t wanted to pay for. Additionally, she was a French national living in a foreign country with no extended family support for her, her unemployed partner, and their two children. Her income meant everything to her family, and she absolutely could not lose it.
But Angelina was thinking too small; keeping what she already had wasn’t enough. To truly turn her situation around, Angelina needed to learn how to dream HUGE. Before she could do that, however, we needed to work on shifting her mindset from fear and panic to confidence and strength.
We began going through her history with her company and making a list of all of her accomplishments and skills. This showed Angelina how important and vital a role she played in the organization and that she possessed invaluable institutional knowledge. She wasn’t an employee who could be easily dismissed or replaced.
Next, I had her make a comprehensive list of all of her work contacts; it turned out to be rather extensive, and this helped her realize she had lots of people to reach out to to find another job if the worst came to pass — if she was fired.
Finally, I had Angelina conduct a detailed review of her financial situation. What would happen financially if she lost her job tomorrow? Would she and her family be all right? The surprising answer was yes. Even if she were abruptly fired, they’d be able to survive until she found new work.
Now that we had banished her panic, I proposed Angelina ask for three times her current salary, convincing her that this situation wasn’t really about just keeping her job or getting a 2% raise — it was about finally getting what she was worth. To help encourage her down that path, I had her begin working on her most important list: what she could do with all of the extra money. She was buoyed by thoughts of buying a car and a house, of traveling, of building a more secure future for her children, and of helping her extended family and friends. All she needed now were favorable circumstances that would allow her to shine.
Not long after the mindset shift, an opportunity presented itself — an important meeting with a company trying to get a new drug approved in Japan. Angelina was slated to attend with her new boss, but rather than waiting for him to tell her what to do, she took the initiative and began preparing on her own, finding all of the company’s competitors, developing relationships in advance of the trip, and scheduling meetings. Then, she put together an amazing presentation and impressed the heck out of everyone — the client included.
After Angelina’s return from Tokyo, I continue to encourage her to ask for three times her salary. With her recent success still fresh in everyone’s minds, she did and then managed to confidently negotiate her pay to twice her current salary. Not only is she now financially secure, she’s taking on more responsibility and is slated to take control of the day-to-day operations of her entire company in the very near future.
“The money is great,” Angelina told me this week coming off the big win. “But it’s more about standing in my own power. Now I’m in charge.”
Old mindset: “I was a victim — I was afraid of speaking up.”
Mindset shift: You don’t have to be liked to be successful; just make sure you provide value. You can dream huge and step up your ownership even though your future is uncertain.
Strategies are powerful — but they aren’t everything.
We live in a world where strategies are all around us, but they aren’t the most important pieces of a breakthrough.
In fact, strategy may be a problem more often than not.
What you really may be missing is a mindset for success and self understanding.
The story you currently have about your life, about your business, about your sales performance, or about the relationship you’re struggling with is why you’re stuck. Your current story is one you’ve told yourself so often it has become a belief. And not only do we end up believing our own stories, we encourage others around us to believe it too. The wrong story kills possibility.
What was Angelina’s story, in her own words?
“My big vision is to get recognition in my job. More than money, I want the recognition. And I know it’s stupid and that’s the baby girl in me talking, but I have not yet been able to overcome that. I want my boss to tell me I’m doing a great job and that I’m good. And that’s ridiculous because that’s why I work for free, to be sure to be loved and appreciated.
That’s also why I’m afraid to be rejected.
What’s between me and my financial goal is the fear to be rejected, the fear to not be recognized and laughed at (how can you pretend to be taken that seriously), the fear of being a fraud, or arrogant. I don’t want somebody to tell me I’m not worth it and losing my confidence because my raise has been refused.
I have also never talked about money and I don’t know how to do it. All my jobs I always said yes and that’s it. No negotiation. Like we don’t talk about money it’s dirty.
Also, because I’m lucky and fortunate, and I don’t need more money. The kids are safe and healthy and it’s indecent to make too much money (makes sense?).
I always wanted to change the world, that’s why I became a lawyer, then worked for an NGO (that screwed me but still…) but still now I’m working for the pharma, I’m a bit ashamed of that and I don’t want to become one of them by talking about money. I don’t want to lose myself in the process.”
Key Insights or Distinctions
These are the mindsets I helped Angelina to embody and change her story:
- Instead of paying attention to whether or not you are liked, shift your focus towards creating value.
- Trust in your ownership, even though the future looks uncertain by creating a supportive environment.
- Practice observing how you respond to fear so you can get gain control of it.
We will tell ourselves that we’ve tried EVERYTHING, but that’s just part of the story that keeps us from getting what we want.
The only thing keeping you from getting what you really want is the story telling you about why you don’t have it — or don’t have it yet but will get it “someday.”
You’ve got to develop an empowering story.
And by that, I mean you’ve got to find a story that’s going to empower you to act — a mindset shift that alters the way you perceive the world. With a limited story — or even a good one you won’t follow through on — you’ll never find the “right” strategy.
I’M NOT SAYING STRATEGIES DON’T MATTER. But strategies without a mindset for success will fail.
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