This post was originally published in Desk Lunch, a newsletter for all creative women and non-binary folks. It’s one of my favorites, check it out!
2017 was my year to glow up in my career and get my money right. I started researching about personal finance with blogs like Nerd Wallet, Stefanie O’Connell and Priya Malani (check out her 30-day Money Challenge on Refinery29!). I joined a couple of design communities on Slack and started talking to designers in roles I wanted about what they did at their jobs. I joined the Ladies Get Paid community and went to several workshops and events like the Get Money Get Paid conference in Brooklyn, an empowering day full of talks and workshops where over 130 women gathered to rise up and promote gender equality in the workplace.
At a negotiation workshop, I remember being encouraged to ask a coworker what they got paid. I thought, Yeah…I don’t know about that… but then I thought, Why not? Why is talking about money such a taboo? Because you might find out your coworkers are making more than you and do something about it?
So, I asked my coworker how much he got paid. He was hesitant. I said, “You can give me a range if you’re more comfortable with that. I believe in ending the taboo on talking about salary.”
“Okay, but don’t tell anyone I told you,” he conceded. We were in the same class at the same school. Both did six-month long paid internships at this agency together before graduating. He made $8k more than me in the same role. Why? Because he asked for it. It was a wage gap wake-up call, and I’m a reformed woman.
In July, I applied for an amazing job and got it. I was so excited about the offer I almost accepted it on the spot, but I knew the market rates, my worth, and came ready to negotiate. After many a pep talk and pushing away thoughts like “Do I even deserve it?”, “What if they take the offer away?”, “What if they laugh in my face?”, I successfully negotiated, asked for my “dream number” (see below), and ended up getting $5k more than was offered, the chance to revisit my salary in the future and benefits like health insurance and flexibility in where and when I worked. I’ve also successfully encouraged friends to negotiate and they’ve since doubled their salaries and freelance rates.
Here’s what I learned:
Think of negotiation as creative problem solving.
Both parties know what they want, need each other to achieve that goal, and want to leave feeling like it was a win-win. If you feel like you aren’t satisfied with your end of the deal, it will affect your performance eventually. Even on the worst days of your job, what would make working there worth it for you?
Set your walk, want, and dream number before negotiating.
Your walk number is the lowest acceptable offer you’d take the job for, want number is a number you’d feel happy with, and dream number is the highest realistic number you can ask for without laughing. Get comfortable with asking for your dream number out loud. Ask for your dream number.
Erase thoughts like “I don’t know if I’m worth six-figures…I can’t ask for XX amount!”
It’s important to separate your internal views of your self-worth and what you think you deserve from what you ask for. For example, I thought, “I’m living good enough right now… do I really need to make more?” Do you think every rich old white man makes how much they do by wondering if they deserve it? We should ask for as much as we possibly can, and be prepared to back up why.
How to back up what you’re asking for is key.
If it’s a new job you’re applying for, research the hell out of the company and tell them how the skills and value you bring will help the company succeed. If it’s a job you’re currently at, write down your successes at the end of each week to build up your case when it comes time to negotiate. Provide stats, numbers and facts if you have them. Don’t assume your manager or boss notices and knows all the good things you’ve been doing for the company. Bring the facts to the table and make a case for yourself. A trick I use often: Pretend you were advocating for your best friend. It’s much easier to stick up for your best friend. Women tend to downplay their own achievements in fear of coming off too aggressive. Write down a bad bitch mantra and put it somewhere you’ll see it everyday, or better yet set your phone wallpaper to a picture of Rihanna.
What’s the worst that could happen if you ask for too much?
They’ll say they can’t afford it. If so, you can work together to negotiate other benefits like PTO, location flexibility, equity, gym memberships, education reimbursement, and the potential to revisit your salary in the future. If you’ve made it this far in the negotiation process, by this point they’ve invested time and effort into hiring you, and they want you. It’s unlikely they’ll rescind the offer on the spot, and if they do, you should reconsider if that’s the kind of place you want to work at.
Lastly, ask yourself, “What would my white male counterpart make/ask for?”
And then ask some white men in similar roles what they make.
Let go of the fear of not being liked, or coming off greedy or rude. Stop thinking you’re lucky to have this opportunity. You worked your ass off to get here. You deserve it. 2018 is your year, get that money!