I DID IT!!! And for anyone doubting themselves or their skills, this is for you:
For the last 14 years I have been an over the road truck driver. I graduated the Front End Web Development track on September 1st from Udacity.com on a Scholarship that was awarded to me by Google. Since then I have worked on my transitional resume and LinkedIn page, following Udacity’s career development guidelines, getting my reviews and polishing them up.
About mid-September, I started papering this town with my resume and getting rejection letter after rejection letter. I even applied and was accepted into an apprenticeship program, only, there were 127 other people waiting on apprenticeships ahead of me. It was a nice fallback, but I needed to get to work. So, I continued to paper this town. I applied for a position with the American Angus Association and got a bite. I was excited, the salary was great, and they had excellent benefits. However, during my phone interview, I was told that the position was located 53 miles away from my home in a completely different city.
I was so bummed.
That’s like a 2 hour commute every day, and just not feasible as my old F-150 has a V-8 in it. I also was not keen on being behind the wheel that long anymore as I had just watched 14 years of my life pass me by holding on to a steering wheel. That’s exactly why I wanted out! I’m sick of seeing asphalt!!
So, I tried the remote angle, and they said, “…no, at this time and although, the work could be done remotely, for team building purposes, the position would be required to be on site.” But they said, if that changed, they would keep my resume on file and call me if I would be interested in that. I said yes and graciously thanked them, but inside I just felt defeated.
Not one to ever give up, I continued to paper this town with my resume, and completed my Responsive Design certification from freeCodeCamp.
Then I finally got a call from a small company here in town that is an intermediary between teachers and parents that I had applied for. The phone interview went very well, and I was asked to come in for a face to face next Monday. They also asked me to bring my laptop as they wanted to look over some of my projects and do a code review.
That interview lasted two and a half hours. I left thinking I had the job and was told they would send me over an offer letter the next day.
The next day, instead of an of an offer letter, I received an email apologizing for not sending me the offer letter, but she would get it to me by the end of the week. Doubt started creeping in, I didn’t really have the job… They were holding off to interview other candidates… These we’re my immediate thoughts.
On pins and needles, my stomach doing flip flops, I waited…Wednesday, then Thursday came and went and no contact. Friday I was really bummed. I waited all day and nothing.
Then, at about 3:30pm, when I was just getting ready to pick up the phone and call, (she did give me her business card after all), I heard that familiar ping from my laptop signaling that I had new mail in my inbox.
Sitting in my inbox was my offer letter.
Palms sweating, I opened it… And again, the feeling of defeat wash over me. They had come in well below the market value for the position I applied for. Like 10k below the lower end of that range. But, then something inside my head clicked and I remembered…an offer letter is just the opening paragraph of a conversation. It wasn’t the end of the conversation…it was actually just the very beginning.
Only problem was…I just wasn’t sure how to approach the subject of the low salary. So, I utilized the resources that Udacity provides to its students and alumni in their career development center and reached out to ask for advice on how to approach the subject. I didn’t want to seem greedy, but I also knew the offer was well below what I had expected.
After a brief conversation with the staff, I felt a little confidence begin to creep back in and felt I was justifiably disappointed in the offer, but I was renewed in tackling this as just another problem to solve.
I then reached out to someone in my network who has been a plant manager at a plastics plant and had worked himself up into that position from an entry level position as a mechanic on the injection molding machines. He retired at 51 and now does consulting.
I laid out their offer to him, explained to him how I felt and gave him the findings of my research about the market value in my city for the position I had applied for. He gave me some excellent advice and reminded me that I had been negotiating my wages for quite some time now as an Owner Operator every time I called a broker to book a load.
I suddenly felt the boost of confidence to do what I must, and I began to put together my counter offer. In fact, I was so confident, that I chose to have the discussion over the phone rather than through emails. So, I sent off an email stating how much I really wanted to work with the company, and how impressed I had been by the knowledge and skills of their development team, but also placing a reminder that, I too brought skills to the company that the other developers did not have.
She had a software engineer and a systems architect, and they were excellent at what they did, but after speaking to them, both confessed that neither one of them had UI/UX skills, which is exactly what I as a Front End Developer was bringing to the company and then reminded her that is why she had placed the ad for the position in the first place.
When she finally called me back, this morning, a Saturday morning to be exact…I laid out my counteroffer, providing her with the findings of my research from Dice.com, Indeed.com and Glassdoor.com for the market value of someone with my skills and that included my minimal experience, explaining that her offer was not equitable for the market value of a junior developer right out of school with no experience whatsoever — even at the low end of the spectrum from that research.
I actually came in $15000 over her initial offer, expecting that she would counter that and meet me somewhere in the middle or I would lose the job. But I had already made up my mind and placed a number in my head before the conversation, that if she didn’t reach it, I was ok to let the job go and continue on with my search. I was resolute in that and I would not feel bad, because I was now confident in the value I would bring to the company.
To my surprise she came in just 2k UNDER what my counter was. I responded that her offer was very reasonable, and told her that in fact, I was quite pleased. I also accepted the offer, contingent upon a 6-month review of my skills. She agreed to this and said perhaps at that time “we can meet your original expectations”. I realized then that she had opened the possibility of a raise of 2k after 6 months. Not bad at all!!
I think my negotiations, which was indeed a discussion, went quite well. It was nothing for me to get nervous or sick to my stomach about. I simply knew my worth, was confident in that during the discussion and I think she recognized that confidence.
As a former business owner myself, I could understand her emotions for the first time, and it’s simply this. If you walk into an interview lacking confidence and are timid about asking what you think you are worth, the business owner immediately picks up on this. And if you are not confident in your own worth and value and skillsets, why should they be confident in you?
A business owner likes to feel justified and confident in their financial decisions. Walking in with confidence, looking them in the eye and stating, matter-of-fact when asked, these are my expectations for my salary, then remaining silent and holding that gaze is strategically in your favor. Do no look away, or let your eyes begin to wander. Firmly maintaining and holding that employers gaze is a very psychological maneuver. If on the phone, remain silent — do not try to fill that silence with chatter or small talk, because the ball is now in their court and it is their move, let them be the one who speaks next.
A business owner now has to make a very tough decision knowing they have invested all this time interviewing you and have already made the choice of you in making you the offer — did you catch that? You ARE already the best candidate in their mind!! That gives you leverage, because they don’t want to go through that process all over again anymore than you do to find, the next best candidate, only to arrive at the same moment they find themselves in now.
I am happy to say, thanks to the education, training and coaching that I received from Udacity, I have finally completed my transition from a truck driver of 14 years, the open road, and a steering wheel, to accepting the title of “Technical Support Specialist — Web Developer”, a job on the 9th floor of a high rise overlooking downtown Kansas City, and a keyboard. If you think coding can’t change your life…boy do I have a story to tell you!! :D
You can do absolutely anything you put your mind to, sounds so cliché…but it is the absolute truth.
For the past 10 months I have been staring at this picture of Bora Bora, little grass huts and crystal blue and turquoise waters. This has been MY inspiration —as I have recently found myself much more creative around water and have even termed myself Blue Water Creative. I have a 5-year plan to be living on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands working remotely. Maybe I’ll call my business Blue Water Creative Media…has a nice ring to it!
This is what has motivated me and pushed me to achieve what I thought was the impossible. I say to you this — find your inspiration, keep it in the front of your mind always that “…this is why I struggle now, this is what awaits me at the finish line”, and never give up your dreams. Love yourself enough to know that you deserve whatever dreams your mind can imagine, but you are the only one that can make them happen!!!