By Sandy Johnson, Senior Consultant
You’re at the finish line! You’ve just received an offer for the job you really want and you’re ready to sign. Wait. You’re not quite done yet. Negotiating your offer is the next step and, definitely not one to be skipped.
You may not feel in a position to negotiate, particularly if you’ve been unemployed for a while, but you’re in no different a position than any other candidate, employed or not. Still, it’s understandable if you’re nervous. You’re afraid that the response will be no, or the offer might be withdrawn. You might upset someone. You’ll sound greedy. Or, they might say you don’t have enough experience or credentials, which by the way, contradicts the evidence that you’re the selected candidate.
Consider this, instead. You’re the only one with the offer. The employer has chosen you, which makes now the best time to ask for what you want. Declining the opportunity to negotiate at this stage and undercutting yourself financially can change someone’s perception of your value, and not in a positive way. If you’re still nervous about asking for more, here’s a compelling reason that may persuade you otherwise.
In their book, Ask for It, authors Sara Laschever and Linda Babcock present powerful reasons to create an awareness of what we want as well as the strategies for getting it. We’ve all been afraid of expressing our own value at some point, but it’s much more prevalent among women. We stand to lose a lot by not asking, starting with the incremental income that’s lost over many years not negotiating your very first job offer. Ms. Babcock told her graduating students, “By not negotiating their job at the beginning of their career, they’re leaving an estimated $1 million to $1.5 million on the table in lost earnings over their lifetime.”
If you’ve never negotiated an offer, it’s not too late to start advocating for yourself. Here are some guidelines for all of us:
- You’re entitled to negotiate, and it’s expected that you do so. Besides getting what you want, it’s also an opportunity to demonstrate the very skills you’ll use on behalf of your new organization.
- Know what you want and why. This includes not just salary, but anything else important to you. Would you like more holidays, a sabbatical, the flexibility to work from home, or professional development and executive coaching? There may even be items not included in your offer that the company would be willing to give, if asked.
- Know your value and what you bring to the role and the organization. “Based on my experience doing X, I was hoping for a starting salary closer to Y.”
- Don’t forget the other side. Know what’s important to the employer and why.
- If someone balks at your request, it doesn’t necessarily mean no. It may mean they need to hear more. Having some responses or questions prepared is invaluable. Try, “What part doesn’t work for you?” “What would it take to make this work?”, “What’s important to you about that?”.
Negotiation is a process. If you’re willing to both ask for yourself and be curious about what the other side needs, you’ll extend the conversation and establish some mutual understanding. That’s where it starts. So, go ahead and ask. You’re worth it.