The Salary Chronicles was first published on Forbes.com
Welcome to The Salary Chronicles, where we’re bringing transparency to negotiation and salaries, one story at a time. We ask women to share their experiences negotiating their salary and what their advice is for others doing the same. We share these stories anonymously so they feel comfortable speaking as openly and as freely as possible.
This week we’re sharing the story of a woman who went in big and asked for a 39% increase to the starting salary offered.
What was the situation when you decided you needed to negotiate your salary?
I had just moved to London and left my job in retail in New York. I arrived without a job, applied and networked aggressively, and after a few months of being unemployed I was ecstatic to receive an offer from a great Global Retail Brand. Being out of work for a few months was really stressful (mentally and financially) and this job seemed like the perfect next step in my retail career.
When I received the offer, the excitement wore off and I was extremely disappointed with the salary, to say the least. It was significantly lower than the salary I had received for an equivalent job in the US and I knew that all of my future US counterparts at this company were being paid significantly more than what I was offered. While this position was located in the UK and I understood that the UK market had a lower pay scale, my role was a global role and I eventually hoped to keep the position and move back to New York. The salary they offered would leave me feeling underpaid for my skills and experience and I just knew that I couldn’t be happy with what they offered.
What did they offer: $82,500
What did you ask for: $115,000
How did you decide what to say and what to ask for?
I knew that I had to negotiate the salary or else I would resent the job and regret the decision to take it. I spoke with my husband and explained how I was feeling and that if I was to negotiate as aggressively as I felt necessary to be paid equitably, I could possibly lose the offer.
He encouraged me to go for it and we discussed a strategy on how to frame the conversation: I would start by re-stating how passionate I was about the company and the role, and that I was looking at this as a long-term career move. I then moved into re-selling my qualifications and reminding them of why they were hiring me. My background and experience was perfect for this role and I had been doing the same type of work very successfully for a larger company in New York.
After that, I would carefully go into my ask and let them know that the salary offered would not allow me to stay in the role for a meaningful amount of time, regardless of how passionate I was about the company.
How did you feel going into the conversation?
I was really nervous to have this conversation and actually ask for this amount because it was so much higher than what they originally offered (39%). And I knew that an ask this aggressive could easily be something they could walk away from, and I could potentially lose the job. After months of searching, I really didn’t want to start the job hunt again.
On the flip side, I knew that if I did not value myself enough to ask, I would always regret it.
How did the conversation go?
The negotiation was over the phone, and I went through the script that I had rehearsed. After I conveyed my passion for the role and reminded them of my valuable experience, I explained that the salary offered would not be sufficient to allow me to stay in the role for a meaningful amount of time, despite my passion for the role and the company. I explained why the compensation I was asking for was fair given my skills/experience and the fact that I had been paid this in a prior equivalent role. I also suggested that if it was not possible to make the compensation up in pure salary, I was open to alternative benefits as well (i.e. vacation days, etc).
I followed up the conversation with an email that re-iterated that I was passionate about the company and the role, but that I would not accept the role at the current pay offered. I wanted to be extremely clear and firm with what I was asking for so there would be no confusion.
How did the other person react?
Not well. She was surprised that I was negotiating at all and said that it was unlikely I would receive a better offer as this was the current scale of pay at the company.
I was surprised by how resistant she was to my counter-offer. I thought she would be more amenable over the phone, but she was pretty blunt with her thoughts on my request. I hung up feeling like I had probably just lost the job.
How did it turn out?
They called back with an offer of $105,000 and I accepted. They said that they had to seek CFO approval to make this exception in pay, which I’m so glad I didn’t beforehand, because that may have intimidated me a little.
Do you have any advice for other women?
t can often feel like a risk to ask for more, and it can be. But the bigger risk is feeling undervalued and regretting a decision to take something that you are not excited about because of this fear.
Don’t back down even if they initially seem shocked with your request. If you truly believe that your work is worth what you are requesting, ask for it boldly and don’t let anyone make you feel badly for it.