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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 speaking with a woman who negotiated for more than just money.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Position/Industry: Marketing Agency, Media

Salary: $58,000

Salary requested: $65,000 + reduced travel

What was the situation when you decided to negotiate your salary?

When I joined my agency, it was a small shop with 12 of us total. A year and a half later, we had grown to 20 people and our client list was crazy! Our founders had done a great job of hustling to go out and get new work, but our team was really short handed. Everyone was pulling long hours and traveling like crazy. I was on the road nearly every week and the travel wasn’t local. I was racking up air miles traveling cross country or internationally and I was exhausted. When I had started with the company, long haul travel was something we would do occasionally. Now that our company had grown so much, it was the norm.

After traveling internationally every month for six months, I realized that the job had changed so much and I was incredibly unhappy. The attitude in the office was that we should be so grateful and lucky that the company was doing so well and we were able to take advantage of the perk of travel, but it really wasn’t feeling like a perk to me. I dreaded the travel and felt like I was forcing myself onto that plane every Sunday night. I was ready to start looking for a new job.

With our annual review coming up I knew that I should ask for more money, but what I really wanted was a lighter travel schedule. I was at the point where money was nice, but what I really wanted was my life back.

How did you decide what to say and what to ask for?

I had a feeling asking for more money wasn’t going to be an issue. I benchmarked what was standard in the industry and decided to ask for that. I really didn’t want to focus too much on a higher salary.

With travel, I needed to figure out what I really wanted and balance that with not burdening our already overworked team. I wanted it to be a win-win: I would continue working there as a really devoted and critical member of the team, and they would help create a schedule that worked better with my life.

I sat down with my list of clients and my current schedule. I was on the road 80% of the time with half of that travel time either taking me across the country or overseas. My goal was to get my travel down to 40%, with a significant portion of it being regional.

With that goal in mind I came up with a few solutions: staff me on more local clients, do more virtual work for existing clients, and have them focus on hiring people who would see the travel as a real perk (they were actively hiring at the time to keep up with our workload).

What happened during the conversation?

The salary conversation was easy. I laid out a little summary of what I had brought to the company and my clients over the past year and what I felt was a reasonable raise for my contribution to the growth of the company. My manager said the amount was in line with what they were planning to offer.

Then we got into my ask about reducing travel. She was a little surprised that I wasn’t enjoying that part of my job – it was seen as a big perk in the office and most people loved it. When I explained myself she did say she understood, but she wasn’t sure how to reduce my travel.

I came prepared for that response and handed over a summary of my proposed solutions. It clearly laid out my goal – that I would still travel but just not as much – and it also included specifically how I thought I could reduce my travel.

That caught her off-guard a little bit but it took the conversation from being very vague to laying out 3 concrete solutions that could get me to my goal. It also signaled that I was incredibly serious about making this change. I let her know that with this pace of travel there was no way I could see a long future with the company.

What was the outcome?

My manager came back about a week later, after a staffing meeting with the founders. She brought to them my problem with the travel and also my solutions that I had laid out. They had decided that the fix couldn’t be immediate, but it was something they could gradually put into place over the next few months.

We then outlined the plan for the next 3 months to reduce my travel and specifically what needed to happen to get there.

With that clear roadmap to reduce my travel, I was able to get to my goal in just about 3 months.

Any lessons learned or advice for other women?

Negotiating isn’t just about money! When I was miserable, my friends told me to ask for a huge raise; to get paid for my crazy travel schedule. But the money wasn’t the issue. They could’ve doubled my salary and I still wouldn’t have been happy. I needed to be really honest with myself and what I wanted to make sure I was setting myself up to be truly happy.

Don’t just go in with problems go in with solutions. My manager is really busy and if I had just come to her complaining about my travel schedule, I don’t think it would have gone too far. But coming in with a clearly laid out solution showed that I was really serious and made it easier for management to say yes.

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