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 was able to negotiate during a layoff, which saved her $2,500 and helped her land a new, higher paying position.
Location: Washington Metropolitan Area
Original Salary: $122K
New Salary: $125K
What was the situation when you decided to negotiate?
I was working at a small consulting firm and we had been experiencing a slow down in new work over the past few months. Though management was optimistic things would turn around and they’d be able to cut corners to make ends meet, I was a little skeptical.
I returned back from almost a month off for my wedding and on my first day back in the office I went to HR to see what project I was going to be staffed on. I was told there wasn’t anything just yet, but I’d be put on something soon. I walked around the office saying hello to colleagues and noticed that almost all of my peers were not staffed on any client work. I went home that evening with a sickening feeling that my job was no longer safe.
I spent that evening processing the emotional aspect of facing a layoff and also strategizing what would need to happen in order to be set up well if I was actually laid off.
The next morning I walked into the office and was called into my manager’s office, where I was laid off.
How did you decide what to say and what to ask for?
As I was strategizing the night before, I had called a friend who filled me in on what I needed to worry about: health insurance, career coaching services, and a severance package. I had also borrowed against vacation time (having just taken a month off for my wedding) and I was worried that I would need to repay that time, which would be around $2,500.
After preparing for the worst, I had 2 things that I wanted to get from our meeting: a solid reference and my vacation time payback waived.
How did the conversation go?
I began with a big ask and requested that I received 3 months severance, 1 month for every year that I’d worked there. My manager explained that wouldn’t be possible as they really didn’t have additional cash to work with. I took that in stride and moved right onto repaying the excess vacation I had used. I asked that be waived as they were providing a fairly slim severance package.
My manager took that item to discuss with HR and then later agreed.
I moved next to my ask for a reference. I started by asking whether the layoffs were performance based. I was assured they weren’t. I then asked if he had been happy with my work over the past three years and he replied that of course they were.
I brought up some of the great work I had done over the past three years – the highlights – in order to remind him what an asset I’d been to the company. I then told him that I would need his help with connections and a solid reference in order to find a new job.
When he agreed, I asked him to write it immediately. He wrote up a letter of reference and signed it for me to use in my job hunt. I then asked him to log into LinkedIn and leave me a review. It felt like a bold request, but I knew that I wanted to walk out that door as prepared as possible for my job hunt.
I then made it extremely clear that I was going to start the job hunt that day and that I hoped he would share any job opportunities he heard about through his network.
Even though I had just been laid off, I walked out of that building feeling really confident in my future job prospects.
What happened next?
A week later he called with a lead on a job. One of his contacts at another consulting firm was looking to hire and he had suggested me for the position.
A month later I had an offer in hand from that firm, and a new salary that paid $3K more than what I was previously making.
Advice for other women?
Asking for things extends beyond just asking for money and beyond just asking for things during traditional times (when you’re offered a job or up for promotion). Asking for what I needed during a layoff – and making sure it was something they could reasonably give – was crucial to me landing a job so quickly. Walking out the door with a solid reference and having reminded my manager of my value led me quickly to a new job.
Paying attention to the work environment can pay off. Most people had not figured out there would be layoffs or chose not to trust their gut feeling that the company was not doing well. Being in control of your emotions and coming in with a thoughtful list of negotiation items helps protect your reputation and offers tangible benefits, which can otherwise be easily missed.