In 2011, I was working for a small regional startup making $90K per year a few years out of business school. Unfortunately, I had grown to really dislike it and felt no connection to my work or the organization.
I left the company without having a formal plan and threw caution to the wind. Six months passed before I found my next role and I was pretty desperate to get back to a steady paycheck. I had decided I wanted to pivot into HR and found a new role that provided other perks: I was part of an all-female team with a female boss at a well known global consulting firm.
When the offer came through at 65K, the same base salary I had been making in 2007 right out of business school, I didn’t hesitate much. I had one conversation with my future boss about salary and she explained how important it was to maintain parity in compensation for similar roles on the team. Despite my having more experience than others she did not want to create disparity and discord within the team. That seemed like a noble rationale for her decision to hold firm and I figured that my future performance would help drive up my compensation eventually.
It turned out to not really work out like that.
Why did you decide to negotiate?
I loved my role and my team, but almost every day I was faced with the reality that I didn’t feel good about my compensation. After nine months I had the opportunity to move to a new team with a new boss. One of our first conversations was an open discussion about my compensation. Though it was uncomfortable, I felt I’d done a good job of laying out my frustrations in a productive way.
Six months after that conversation I was promoted to a new team and received a raise to $76K + 10% bonus.
I was happy to receive the raise, but at the same time, I realized I wasn’t sure what my market worth was in my new role. I had the voice nagging at me in the back of my mind that for an up and coming HR leader I wasn’t doing a great job of advocating for myself and articulating what I wanted and why.
I began having recruiters reach out to me on Linkedin. Despite being really committed to my company, I took the calls. It was interesting to see what jobs were out there and how much they paid, but at the same time, I was in agony. I didn’t want to leave a role I loved just to make more money. It called up a lot of deeply buried thoughts and emotions about money and for the first time, I really started to think about what my priorities were. How important was money and what kind of sacrifices was I willing to make for a job I loved?
Rather than continue to struggle with these emotions I decided to speak with my boss again about salary.
How did the conversation go?
I felt like I’d proven my value and I knew he respected what I brought to the team. I explained how I was committed to the team, but I really wanted to be earning more and my goal was $90k in base compensation.
He was open and supportive, at the same time acknowledging that getting me to $90K was still a huge jump given where I started especially if I wasn’t ready for another promotion. We started discussing other non-monetary compensation that might be meaningful to me and I shared that I wanted to work abroad, specifically in London.
We ended with the agreement that we’d start actively working toward my next promotion, though it was likely years away, and he would continue to look for opportunities for me to earn more or work abroad.
I left the conversation feeling energized.
What happened next?
Two months later I was on a plane relocating to London for 6 months. Five months into that role, they asked me to stay on permanently and I had the opportunity again to discuss salary.
I knew that the previous incumbent had earned £70k, and I laid out my rationale for why I deserved to earn as much as they had even though I had less experience. I encouraged my boss to talk to some of my key stakeholders to understand the impact I was having in my new role to support the fact that I wanted to earn more.
It took about a day but he came back and gave me exactly what I had asked for.
Two years later I was approached by a startup to interview for a position. After a short interview process, was offered £90k. I didn’t want to accept the position but I knew it was time to speak with my boss very openly about my salary. I told him that it was hard to accept that a smaller company was willing to pay me £15k more than what I was currently making (I’d received annual raises to £75k). What could he do for me off-cycle so that I didn’t have to wait?
It took 2.5 months but he came back with a salary increase of £90k.
I was pleased, it hadn’t been a battle, I hadn’t made him feel guilty or badly and I was proud of myself for my approach and the outcome. I had wanted to be at 90K and now I was earning it – just in a different currency!
What advice do you have for other women?
The gender pay gap is real and we all have to do our part to overcome it. After my six months of unemployment, I joined an organization with great intentions but a low offer. I shouldn’t have taken an offer that I didn’t feel good about because it put me in a position to earn so little for so long.
Negotiating non-financial rewards is about cultivating relationships where you can have open conversations. Figure out how best to talk about financial and non-financial rewards. Like any tough topic if you lay down some ground rules for how you’ll engage it makes the conversation easier to move through and less stressful. Consider what’s important to you and if there is something you value in addition to, or over financial rewards, make that clear. For me, it was working abroad and personalized private recognition from my boss.
Need to learn how to negotiate?
On The Worth Project, I love to interview career professionals on how they negotiated for what they wanted. I get inspired by their personal stories.
Did you know that negotiating your salary one time can add over a million dollars to your earnings over the course of your career?
That’s kind of a big deal. And so is the confidence you get from knowing that you can ask for and get what you want and need in your career.
When I learned that negotiating your salary one time can add so much money, but also control over your life, it was the push I needed to put the learnings from these interviews, my personal experience, and research into a course.
My negotiation guide gives you the negotation framework you need to persuasively make that ask. We’re not talking negotiation theory that works in a classroom but not in an office. This is a simple framework that gives you the confidence to use your own voice and get what you need: research. prep. ask.
Fill out the form below and I will send you the kind of email that makes your day. It will have the link to download my negotiation guide so you can start earning more money. Fill out the form below to get the salary you deserve.