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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 pushed the negotiation limits of her future employer and ended up with a total compensation package that was better than expected. 

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Industry: Nonprofit

Original Salary: $50,000

Negotiated Salary: $60,000 (with over $20k in additional benefits)

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

After I had my first child, I was looking for a change of pace. I decided to leave a well paying corporate job to move into the nonprofit sector to follow a path that felt a little more meaningful and to have a less stressful schedule. With our larger family, the long hours in my old role weren’t what I wanted to do anymore.

A friend sent me a job listing for a role at the non-profit she worked for that sounded perfect for me. She told me I could expect a salary of at least $75k, which was significantly lower than what I was making. I was expecting to take a pay cut when changing industries so it was easier to rationalize that salary level.

The job was incredibly competitive and there were over 100 candidates (including internal candidates) vying for this position. I knew that this was the right company and position for me. I was thrilled when I was offered the job because I knew I could really help play a part in the new vision for this group.

But then they shared the salary with me. While I was expecting at least $75k, they offered $50k. That was less than half of what I was currently making and with a young child to support, I knew that wasn’t enough for me to make in order to do this job well.

I knew it was time to negotiate and see how close I could get to a salary that I would be happy to take.

What happened next?

I decided I needed to find their salary ceiling. I wanted to push it but I didn’t want to do it in a way that would seen unreasonable. Their negotiator was my future boss so I didn’t want to start my relationship on a bad note.

Going into our talk I was careful to approach the discussions from a collaborative angle, because I knew collaboration was highly valued by the company. I started with how excited I was about the role and the vision of the group I was joining. But I also needed to make sure that this job – all aspects of it – felt right, and the one place where I was struggling was the salary. I stayed very genuine, but firm, in my delivery.

I don’t like to be the first person to name a number in the negotiation process, so I asked if there was flexibility to adjust the compensation and additional benefits to make this an offer I could feel good about accepting.

He understood where I was coming from and we went to work on negotiating, which ended up being a long process of emails, phone calls, and firm conversations. We negotiated line by line through my entire compensation package.

I made sure not to only focus on salary, but to focus on benefits that would be really meaningful to me and would be easier for the company to provide. I pushed for more childcare and tuition assistance benefits. I pushed to make sure that the work life balance I was expecting would actually happen. And I pushed hard, but respectfully, for an increased salary without sharing the number I had in mind.

What was the end result?

It was a long, drawn out process, during which I reminded him why he had picked me above all of the other candidates as the right fit for the position. I added value by sharing articles and ideas related to what we had talked about during the interview. I think this helped to strengthen my case that I was worth what I was asking for.

I finally knew it was time to end the negotiation when he offered me an increase of $10k (20%). Though this didn’t get me to my goal salary of $75k, they were able to include additional family benefits, including childcare assistance, which added on an additional $20k in benefits to my compensation package. These family benefits were truly as important to me as the salary.

Up until this point the negotiation had been pretty unemotional, but when he offered me the salary increase he sounded exhausted. He told me that they’ve reached the absolute end of what they could offer me and they couldn’t offer me anymore. If I wouldn’t take it, they would need to start looking at other candidates.

I knew I had hit the ceiling of what I was going to be able to negotiate and I felt confident in accepting this offer.

What advice do you have for other women?

Don’t feel like you have to be the first to say a number. Push them to come back with their best offer. When you say the number first, your anchoring the discussion around that number. I wanted to push their limits and have them get creative. Leaving it open by not saying a number, worked.

Help make your case. Your prospective employer wants to pay you a fair salary because they don’t want to have to go out and find new people. You just need to make your case as strong as possible by showing them that your work is worth what you’re asking for. I continued to add value during the whole process by sharing tips and articles to show that I was worth what I was asking for.

Be flexible. Compensation negotiation is about more than just salary, so don’t fixate on that one element. I negotiated for more family benefits, which I estimate are worth at least $20k per year. Had I pushed only for salary, I wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of what else they could offer.

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