So you’ve landed the job. Congratulations! This is an exciting time for you and for your new employer. You have got the job that you wanted and they have the candidate that they wanted. The next hurdle is to negotiate the terms of the job offer.
Negotiating can be uncomfortable: standing up for yourself, asking for what you want, and trying to get a better salary, terms, and conditions often feels confrontational–and most of us avoid confrontation. Women are less likely to negotiate at this stage and this is one of the reasons for the gender pay gap. But this is your power moment. They have invested a lot of time and money into recruiting you, they have made their decision, and now they need to win you over. Take this golden opportunity to negotiate the best offer that you can.
1. Don’t underestimate the importance of likeability
As women, we can get stuck between a rock and a hard place where on the one hand we get paid less than men and on the other we are often penalised for being ambitious. So we need to use all the tools in our box in negotiating a strong job offer. And this tool is crucial: likeability. People are going to fight for you only if they like you. Anything you do in a negotiation that makes you less likable reduces the chances that the other side will work to get you a better offer. This is about more than being polite; it’s about managing some inevitable tensions in negotiation, such as asking for what you deserve without seeming greedy, pointing out deficiencies in the offer without seeming petty, and being persistent without being a nuisance. Put yourself in the shoes of the other person and evaluate how they are likely to perceive your approach.
2. Tell the story behind your proposal.
However, it’s not enough for them to like you. They also have to believe you’re worth the offer you want. You need to help them understand why you deserve what you’re requesting. As women, it can be difficult to navigate the inherent tension between being likable and explaining why you deserve more. Telling the story behind your proposal can be a great way to navigate successfully through this. Here’s a good example of this: “I’m the breadwinner in our family and a salary of $XX,XXX is needed to support my family living in New York”.
3. Understand their constraints.
In nature conservation, many of us work within NGOs and, even if it’s not an NGO, all companies, government agencies, etc. have constraints. They may like you and think you deserve everything you want. But they may not be able to give it to you because they may have certain constraints. Your job is to figure out where they’re flexible and where they’re not. If for example, you’re negotiating for a government position, you may need to start on the first rung of the salary scale. But it may be flexible on start dates, working from home, and flexible working hours. The better you understand their constraints, the more can understand where there is room for negotiation.
4. Be authentic and don’t lie
If this is a job that you actually want, then you want to start on the best footing. You will be working with these people for the foreseeable future and being authentic is the best place to start a genuine, trusting relationship with your new boss from the get-go. So don’t lie in a negotiation, tempting as it may be! It frequently comes back to harm you, but even if it doesn’t, it’s unethical. Your goal is to negotiate honestly without looking like an unattractive candidate—and without giving up too much bargaining power. Be clear for you on what your personal flexibilities and inflexibilities are. For example, are flexible working hours non-negotiable for you because you have children and need that flexibility for childcare arrangements?
5. Focus on the big picture
Negotiating a job offer is very different to negotiating a salary. Your job satisfaction and work-life balance often come from factors you can negotiate more easily than salary. Consider the entire deal: flexible working, responsibilities, travel, opportunities for promotion, support for professional development, etc. What are your professional and personal life goals? Can you negotiate a job offer that helps you achieve these?
6. Ask for what you want
It sounds simple, but the key to successful negotiations is asking for what you want. How often do we not ask for what we want? Or even clearly know what we want? Fear of rejection or the fear of looking greedy can get in the way. But know that rejection will happen. But also that if we don’t ask for what we want, how can the other person know what we want? So clearly considering all of the above, know what you want and ask for it.
7. Stay at the table
You may be in a better position to negotiate six months into the job. It’s worth researching what conditions other staff already have as this indicates where there is flexibility with your new employer. For example, do staff regularly work from home? Perhaps your new employer can’t promise this to you now but there’s room for negotiation on it once you have built up trust within the organisation. We therefore encourage you to continue the conversation around unaddressed issues once you are in the job and have built up trust with your boss.
Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation–And Positive Strategies for Change
Photo courtesy of Mark Leslie
We Are All Wonder Women is an international movement for female conservation professionals to be inspired, connected, and empowered to create an authentic, fulfilling and happy career.