Getting More Money (And A Hilarious Salary Story)
This is the time of year when we take a lot of vacations, buy more summer dresses, and realize that it would be great to have more cash in the wallet. You think: “Ugh, I wish I could make more money. Can I somehow talk my way into a raise?”
Let me tell you, I have BEEN THERE.
Here It Is, My Hilarious Salary Story
When I was just knee-high to an analyst, I embarked on a career as a consultant in the defense realm (I had worked for NATO and fallen to the allure of a better paycheck and sunny weather of Washington DC. It rains a LOT in Brussels and well…you can only eat so much cheese indoors).
Anyway, I was in the process of negotiating my first really big (for me) salary for a new job. And, I was completely clueless. I was 26 years old and had just gotten out of grad school – the last time I had negotiated for salary had been several years before and it had not gone great…I had to eat a lot of ramen that year.
Armed with very little information but a lot of panache, I walked into the office and started talking with my soon to be boss. He asked what my range was, I countered (smartly I thought) with “What is the job range?” – he said “Let’s see!” and walked me over to his computer and pulled it up. And there I saw it…the bottom of salary range for the job was above my mental number! I needed to ask for more money!
And, while my initial number was a low 50K, and the range started at 53K, I panicked, stumbled and said… “54K?” with the question mark obvious in my voice (sigh). He quickly agreed (probably having panicked himself for showing me a job with a range of $40,000! I was an idiot for not asking for more!) and we shook on it.
But then, I got angry at myself. I saw the numbers! No hiring manager in their right minds shows you that (I know, I was one such person later in life) and so I actually KNEW WHAT TO ASK FOR.
And yet I did not (did you know most women do not ask for raises? We need to stop).
I was down…but not out! I decided to be *clever.* I was interviewing with other firms (by interviewing, I mean they had my resume) and so I thought – let’s play them off against each other! Yes!
Fingers shaking, but determined, I called up my hiring manager and said: “Doug – I’ve gotten some numbers from some other firms, and they are all higher (true, I’m sure they paid people more. And I did not say offers!), but I want to work with YOU. Do we have any room here for leverage?”
And Doug – not being an idiot (though probably cursing the day he showed me the spreadsheet) said – “Well, not on salary but let me see about a signing bonus.”
Voila! I ended up starting at $54K BUT with a $3,000 signing bonus.
My finest hour? Nope.
However, I did try. And in later years when I had actual real other offers, I was able to do a much MUCH better job of negotiating.
My lessons learned were these:
- Know the numbers before you walk in the door, and know what your absolute minimum is – what you need to pay your rent, eat, and live.
- Don’t be afraid to negotiate. And also, know what you are worth. Once you get into a job it is so much harder to get a raise!
- Don’t panic. You will figure it out.
Christie is the Radical Fairy Godmother to the Woman Trapped in Her Suit. If you want to take your career to the next level, join her in Costa Rica this August for the ultimate career adventure! And if you are feeling stuck, grab my free job UNstuck kit over here!