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Ladies, you’re worth it. Really.

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women negotiate salaryI know. I sound like a cheesy commercial selling beauty products, but the message is fitting, and professional women need to listen, myself included. We see article after article stating we don’t ask for more money, we undervalue ourselves, and we’re losing out on millions. Yet, when it comes down to it, many of us won’t sit up tall at the negotiation table, and we need to stop it.

Because my current position is an annual contract appointment, every spring I’m back on the job market looking for a job. This spring I found myself seeking out technical writing positions and, admittedly, I felt a little out of practice. The large majority of my work now is centered in academia, despite my continued efforts to stay current in the technical writing field. And, while I spend a great deal of time writing and creating content for online delivery, most of it is for academic purposes, rather than client-centered, freelance work.

Nevertheless, I went through the application process and sent out a couple of resumes. I received a call back for a position in the legal field as a technical communications writer, a position I was really excited about, considering my background in the legal field and prior work experiences with attorneys. I went through two interviews, one which included a writing task, and was rewarded with an offer.

Now, I went into this process with a set salary in mind, knowing that my teaching position, if renewed, would bring some very persuasive benefits (flexibility, great, affordable insurance, and time to work on my research). The salary question came up in the first round of interviews, and I stated my minimum requirements. I had researched the position, self-analyzed my skills, and determined a dollar amount that I was comfortable with, telling myself I would not settle for less.

When the offer came just a day or two after the second interview, the salary was about $10,000 less than I had requested. Now, again, I’ve been out of the private sector for a few years, so I was feeling out of my element in the negotiation process–let me rephrase that–thinking about having to call the hiring manager back to negotiate made my stomach toss and turn and my palms sweat.

So, I did what I advise all of my students to do. I went through the pros and cons, asked for additional information (benefits packages and personal time policies), and calculated any additional expenses I’d incur by taking the job. Even with all of that considered, there was still the salary question. I had told myself I wouldn’t settle for less than a specific amount, and the company didn’t meet it.

Even so, when I did finally build up enough courage to make the call, I couldn’t even bring myself to say, “I need X dollars to make this work.” Instead I said, “The closest they could get to X amount would really help.” You don’t have to be a rhetorical scholar to sense the difference in the confidence behind those two statements. I’d basically looked at myself and said, “Well, if they don’t think I’m worth that much, it’s okay.”

So, I countered, they countered back with $5,000 more, still about $5,000 from where I wanted to be. Now, it’s important we talk about the company. The firm has multiple offices across the country and has just merged with another large firm. Overall, the firm includes several hundred attorneys. When we’re talking $5,000 or so, we’re probably talking very little in their books.

But, the most important point I want to make here is that I actually felt badly calling back to say, “I just can’t make that work.” Honestly. I felt badly. In fact, my mother was in town when this was playing out. And, as I was telling her I was dreading calling and saying no, she asked, “Why? You told them what you needed, and they didn’t do it. Why do you feel badly for sticking to what you said you were worth?” And, like most motherly advice, she was right. Why in the world did I feel badly because they didn’t think I was worth it? Yes, there’s the whole “they spent time on me in interviews” element, but my guess is they probably had a number two in mind. There were two rounds of interviews after all, and I know that over 50 people on LinkedIn alone applied for the job. So, the pool was large.

The bottom line (and I’m talking to myself again here, too): stop feeling badly just because you’re worth it. If you’ve done your research, and you really are worth it, go for that. And, stop, stop feeling nervous or intimidated for asking for it. Ladies, I should have asked for it because I’m worth it. And so are you.


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