Other Things to Ask for During Salary Negotiations

Last night, I was on a panel with a bunch of fine people from around the Web answering questions from students about the ins and outs of working on the Internet. There was a moment when we started discussing salary negotiations, and Alex Leo and I stressed that you should always ask for what you’re worth, and that women have a tendency to undervalue themselves.

One thing I emphasized is that the negotiating doesn’t end with your salary. If you don’t get the number you’re looking for, there are other things of value that you can negotiate with your employer. These include:

Vacation Days: In one round of negotiations, I didn’t get the salary I wanted, so I asked for additional vacation days—and got them. Vacation days are valuable! You get to not go to work, and go somewhere fun, or stay at home and catch up on TV shows—and you still get paid. The thing to remember if you ask for this is to actually take the time off. This will prevent you from burning out.

An Expense Account: I understand that not all workplaces offer this, but my last one did, and I only got it because I asked for it. I expensed taxi rides, office supplies and software I bought for work, and meals out with writers, and people who I wanted to do business with. Don’t push it though, because you’ll have a lot of explaining to do when the finance department starts auditing. And remember to keep all your receipts!

Better hours: I once had to show up for work every day by 6 a.m., which meant rising and shining at 4:30 every morning. When I got promoted, I asked to change my schedule to 8 a.m., and boy, did that make a huge difference.

Family time: Negotiate a longer period of maternity or paternity leave. When one of my former coworkers became a father, he was able to negotiate working two days a week from home so he could spend time with his baby, which truly is invaluable.

Benefits: An upgrade to your health care coverage. A better match for your company’s 401(k) plan. Stock options. There are a lot of different things you can put on the table.

Think about all the things that your workplace can actually provide you, and work them into your negotiations. If you are worth the moon, ask for the moon!

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28 Comments / Post A Comment

Jellybish (#560)

You can also ask for things that don’t necessarily cost them money, like particular kinds of tasks, assignments, committees, etc. One of my colleagues successfully got out of a task she hated doing by making it part of her up-front negotiation.

janestreet (#1,123)

Can we get a salary negotiating 101? Like, what to say, etc.? This is something I think 2 percent of people know how to do.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@janestreet Yes plz. It is a terrifying, terrifying process, and because you do it so infrequently (hopefully!), it’s easy to forget exactly what to do. It’d be great to have a crib sheet to look back on.

dotcommie (#662)

better job titles!

also, excellent photo choice

I’ve only had one adult job, and there wasn’t any sort of salary (or any other kind of) negotiation. In the interview, I was told, the salary is X, the benefits are Y. This was for a position at a major research university, and I’ve heard similar stories from other academic support types. Is that sort of non-negotiable practice common only in academic and nonprofit fields? Is negotiation maybe more common at higher levels?

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@wallsdonotfall The negotiation doesn’t start with the employer; it starts with you. Both times I’ve successfully negotiated my salary up, I was *told* that the salary was X. And I *told* them I would accept salary Y. And I got salary Y both times.

Most of the time, there is a salary range associated with your position, and they will offer you the bottom salary in that range. Even in nonprofits (where I I have negotiated a bump in pay), there is wiggle room if they want you enough. And if they’re making you an offer, they want you.

@MuffyStJohn Yeah, I was told that for positions at my level, the pay was X to Y (with, like, a $2/hour difference, as this wasn’t a salaried position), and that almost everyone would be at the bottom of the range. Do you bring it up when you get the offer? I don’t remember if there was an opportunity for me to have brought that up, but I was too scared anyway.

RachelG8489 (#1,297)

@MuffyStJohn THIS! I was told a salary in the middle of the range they advertised, and I wish I had pushed for closer to the high end. They really really wanted me, and I bet I could have gotten it, but I was so excited to have a job offer after 9 months of job hunting that I just went with it.

I don’t know that I’ll be able to get a real bump up while I’m working here, so I just need to negotiate hard at the next new job offer, I guess, but that won’t be for a while.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@wallsdonotfall I think the general advice is to negotiate once you get the offer. I’ve never started talking about my salary requirements earlier than that (other than in cover letters, when demanded, which I hate!).

@wallsdonotfall I work in higher education administration, and our HR has a rigid system in place for determining salaries. For new hires, hiring mangers have a narrow range. They can negotiate up a little, but not in a meaningful way. (As in, an extra $1,000/year is still meaningful to me at this point in my life, but if the starting offer is 40K, you’re not going to be able to negotiate up to 50K.)

For internal promotions, I know of the pay structure for two major research universities – mine and another where a relative is a manager.

University A: When you’re promoted to a higher grade, you get your current salary + 6% or the new position’s minimum salary, whichever is higher. Unless you were originally hired into a role for which you were hugely overqualified (or hired during boom years), it’s unlikely that your current salary + 6% will be higher than the minimum. (Takeaway: Negotiate the hell out of your first position at a university, because it could impact your salary for your entire career there.)

University B: When you’re promoted, you get the minimum salary for that position + 2% for every year you’ve worked at the university (up to 8%).

Because HR policies are so comprehensive at an university with 10,000+ employees, there’s no room for negotiation on benefits, either.

If anybody has had a different experience negotiating salaries at a major research university, I would love to hear about it. I love my field, but I don’t love knowing that I’ll probably always make the posted minimum or close to it.

ThatJenn (#916)

@MuffyStJohn At my university they didn’t give me an offer with a number. They offered me the job, asked if I accepted, and didn’t show me the salary until I showed up to sign my new hire paperwork. (I’m sort of glad because I would have asked too low if we’d negotiated; it was $20k more than I had been making.) But I didn’t see any room for negotiation – their budgets are what they are.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@ThatJenn This is sometimes true, but this is also an attitude that keeps people from negotiating ever. And this is especially a problem for women, who undervalue themselves and don’t want to rock the boat. When I worked at a large research university, I heard a lot about things being set in stone as far as salary and benefits. I also handled a lot of forms waiving those requirements for certain individuals. The bottom line is I would never not ask for more just because I might not get it, because I know that attitude always loses me money over time.

Also the first rule of salary negotiating is you never give the number first!! That’s awesome that you got so much more out of them than you’d made before. I STILL would have asked for an extra bump though, because the first offer is almost never the best offer.

Jellybish (#560)

@wallsdonotfall I’m in academia (professional staff, not research or faculty) and this is my experience. Currently my boss is fighting with my college’s HR to be allowed to match the current salary of someone she wants to hire, and she’s probably going to lose. It has nothing to do with the applicant’s negotiating skills — if HR won’t approve the salary, it is not happening.

helloimgreen (#998)

@MuffyStJohn i’m using my annual review to negotiate for a higher salary. we get a certain percentage increase (somewhere between 2-6%, i have been too afraid to ask) each year. like @RachelG8489, i was given a number in the middle of what my employer advertised on the job posting, but that is still on the lower end of what others in my position are making at nearby universities. ideally, i’d be asking for a 25% increase. which just might happen if i ask for it the right way.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

Ask for your own office! A door is worth at least $5k a year.

Harriet Welch (#127)

Definitely all of this! Some of this costs the company very little to nothing and goes a long way toward your quality of life. The best time I negotiated my salary I got offered something I felt was obscene, I accepted, on the condition that I did not have to attend sales meetings, had two flex days per month to work, a demo vehicle and my cell phone paid.
The only thing that actually cost them anything was my phone and it wasn’t that much so they were happy to do it.

Side note: This worked out AWESOMELY for me. They paid my personal cell bill and no one knew how to work the computer system. All of their automated correspondence still came to my phone. For a while I told everyone to go to the GM and that they would give them a tank of gas for their trouble. The GM offered to pay my bill for 90 days if I would take the calls. I was unemployed and that was the only way I could keep my phone turned on.

TheDilettantista (#1,255)

Seriously, how does one do this at a non-profit? How does one ask for raises at a non-profit? I’ve been at my non-profit for almost 8 months which, granted, isn’t a long time, but I know I’ll be here at least 3-6 years, and I’d like to make more during that time. How does one do this? When I got offered this job I was so thrilled to a) have a job and b) have a job in my field that I didn’t negotiate anything. I have a lot of perks that make me happy: my own office, a really decent amount of vacation and sick leave, health insurance and an IRA plan, but someday I’d like more $$. I’ve asked for raises at not non-profits and have gotten them, but I have no idea how to do it here (when the time comes in the future at some point).

editrickster (#279)

@TheDilettantista You make yourself indispensable to the organization. Then, when the time is right, you schedule a meeting and present to them the work you do for them, with numbers attached whenever possible. Ex: I have created 14 reports about XYZ; handle 47 clients weekly, and reworked the ABC system to be 15% more efficient (or whatever). You include the same sort of things you would put on your resume as your experience & accomplishments at this job. You expressly say that your institutional knowledge is a value you bring to the table—because you want to emphasize that it will cost them more to train a new person than to boost your salary. You also say you want your salary to reflect your contributions and experience.

I did all this at a nonprofit this year. I was underpaid before, but it worked and I am more financially comfortable now.

Dancercise (#94)

One of my co-workers recently told me that she asked for a raise, was denied, and then asked for one day a week to work from home. She was again denied because “Why should she get preferential treatment?” Doesn’t make me too excited to negotiate when I hit one year in my current position.

buckachu (#1,686)

But how does one know what they’re worth?? I’m in a position at my company that doesn’t really exist(Office Manager + Compliance + other random side tasks), so I don’t have anything to compare to. I don’t want to be undervalued!

i make lists (#1,687)

This is SUPER RELEVANT to my life right now. On Monday, I was offered a position that would be a great promotion, but would require me to relocate. They offered me X, and I said that unfortunately, my minimum was Y because of a, b, and c. Today, my boss’ boss’ boss called me to ask my reasoning, which I reiterated was because of a, b, and c. He told me he understood, but was slightly shocked because he thought I wanted to move up in the company.

My question is this: will this decision affect my future prospects within the company? I figured that I made a choice based on my financial needs, but it shouldn’t affect my professional life, but all of my managers seem to think that I’m making a HUGE mistake. Does it come off as greedy or self-serving to decline an offer based on salary??

I was really proud of myself for standing my ground (I’m not usually assertive) but this process hasn’t been as smooth as I’d hoped it would be.

lalaland (#437)

@i make lists Hmm, I am actually in the process of relocating because of a promotion. Obviously I don’t know anything about your company and I certainly don’t want to strike fear into your heart, but it’s a possibility?

If you stay in the location you are, will you still be able to get a promotion/move up in the company? I guess it may affect future prospects in that if the only possibility of you moving up = you relocating, then by turning down the promotion, you are in effect saying, “I do not want to stay/grow within this company.”

I don’t think it’s greedy/self-serving, there are a ton of factors, but I think the younger (and therefore, more mobile) you are, the less…good it is for you?

Again I don’t want to scare you, but from a 3rd party without any details, that’s how I would look at it.

smack (#307)

@i make lists This sounds like a tactic to me. And also gives me the creeps about your future job. Tying in future promotions to a standard salary negotiation is pretty crappy if you ask me.

I work for a large large company, and when my husband got hired here (thanks, referral bonus!) they treated his salary negotiation as a standard, expected part of the hiring phase.

kellyography (#250)

My place of work actually has a policy against discussing your salary with your colleagues. It is actually in the employment contract. So even though I know what all of my coworkers make because I process the paperwork, I have no idea what people in my same position in other departments make. I am not making a lot of money, and I’ve gotten one raise in two years, but my last job paid about half of what I currently make so I just have no idea what to ask for.

ThatJenn (#916)

@kellyography Yeah, I had a job with the same clause, and the hiring process involved asking people what hourly wage they’d be willing to work for, and adding fifty cents. This meant that two people doing the exact same job might make a salary that differed by a factor of two or more. I’ve seen other similar things, too. So when I put in my last application, I asked high, figuring there was a chance it might blow my application, but hey, it’s worth it if I’m never going to get a raise.

Ask your opposite number in another company for a clue of what is usual. You can start negotiations by asking for “industry standard” if you know what that is. If you have experience in the field you can ask for additional vacation based on industry experience instead of longevity in the company so you don’t lose vacation days because you changed companies. I once got a clue what everyone made in my company when the first quarter payroll reports went to a public printer. HR mistake, my gain. Assume they will ALWAYS lowball you. Always counter offer. I’ve been passed over for a too high request only to have them come back and offer me everything I asked for three months later when the person willing to work for much less could not do the job.

DON (#706)

Horror story:
I was working for a temp agency once (engineering job, 1 year long, hourly rate) and received a written offer via email. I responded with a long and very thought out letter saying I’d actually like to make this amount for reasons a, b and c. The (sleezeball) agency guy called me and told me he was very concerned and that my reasons suggest that I am not a good fit for the company I was being placed in. It would jeopardize HIS relationship with the company, etc. He threatened to pull the plug on the whole thing over a couple of dollars an hour. It was one of the worst phone calls I’ve ever had and I almost pulled the plug myself because I didn’t want to give business to a (sleezeball) agency like that. I eventually had to apologize (yeah.) and accept the original offer because I needed the job. :(

Tim Chuma (#458)

When I have been working as a contractor I rarely take time off, even when I am sick, it has to be something really important. In my last permanent role I was taking about 1 day off every couple of months so I didn’t try to go out during the week and turn up to work tired. Also works well if you want to go the local film festival and see 9 movies in a week.

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