Dr. Karen Myers, Graduate Division Associate Dean, and Samantha Powers, a Communication Ph.D. student, recently hosted a workshop to walk graduate students through the process of negotiating a job offer. The workshop also featured a panel of experts who shared some sage and practical advice: Jill Dobrowitsky (Human Resources Consultant, HRL), Dr. Dave Seibold (Professor and Vice Chair, Technology Management Program), and Dr. Bill Smith (Professor and Chair, Molecular Cellular Development Biology).
Here is what I learned from the workshop:
You may be happy just to receive a job offer. However, Samantha presented an enlightening hypothetical example of two individuals: One individual did not negotiate and started at $100,000 a year, while the other individual negotiated a 10% increase to a starting salary of $110,000 a year. Over 30 years, with a 3% cost of living adjustment, the person who negotiated for a salary increase would earn about $400,000 more than the other individual. If the individual had invested it, he or she could have almost $1 million more just for making a simple request during the job negotiation process.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Make a list of your strengths and think about how you can use these strengths to justify your requests. Also, think about your weaknesses and how you can respond to these if the employer brings them up. It’s also helpful to know the employer’s weaknesses and think about how you can use these to your advantage.
Research the salary of the position. Faculty salaries are public information and you can find this information online. You can use a salary calculator or salary database to examine the average range in salary for your position. You can also ask contacts within the organization, university, or industry to get a general idea about the salary for the position. Here is a helpful handout from the workshop about finding credible salary information: Where to Find Salary Information (pdf).
Negotiate More Than Just the Salary
Academic negotiable items may include:
- Supplemental salary (e.g., summer stipend)
- Relocation/moving expenses
- Research/startup funds
- Lab space
- Professional development/travel funds
- Research assistant support
- Spousal hire
- For more ideas, see: What to Negotiate - Academic Jobs (pdf)
Industry negotiable items may include:
- Signing bonus
- Time off (vacation days)
- Relocation expenses
- Additional perks
- Start date
- For more ideas, see: What to Negotiate - Industry Jobs (pdf)
Think about which two to three of these items are your top priority and focus on how you can negotiate for these items. Jill Dobrowitsky also recommended that you should ask at the beginning of your job negotiation what is and is not negotiable. You can still try to negotiate the items that are not negotiable, but you may be able to get significantly more from the negotiable items.
Use silence to your advantage.
Dr. Myers mentioned that during the negotiation, you should aim for listening 70% of the time and talking only 30% of the time. This allows you to actively pick up on queues and understand the employer’s position. You will also be less likely to say something that you later regret.
Be Specific and Direct
If something is a “must-have” then let the employer know. Make sure to share your reasons and justifications for your requests (e.g., “According to estimates I’ve obtained, I need at least $5,000 in moving expenses in order to be able to move here”).
Be willing to give and take. Don’t go into the negotiation with the “my way or the highway” attitude. Figure out how you can work together with the employer to come to agreeable terms. Employers actually expect you to negotiate because it shows your willingness to collaborate and handle conflict. Additionally, the job negotiation can shape the relationship you have with your future employer. This is your opportunity to show that you can be a team player and work with the employer. Even though you have your objectives, the goal of the negotiation process is to get a “win-win” situation for both parties.
For more information regarding the job negotiation process, here is the workshop PowerPoint: