Why waiting to negotiate is a bad ideaAug 15, 2023
I get it, negotiation is uncomfortable. You'd feel better waiting until you've shown your new employer just how great you are before asking for the salary you deserve. But I'm here to help you rethink that plan. In last week's blog, I talked about some of the reasons you might be considering waiting until you've been in the job a while, before negotiating a bump in your salary. But today, I want to give you some compelling reasons for why that's a terrible idea - and offer you some tips for how to negotiate effectively.
As I said last week, securing a job offer marks a new chapter in your career and is an exciting opportunity to create some momentum. But in my 10+ years of experience, I've seen a lot of candidates (mostly women) who are reluctant to negotiate that job offer. Maybe that's you too.
Some of the common worries include:
- The belief that if you try to negotiate, the employer might withdraw the offer.
- The concern that they might say no to your requests.
- The fear that they'll think you're full of yourself.
But I as I shared last week, none of these are legitimate reasons for delaying the hard conversation.
Negotiating is always worth it
Think about it this way: That one tough conversation could mean the difference of thousands of dollars for you this year (which translates to tens and hundreds of thousands over the course of your career). That one tough conversation could open up new career opportunities for you. That one conversation could help you avoid catastrophic consequences of saying yes to an offer that really doesn't work for you.
So here are my top three reasons for not waiting, but instead negotiating at the time of the job offer:
- You'll make significantly more money, both in the short term and over time
- There is no incentive for them to negotiate after you've said yes
- You're the shiny new employee that they desperately want
Now let's explore each of those reasons in depth.
For the best ROI, negotiate the job offer
Learning to negotiate and building the courage to have the hard conversation is an investment. I know because I've coached hundreds of women through the process. It's hard work.
You need to prepare. You need to manage your mindset and the emotional blind spots (like people-pleasing and gratitude) that sabotage you and lead you to say yes to poor offers. You need to moderate your stress level throughout a sometimes-lengthy negotiation. You need to stay on top of the details. And you need to make sure the paper you sign includes all of your priorities.
Whether you negotiate at the time of the offer or six months into your job, you still have to go through the same amount of work. In fact, at the six month mark, you need to work even harder to get the raise you deserve.
You are likely to negotiate for more before you take the job
That's right. On average, negotiating at the time of a job offer will net you 15-20% more than the opening offer. If we use simple math, that means if they offer you $100K, you negotiate for $115K - $120K.
But if you accept the $100K offer with the caveat that you will renegotiate your salary after 6 months, you'll be lucky to get 5% more. Instead of $120K, you'd be working just as hard to secure $105K. Plus, you've already missed out on half a year at that extra $5K. That's $2500 you'll never get back.
It gets even worse when we multiply the impact over a few years. Let's say you stay in that job for 4 years. If you had negotiated $120K, your total income would have been $480K. If you said yes to $100K thn negotiated 5% at the six month mark, your four year total is less than $418K.
You'd have missed out on over $62,000 in just four years.
That hurts, right? I won't subject you to the lifetime mathematics. But as a ballpark, if you start negotiating in your first job, you can expect to earn more than $2 million more than if you don't.
Once you say yes, why would they pay you more?
This is the crux of the problem of waiting. Once you say yes to the job offer, they have you.
If you're in the middle of a job hunt, you know what I mean when I say it takes work to find a new job. It's hard work. You have to customize your resume and cover letter for every job. Many organizations want you to duplicate that same information in their systems. Then there's the interview process. Depending on the job, you might have to participate in a screening exercise. Then one interview. Then another. Then reference checks. And then finally they offer you the job.
Your employer knows how much work it is, and they're betting against you.
They believe that you'll make the choice to stay, even if you're not being paid as much as you deserve, because it's too much work to leave. And they're not wrong. Look around you. Talk to your colleagues. How many of them are staying in jobs they don't love with bosses who don't respect them? Why are they staying? For most people, the work associated with making a change of that magnitude is too much effort. It's easier to stay and be underappreciated.
Do you really want to negotiate your salary based on your worst performance?
This is what it means to negotiate your salary at the six month mark.
Before you say yes to the job offer, you embody nothing but shiny, exciting promises. They are giddy with anticipation of how amazing you'll be. They've talked to your references (who love you). They've listened to your best stories (which makes them adore you). They've imagined the problems you'll solve and the impact you'll have. Basically, they've developed a professional crush on you.
But then you start work. It's a new company. New systems. New people. New processes. You're no rockstar...at least, not for the first 9-12 months. It takes time to become competent in your new job. That's perfectly normal. Every employee experiences it. But the last thing you should want is your employer to base your salary on your performance during the time period when you are just learning the ropes.
I know it might feel like cheating to negotiate up front before they get to know you. And I know you are a powerhouse. But it takes time to get into the rhythm of a new role.
You can't avoid the learning curve associated with a new job.
But you can avoid the mistake of having your salary based on that period of suboptimal performance.
It's quite simple. Don't put yourself in that position.
Negotiate when you're supposed to - at the time the job offer is made.
Tips for negotiating the offer
There are a lot of things I could tell you about what to do and what to not do. But I'll keep it to my top three recommendations:
- Prepare your plan. You need a strategy going in. That means knowing what you're hoping to get AND the level you'd be comfortable settling for.
- Start with what you want, not what you need. When they offer their lowball offer, tell them that you were expecting more. And lay out the number that you'd love to get. You only negotiate down from there. So start high.
- Take care of yourself. Negotiations rarely take just one conversation. There are often a few back and forth conversations. That's normal. But it can wreak havoc on your stress levels. Build in extra walks and time with your besties. Fill your cup, because you're going to need all your reserves to stay cool and collected through the challenging negotiation.
What to read next:
Getting a job offer is an exciting moment. If you're considering delaying negotiation until you prove yourself, think again. In the following article, we talk about 3 myths that set you up for negotiation failure:
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