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Negotiating my salary was the scariest thing I'd ever done, but I'm glad I did. I did as much homework as I could---fortunately, in my field a salary survey is published every year, so I consulted that, talked to my advisor and a few friends who had been on the market recently (none at similar schools to the ones I was looking at), and extrapolated from there to figure out what salary I "should" be asking for. I also used offers from other schools to determine what salary to negotiate at my top 2 choice schools. But still, when the time came to talk to the dean at my first choice school, I remember my heart pounding and my mouth going dry---classic symptoms of terror! Luckily, the negotiations went smoothly, and I got what I asked for.

I sometimes have the nagging feeling that perhaps I should have asked for that normal, even when negotiations go well?

Academic Coach

Yes, when we get what we ask for I think that we inevitably then wonder whether we should have pushed a bit harder. But there is a balance to be found -- it sounds as though your negotiations were cordial, and we do want to start new jobs with good feelings on all sides. In fact, I think that this is one reason, on average, that more women than men have difficulty with salary negotiations: we want people to like us. This is a stereotypical view -- that women, more than men, are concerned about being liked and not making waves, but the sterotypes are born out by research.

Academic Coach

P.S. Jane,
It sounds like you did a fine job with your salary negotiations.

New Kid on the Hallway

I didn't negotiate at all in my first job, and it really screwed me over. So I did negotiate in my second job, even though I had this (completely irrational) fear that they were going to change their mind if I asked for more. I didn't get what I asked for, but I did get more than they'd started at, and at least I don't have to feel guilty about not negotiating. Now I wish I'd come back and said, Okay, if you can't up the salary, how about more money for moving expenses? But whatever.


I accepted my first job without negotiating my salary. Then at Famous U, I did the same because I was so starstruck. Later I realized that I could have gotten another 5 or 6 grand easily. Funny--the colleague who hired me there once told a graduate student to go and see me for advice about how to negotiate salary. She told this student that I negotiated my salary when I was hired beautifully. Beautifully indeed: I basically rolled over and let them rip me off. No wonder they kept on giving me small raises while I worked there-- they felt sorry for my pitiful butt for being such a nice push-over. (They never were able to get me up to where I should have been). At my present job, I tried to negotiate $ but was shut down immediately, but other aspects of my negotiation were extremely successful and satisfied me immensely (such as getting hired into tenure). Luckily, working class U pretty much matched Famous U, which meant alot considering the difference in stature and financial profile of each institution.


I am seeking a promotion where I work, and I have been asking around about every aspect of the job that I would like to have soon. I ask people who have the position that I want the following questions --

How long did you work here? How long did you work in this position?
Where are you in school? Where did you graduate from?
What was your entry-level position?
I am interested in reaching your position. What could I do to help me get there?
Can you roughly ballpark how much you make?

At first this was hard, but I've done sales for a while, and I my college roommate started working with this company long before me, so I know more than I "should" about the position already. Using information I already know helped me get more information every time. None of the people working with my company are supposed to disclose their earnings, but by letting every person that I talked to know that I already had more information than I should have had helped ease them into talking pretty quickly. Another fun technique is to just drop the issue entirely and show interest in other things -- anything related to their position that they are willing to discuss. You can always revisit the last few issues when you've opened them up more.

One of the people that I talked with gave me tons of advice. He was proud of himself so that made it easy. He told me that the salary is completely negotiable and explained that he has one of the highest payrates in the company (a claim corroborated by many others.) He suggested quietly to me that I simply and confidently ask if the first offer suggested could be "rounded up a bit." A simple question like that helps you gauge how comfortable your employer is with negotiation.

I understand that you don't want to ask directly. You have perfectly good reasons not to do so, but you also have important reasons to get the answers to your questions. In sales, we always needed information from our perspective customers, and most of it was acutally more personal than salary. While we had the advantage of not needing to live and work in socially awkward situations we made, we did know that we always had to give to get. Give information to get information. This doesn't work with everyone or people of all cultures, but it does work if you stay mindful of tactfulness and what sounds like gossip.

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