Negotiate Your Job Offer.
That's it. That's the post.
I never thought I’d need to negotiate a job offer.
In the early days of my career, I assumed negotiations were for extremely high-paying jobs, the kind where bigwigs threw around words like “equity” and “stock options” to determine some exorbitant, white-collar salary. All of that felt miles away from my day-to-day reality working in coffee.
I also assumed negotiations were always contentious. I pictured two people going back and forth, trying to cede as little territory to their adversary as possible. The below scene from the Coen Brothers’ movie “True Grit,” which depicts a negotiation between Hailee Steinfeld and Dakin Matthews’ characters, about sums it up:
So when I got my first full-time, salaried job in coffee, I accepted the offer without question. I lived in New York at the time, and the company wanted me to relocate to San Francisco in three weeks. It was 2015, and I was offered $47,500; health insurance; a vague promise of a moving stipend; no other benefits (no retirement, no transportation, no education or coffee stipend); and a strict, two-week vacation package. (This was the type of place where you got federally mandated holidays off, but you couldn’t take off the Friday after Thanksgiving without filing a vacation-day request.)
I didn’t fully grasp the cost-of-living difference between New York and San Francisco at the time. The role was a step up in terms of responsibilities, but it paid less than what I was making at my then-job. At the time, I thought that was fine—I couldn’t imagine any place being as expensive as New York.
Whew, was I wrong. Within a month, I went back to our HR representative and asked her if there was anything we could do to adjust my salary. We had loosely chatted about that moving stipend, but she said that because we didn’t get it in writing, I wasn’t entitled to it. She also implied that my salary was a starting offer and that I had been expected to negotiate.1
Not every job carries that expectation, but in writing this piece, I’d like to encourage you to consider negotiating if you think you’re worth more. It doesn’t matter what the job is, nor how much or little you’re being paid. You are allowed to negotiate, and to do so in a way that feels empowering and non-contentious.
Recently, I helped a friend negotiate a job offer, and we came up with ways the employer could make their offer more enticing. As we brainstormed the words she should use, I realized that my past assumption—that negotiations are always a struggle—was likely what had kept me from asking for more back in 2015 (not to mention some level of naïveté). Ultimately, my friend ended up having a very successful negotiation, and getting most of what she asked for.
During my 10-minute conversation with her, I wrote down a few key pointers that we discussed, which I wanted to share here:
Treat a negotiation like a team effort. Asking for more can feel like you’re challenging the offer just given to you, but if a hiring manager is offering you a job, they want you to work there, and they’re likely to be on your side if you invite them in. Consider using phrases like: “I’d really like to work with you to get to X salary or Y dollars an hour.” Negotiations don’t have to be contentious, and by asking your hiring manager to work with you, you invite them to be a collaborator. Instead of trying to fight it out to meet somewhere in the middle, you’re encouraging them to join you in your quest.
Tell them why. I swear up and down that at some point in my life, I read an article that said people are more amenable to change if they’re given a reason why, though I’ve never been able to find the piece in question. But the advice stands: When you ask for more money or increased benefits, tie it back to your experience, the nature of the job, or some reason you believe you should be paid more.
One thing my friend pointed out in her negotiations is that she would be the face of a company in a new market, and wanted her salary to reflect non-traditional working hours and always being “on” when out at public events. That’s a tangible piece of information that a hiring manager can use to anchor their justification for giving you more money.
Present options. I’ve written in the past about how much money to ask for in a new job and how to ask for more money at work. When my friend negotiated, she presented three items she wanted to see improved in the initial job offer. One was more money, but the other two were tied to benefits. She quickly got two of three options met.
Sometimes, more money is the only acceptable outcome when negotiating, but you can decide if there are other factors that’d make a job worthwhile for you. Look at your paid-time-off (PTO) options, subsidies for transportation, or at perks like free food or paid professional development.
There are eight bazillion ways to approach a negotiation, and I hope this article makes you feel like you can negotiate, no matter what your job is, in a way that feels safe and non-threatening. In addition to these three tips, I’d also recommend reading The Harvard Business Review’s list of 15 strategies to negotiate (it’s catered to a business school audience, but I found many of the tips to be broadly applicable nonetheless).
This is a topic I love writing about because I believe every worker deserves to ask for more, and to get in the habit of scrutinizing their job offers. Negotiations scared me for so long because I thought they were an invitation to conflict—and that they weren’t applicable to my measly coffee jobs.
My advice: Learn from my misconceptions. You can, and deserve to, ask for more.
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As you can tell, I blew it during this job interview/acceptance. But the one thing I did ask about was competing in barista competitions. I expressed my interest in competing and asked if the company would financially support me, and my hiring manager said yes. My hiring manager left six months later, so the owners of the business became my de facto point people. They told me they would no longer allocate funds to compete. At this point, I had already registered to compete (they did pay my registration fee), but I had to pay for everything else. Moral of the story: get everything in writing.