You’ve had three interviews, have a clear picture of what the job entails and taken the office tour. If you’re in the gig space, you’ve spoken with the client, shown your portfolio and agreed on the parameters of the project.
Now the nitty gritty: money.
“Negotiating is the thing I hate the most,” says RJ Rousso of Rousso, Bradley & Associates, a Los Angeles PR firm. “The client or potential employer always wants you to go first. I used to throw out a number and hope it was in the ballpark.”
Not anymore. Rousso has learned never to talk money without due diligence. “After I talk to the client (or potential employer) I go back to the office and figure out the worth of the project (how many hours, etc.).
Or, if it’s a salary, I go in prepared with as much information as I can get, not only for that company but for the industry at large. I look at the Internet and talk to people in the industry. I come armed by knowing my worth in the market place, and I always give a higher number.”
Rashida Goryawala, a jewelry designer, was a naïve 22-year-old when she took her first job out of college. A Mumbai native, Goryawala joined an e-commerce firm to learn more about the business of her craft. She was promoted quickly, but without a salary bump, just a title and more responsibility.
“They told me that I should be proud I was promoted.” Says Goryawala.
She bought it: “It was a start-up and I assumed they couldn’t pay much, so I didn’t ask for more.”
Then she discovered a man who reported to her had a bigger salary. She doesn’t necessarily blame gender for the discrepancy. Goryawala takes the blame, admitting it was her beginner’s error when she didn’t ask for more.
When she asked, the CEO adjusted her salary, but Goryawala eventually left when she got an offer of a better position and salary. Her lesson learned she did not accept the first offer. She knew what the market paid and asked for that amount.
Looking back, Goryawala, now 26, says, “My biggest mistake was not doing enough research on what these positions should pay. I’ve learned to know my worth and make sure a company will value me.”
Even seasoned applicants can get taken. Kate Brodock, who’s worked in the tech start-up world since she graduated from college, has a painful tale. Recruited as chief marketing officer by the founders of a tech company, Brodock lowered her usual rate. “They had never done a start-up and I assumed they didn’t have the full capacity to pay me my worth yet. I thought I was being kind.”
Kind, or, as Brodock says, “dumb” by letting her emotions rule, making for a decision that would negatively affect her working life.
During the original negotiation Brodock, who’s ironically been working for gender equality for years, agreed to the number they offered and a small amount of equity. She made it clear that she had lowered her price and her employers agreed to talk about compensation again in six months. “I did bring it up in six months, and it was brushed aside, says Brodock. “I believed them when they said they weren’t quite ready but would be soon.”
At the year mark Brodock reintroduced the subject again, with the caveat that if she wasn’t doing the job they wanted, that they would talk about fixes. She didn’t get an answer. Meanwhile, she learned that the chief data scientist and a programmer, both male, were each getting at least $25,000 more than she was. “I should have been making what they were, if not more,” says Brodock.
When she looks back at the situation, Brodock says she is angry with herself. “I should have known better.” Brodock won’t say it was gender discrimination, but “it’s a high possibility.” There was daily evidence of gender bias.
“But I made it easy for them to begin with.” Soon after, she left for a better opportunity at Women 2.0, a platform for women tech founders. Now, Women 2.0 is offering a negotiation seminar later this spring:
Her final word on the subject? “We as women often times don’t know how to have these conversations. They’re not easy, but they can be successful. Go in armed with every bit of information and confidence you can muster.”