Job Offer Negotiation Was A Success

It’s official: I took the new job!

I’m glad to finally have this out of the way so my brain space can be consumed less by anticipating work and instead truly embrace this brief period of funemployment.

Before I accepted my job offer I, of course, negotiated. It helps that I have a lot of very aggressive friends and mentors that have taught me to be relentlessly entitled. You won’t get what you don’t ask for and all that jazz.

In my negotiations, I asked for an extra $20k in salary and an extra week of vacation my first year of employment. In return, my future employer gave me a $10k bump in salary, title promotion, and a promise of flexibility when it came to the vacation, though one they wanted to handle off the books (i.e. we’ll see if they live up to those promises). My new salary is still a pay cut relative to what I’d been making before but is in line with industry standards for the size of the company. The vacation policy is pretty iffy, but I’ll live.

While I’m a little disheartened that I didn’t get quite the salary bump or vacation commitments I wanted, the title promotion by itself is a big plus in my book. One of the things I have been worried about as part of this career change has been moving far back in terms of seniority. My thought is, even if this job doesn’t work out for the long haul, having that “Senior” by my job title will help add legitimacy to my experience and make it easier for me to apply for bigger roles or justify to big companies to bring me on board down the line.

In negotiating my job offer, I did three things:

One, I established a high anchor for compensation early. A lot of folks new to fields try to be wishy washy and force the other party to name a number first. But then, if an employer low balls, you have a much harder time edging them up drastically. With enough data– I use Glassdoor and Paysa for tech roles– you can generally figure out the range which a company is likely to offer and pick a number above it as an anchor point. For me, my anchor point was my previous pay since I was coming from a more highly compensated role and other job offers I had received for that sort of work.

Two, I dug into and negotiated multiple areas of my offer. While compensation was most important to me, through the negotiation process the company was able to “clarify” (i.e. I think they figured this out for the first time) their quite generous maternity leave policy. I also think being flexible on compensation got me a little flexibility in terms of vacation time on their end, which they had started pretty hard-nosed about (for reasons I don’t entirely understand).

Three, and most importantly, I remained consistently open and respectful, even when there was tension between me and the company and when I did not receive exactly what I wanted. In game theory, one’s optimal strategy will differ if they are engaged in a single or repeated game. Salary negotiation is a repeated game. Establishing early that I am willing to assert my worth but also do it in a respectful way will pay dividends down the line, I think, when pushing for raises, promotions, and for being seen as someone who is willing to be “tough” and represent the company as aggressively as I do my own interests. This negotiation may have ended, but the next one is always waiting around the corner.

Have you ever negotiated a job offer? Do you do so by default? What strategies do you use to determine your market value and negotiate?

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18 thoughts on “Job Offer Negotiation Was A Success

  1. Great news – congratulations on accepting, and on negotiating. How long do you get to stay fun-employed??

    It is true that it is to your benefit to give the first number / anchor if you’ve done your homework, but it is much scarier! I just was listening to a podcast that mentioned this. People come out financially ahead if they give the first number, but they “feel” worse about the process. Weird, huh?

    In many companies, vacation policies are harder to customize and negotiate because it’s kind of a centralized one-size-fits-all system. But if it is a smaller company, you’d think they’d be able to be flexible even “on the books”.

    I negotiated most of my job offers, but I think only once was actually successful. The first ~2 I was very junior (<2 years of experience) so there was not flexibility in college-hire level offers. The 3rd I was switching industries to consulting and I asked, but I was already going to be paid more than people at a similar level due to my engineering background vs people that came from business. (They generally just match your past job salary for junior-ish consultants, which is a problematic practice but not my call.) For my current job, the offer was already way better than expected, but I asked for the top of the range posted and got it.

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    1. Just funemployed through June, unfortunately. Two weeks in and I haven’t gotten bored yet! Definitely a nice reminder that early retirement, whenever it does come, will be so very sweet.

      I definitely felt awful negotiating. Like, I hate it so so much. But there are a lot of hard nosed business-y things that I’ve learned to just suck up and do because I know it’s better for me and my family.

      I was really surprised by their inflexibility on vacation. They kept bringing up this point of “fairness” being out of line with other employees, which felt weird because they clearly aren’t internally transparent about their compensation policies. Also the amount they give feels low for tech (3 weeks including sick time), but maybe I’m just spoiled? Most of my friends at startups now are on unlimited vacation since that seems to be the new hotness and I definitely had a lot more in corporate due to seniority.

      Negotiating while junior bites. I felt so much more confident negotiating this round just because I have actual skills now that I could use as leverage.

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      1. I’ll say I hate unlimited vacation time. You can’t build it up to save for (for example) maternity leave, and when you leave the company, they don’t have to pay it out to you. And most people won’t take significantly more than ~3 weeks in a year… but would be interested if your friends have different experiences.

        Three weeks seems pretty average for prof jobs that didn’t go the “unlimited” route.

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        1. This place, like my previous job, zeroes out vacation time at the end of the year (not pay out, you just lose it) which means you can’t really save much for maternity leave, etc. anyway. My friends with unlimited seem to take a “normal” amount of vacation (one to two week-long or slightly longer trips a year, some holiday-time travel). It’s more the not having to deal with the cognitive burden of apportioning time off that seems appealing to me. Though obviously ymmv and it probably depends on the individual and culture of the company.

          I think I’m mostly thrown off by the fact that sick time is included. I’ve never had it that way and there’s an anxiety worm in my brain that’s like, “what if I use up all my days with a cold?” I don’t get sick terribly often, but it’s not unreasonable to assume I might be out a couple times a year for 1-2 days, which would put me down to 2-2.5 weeks. That plus already-booked honeymoon, wedding prep, and holiday time family visits means I’ll probably be in the red in 2018 (because they pro-rate the three weeks), and have maybe 0-2 days in the first half of 2019? But yeah, I’m probably just spoiled on this point and probably should just suck it up.

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        2. Ooooh, yeah, sick time should be separate. That is a bit stingy for a professional job. One of my jobs had just 2 weeks vacation to start (sick separate), and that was hard to work within for me. No carry-over is also annoying, but I guess i see why companies do this.

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    2. Ha we must have been listening to the same HBR podcast??

      CONGRATS!!!!!

      I have negotiated offers twice, both by phone. I was all amped up to do it at this job but I got such cold feet and paused for far too long! Then got really rambly (and uh, cringe, may have talked about how awkward I felt, but felt I needed to negotiate as a woman despite that… etc etc UGH). I was pretty pleased to get a title bump as well as a small $ bump and the benefits here (first corporate job) are awesome.

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      1. HBR podcast?

        Thank you! And good for you on the title and pay bump!

        Negotiating can be so awkward– my voice was definitely shaky when discussing the offer on the phone with my new manager– so I try to do as much of it as possible by email instead if I can.

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  2. Congrats on the new job! I always negotiate the initial offer and I haven’t really had to go back and forth or fight to get more money, but I’ve gotten denied on title changes. My friend successfully negotiated her salary even though she was unemployed at the time. She really held out until she got what she wanted. Now that’s impressive!

    I agree that looking at other factors besides money is a good idea. My old boss got to work from home on Fridays, and I’ve gotten an extra week of vacation, which in invaluable to me.

    Question: is the new company small-to-medium sized? Asking because maybe they balked at the vacay time since it would be more noticeable in a smaller environment if one employee was out more. I work at a big place and no one can tell I have more vacation time than them.

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    1. I definitely didn’t push as hard in negotiations as I would have had I still been working or if I were deeper into FI. Then again, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the new job had I still been working, so it is what it is.

      The company is definitely in the small to medium size range but not to the point that everyone can feasibly keep tabs on who is in or out. I’ve worked at similar sized places where it was clear some people had more time off and it was never a big deal. Theoretically at the new company there are people who flex at home multiple days a week (not something I’m interested in since I work better in an office anyway) and I was just asking to get the extra week everyone gets at the one year mark, so I don’t know. The tone of the negotiation was kind of weird and disappointing, but I’ll live.

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  3. Congratulations! I’m so glad that the process has gone so well, and quite quickly too, which is great, though it sounds like your break before the new job will be quite brief?

    I’ve never had a job where there was… anything to negotiate. There’s no real title differences for someone within a few years of seniority of me, and of course, the industry is standardized as to salary. Most firms have shifted to doing “unlimited vacation” for associates, as in a way to avoid paying out PTO when people leave and I think it also has the general effect of reducing how much vacation people take because there’s no formal process for requesting it.

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    1. Yeah, I only have the month of June off which is a bummer but at the same time at least I won’t have the worry about finding a job hanging over me.

      Big law structure is so interesting to me, in part because as an industry it feels so custom and reliant on the quality of each individual’s work, but at the same time is vastly ahead of other industries in terms of a few aspects of labor policy (well-defined pay bands, no non-competes).

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  4. I’ll have to remember to ask DH, but I think he gets 3 weeks (both sick time and vacation time) plus some scattered holidays. He’s allowed to take more time off unpaid (this was something someone else at the company negotiated hard for), but hasn’t except when the company was having cash-flow problems. He also has a 100% telecommute position (with some travel), so unless he’s really sick he mostly just spends the day working slowly when he gets sick. His company basically just offered him what the other people in his position were getting.

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    1. Unpaid furlough makes sense; at least, I feel like it’d be a big ask for the company to expect him to work while not paying him. Working while sick bites and I don’t know how you husband/other people do it. I never get much useful done and I recover much faster if I use the time to sleep.

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      1. He took two weeks off unpaid that they would have paid once the company started having cash flow again because he was in the middle of a project with me after the temporary layoff ended. But they were happy to let him do it because it took a little while to onroad the project money. I guess technically he did work during a furlough because they took a 10% paycut without a time cut, but then they gave everybody a bonus and raises once the money started flowing again, so no complaints from us (though one of his coworkers did quit).

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  5. YAY! Congrats!!

    I have asked for: a pay bump, reevaluation at 6 months instead of 12, more vacation, relocation expenses. Most times I worked for stingy places so I didn’t get everything I wanted but I eventually got more money over time because I relentlessly advocate for raises and promotions since I hustle my butt at work.

    I don’t love unlimited vacation time for the reasons SP noted but I try to take advantage of it to the tune of maybe 2 real weeks off a year at and least a month or 6 weeks of part time travel. If I can’t get it paid out, the least I can do is USE IT (kinda). I DO like it when we have a lot of shit going on in our personal lives and I don’t have to worry about scrounging for more time.

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