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October 12, 2007

How to Get What You're Worth

Learn the art of negotiating for more.

Classic suits for a day at the office

Photo Credit: Joshua Jordan

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Tips from the Cubicle Coach (who has seen it all)

You've got him right where you want him. He's wide-eyed; practically begging. All you have to do is say the word, and he'll give it to you, just the way Mama likes it. Yes, oh, yesss, extra vacation and immediate enrollment in the 401K!

The new-job negotiation is indeed a seduction, and you want to play just-hard-enough to get. You're never in a better position than in these early stages of passion, when they're trying to lure you - once you're in the job, you rarely have that same level of "hand." But unless you play it just right, not only will Mama not get what she wants, she might walk away with nothing but bruised feelings, burned bridges, and a bitter taste in her mouth.

Q: So, CC, how exactly do I ask for what I want?
A: There's a fine line between respectful assertiveness and hubristic arrogance. CC has seen too many women fail on both sides of it. Either they're wimpy, feeling it's unladylike to negotiate, or else they come on like a litigator hopped up on the Juice. ("Behold my list of demands!") By the end, CC is ready to not only rescind the offer but also recommend neutering.
Repeat after CC: "I really want to make things work, but would it be possible to increase the salary/vacation/title/minibar allowance?" Not "I need," "I want," "I must have." No one cares that your roommate went off her meds and has to move back in with her parents or that your kitty needs a new kidney. Keep it direct but respectful. There's room to get tough later.

Q: What's my next step if that fails?
A: Listen to the pushback. Do you get a sense that the recruiter has room to maneuver? Ideally, you want them to make the first offer, but every good negotiator knows that trick ("No, after you, I insist"). Realize what hand you are playing (you're the hottest of shits, and this job has been on the market for four months and has been turned down by three other hot shits) and who your opponent is. While many companies expect a little wiggle, CC knows one exec who famously insists he is never going to pay a penny more than what you are currently making.

Q: What about soliciting a new job offer just to go back and get a raise at work?
A: Ah, the bane of CC's existence. Going on an interview and/or trying to get a fair sense of your market worth is OK. But if you have no interest in the job, stop the charade early. And for God's sake, don't accept and then not show up Monday morning, saying you've changed your mind. Then you will piss off CC, and as those who have lived to tell know, it's not pretty.

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