Negotiating: prioritizing your wants vs. needs

Now, before we go any farther I will be clear; I’m funded through a large grant *soft money* and many tenure track positions are funded through university, departmental, or other funds *hard money* with *soft money* supplemented after the faculty member receives grants.

So, you’re thinking: she’s not tenure track? (TT). No, I’m not. But, I’m doing the exact same things that a TT person would be doing except teaching a full load. Research, scholarship, service, long hours, etc…I also hope to parle this as a stepping stone to a TT position.  This is a good step for me, the job is great, it’s applicable, and quite frankly, I’m having a great time working hard. I will also admit that while I miss teaching, I’m working with a class full of undergrads three days a week and in public schools three days a week as well.  Don’t worry, I’m not looking for more to do right now!  In all seriousness, the jobs aren’t ‘there’ still and I view this as a good stepping stone for my career.  I’m designated as research faculty and while I wish I was teaching, I also know that I’ve got my hands full right now, making this an excellent ‘middle step’ for me.  It is allowing me to hone my research skills, keep up with scholarship, and I still get to work with students from grades 5-college students most of the week. For more information on negotiating TT offers, the professor is in has some great words of advice.  Things like spousal hiring, start up dollars, funding for grad students, travel, even office equipment are all on the table, and this is your chance so negotiate well!  Get the facts, know what your options are. I negotiated a calendar year salary so I wouldn’t go unpaid, lots of technology perks, an office to myself (you’d be surprised now-a-days w/ shrinking resources), and full university benefits.

Since Akon wasn’t part of my negotiation (shucks), the term “right now” was the bit of language my negotiator used when discussing my salary.  Now, my salary is low for a phd. But I will refer back to the “i’m so grateful to have a job and benefits again” statement.

But, if we’re being honest: it’s the money talking.  And talk it does. During my negotiations, I asked what the options were for salary increases and while the grant was steady and the starting salary had been approved by the funding agency, my supervisor said, “we can’t pay you more right now.”  Right now. Now, depending on which way the glass is for you today, half full or half empty, you may have thought, “well this is junk, it’s not a promise.”  Believe me, I thought this. But, after sitting on it for a day, I also got to the half full mindset, “he said right now, that means there’s wiggle room.”

Please remember: you have time from your offer letter being sent/mailed/delivered to making a decision.  Usually several weeks.  TAKE THEM. Keep going back and forth. Make a list of priorities of what you really want out of the negotiation. And for Pete’s sake, don’t sell yourself short.  YOU ARE VALUABLE. This is the time when the ball is in your court so make the most of it.  I followed up about salary and it was discussed again.  I referred to people I trusted, I even had another interview during that time to get a feel for how the result would be. I didn’t get a good vibe from the other interview, they liked someone else better and the dept. head was honest and open, sharing that it would be wise to pursue other offers.  I was glad he was candid with me and glad I had done the interview.  Keep on learning….

The last day about two hours before the deadline on the offer letter, I accepted.  I had negotiated every other detail I had deemed important except a huge starting salary.  “Right now,” I’m happy with this.  Why?  After only a few months of hard work, my supervisor has seen my hard work pay off and the funding agency has agreed to move some of the money around, giving me a nice raise in salary.

I was receiving a compliment b/c the project is turning into a good and huge monster. My supervisor initiated the conversation of money and I professionally added that more money would keep me on the project for the duration of the funding.  He came back saying that he hoped to retain me.  I countered with the fact that it would be necessary as my student loan grace period would soon end. You get the picture.

Had I not played my hand and not ended up w/ the raise, I’d still be ok.  But, I had waited for key moments to bring up money and while I know I’m valued and respected, I also understand I am disposable.  Working between that fine line has been a learning experience.  When do you think the “right” moments are to discuss salary?  When isn’t it the “right” moment?  What might other deal breakers be? What can you forgo to take a job where you’ll know you’ll be valued and respected?

Up next: balancing responsibilities from a previous position or other professional interests.  Also on tap: bringing back the busy signal–learning to stop answering everyone and everything immediately.

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One thought on “Negotiating: prioritizing your wants vs. needs

  1. […] negotiated this term though.  Reflecting on my own job search, I do remember asking if I would be required to […]

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