You made it through the interview process and landed that coveted offer. You want this job. You need this job. And you wouldn't want to offend anyone by asking for more money. After all, it's a salary. You don't want to be greedy.
That word — greedy — is such an ugly one. It's a word we should all banish from our vocabulary. Negotiating your salary isn't about greed; it's about being practical. Because, more than likely, the hiring manager is expecting you to ask for more. And they can't do the asking for you.
Take for example my friend James* who works for a small media company. He was in charge of hiring two entry-level writers with starting salaries of $45,000. He found a man and a woman he liked and offered them both $40,000, leaving some room to negotiate. The woman accepted the offer right away, no questions asked. The man came back and asked for $50,000. There was some back and forth, and in the end, they agreed on a starting salary of $48,000. James didn't start out with the intention of paying the male writer 20% more, and yet because the woman didn't negotiate, she's setting herself back from the start.
James' female writer isn't alone. An oft-referenced study by Linda Babcock, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, found that only 7% of female MBA grads had negotiated their salaries — compared to 56% of men. As a result, these women were earning, on average, $4,000 less than their male counterparts. If women with business degrees aren't speaking up, then it's not surprising entry-level employees aren't either.
I didn't negotiate my first salary — hell, I didn't negotiate anything until I was 33 — 10 years into my career! When I started asking women for personal stories about negotiating, it was like pulling teeth to get them to open up. And often, when women do finally speak up, it's because they find out they're dramatically underpaid. A friend of mine who works at the executive level for a nonprofit discovered a male counterpart was making $25,000 more than her. Needless to say, her boss was shocked when she asked for a five-figure raise — and it took the organization three years to be able to pay her the same salary as that male colleague. But they did. File that one away, and remember that your role as negotiator is never really done. You should always speak up when you move into a leadership role.
But you need to be prepared and know the right way to ask. Refinery29 is here to help, and that's why we created our Secret Guide To Getting More. It's got everything you need to negotiate that first job offer, from salary-info research to how to phrase the ask. We teamed up with Dream Space, a new company that will pair you up with a career expert so you can get advice via text message. If you're not comfortable asking a friend or coworker to coach you through the process, this is a service to use — and it was founded by two very smart women.
Yes, it's scary. But you know what's scarier? Sitting next to a guy who makes more than you just because he was smart enough to speak up.