Welcome to the inaugural class of '29. We've selected 29 graduating college seniors, entering the "real" world in 2018, to write about the state of their lives. What are their hopes, dreams, fears, stressors, failures, and successes as they leave school behind? We will be releasing new entries on a daily basis. If you would like yours to be considered, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I first got the call, my initial reaction was disbelief. After seven long months of applications, rejections, interviews and waiting, I finally had the coveted job offer. During that conversation with the hiring manager, I learned the basics: start date, salary structure, expectations. I went to share the great news with my current boss. After the obligatory “Congratulations!” came a question: “How did you negotiate?” Despite earning an undergraduate degree in Public Relations and spending more than a year studying business, negotiation tactics and equal pay as an MBA candidate, it hadn't even crossed my mind to counter the offer given to me. After all, this was my first “real person” job. What qualified me to earn more money? We talked it through for more than an hour. It was the push I needed. I went back and asked for what I deserved.
Building the courage to negotiate hasn’t been the only challenge I’ve navigated as I launch the next chapter of life. As in any milestone moment, there are many hurdles to overcome. When I started applying to competitive business firms, I had some reservations. Was this company going to support my ambitions for the future? Was the work-life balance going to be possible? With the economy in such fluctuation, was my future going to be financially secure? As someone who came of age during a recession, the questions of job stability and financial security are never far from my mind. When I asked my guy friends about their concerns for the future, they looked at me like I had three heads. They never thought about it in such depth before.
Unfortunately, in the society we live in, women still don’t have the same security men do. The average woman still makes 80 cents to the man’s dollar (the gap is even wider for women of color). Only 27 people featured on Fortune 500 2017 top CEO’s list were female. As someone who aims for leadership positions, the standard of excellence set forth for women is much higher. We always have to bring our A-game. I learned this the hard way in my own negotiating fail.The woman who came before us did not sacrifice everything for us to not counter an offer. After all, what is the worst someone can do? The worst anyone can say is no.
Not being afraid to hear no, by the way, is the single greatest lesson I’ve learned in my business program. If women want a seat at the table, we need to walk in and sit down; progress doesn’t happen if you are waiting for an invitation. We have every right to ask for something but if we don’t ask, how is anyone going to know what we want? We may think men can read our minds but in reality, men are clueless.
The Title IX generation of our mothers instilled the values of integrity, truth and worth into us, their daughters. We owe everything to that generation. They through the first stones into the glass ceiling. It is now our job to toss bigger stones and break the ceiling.
It is this reminder that keeps me going as I graduate and launch into the next chapter of life, one that I hope will lead me to become a successful and respected business women. That’s not to say I have everything figured out. And that’s ok. I often don’t know the next step, but the trick is to keep trying everything until something sticks. I have a whole generation of women who paved the way so my fight today could be a little easier.
I once saw a Pinterest quote that said something to the effect of women in business are allowed five minutes a day to be emotional. Then it’s time to get up and kick ass. Know your worth, fight for seat at the table, break the glass ceiling. Never forget that the worst someone can say is no. My goal is to keep fighting until I get that yes. I hope yours will be, too.
Meaghan Hanley is a Master of Business Management candidate at the University of Florida. After graduation she plans to move to Jacksonville, Florida to begin her career in business.