How I Finally Learned To Negotiate For What I’m Worth
“We’re not sure you have the right skills and experience for the role”.
Given that this was the second time the job description had changed in a week, I was fairly convinced they weren’t sure of anything. But I was feeling anxious. I want this job, I thought. It’s a great opportunity that might take me to the next level in my career. How far can I go to convince them? How can I prove how good I will be for this business? Before I could reply, the voice came back over the line:
“Perhaps if you were to lower your salary expectations…”
Aha! There’s the kicker. The moment I heard this, there were only negative thoughts in my head. Perhaps I wasn’t qualified enough for this role. Maybe my salary requirement was too high. The imposter syndrome was creeping up on me and I knew I had to reset my mindset. But then something clicked in my brain; “No. I’m worth what I’ve put forward, and here’s why…”
The next day, I received an offer for the salary I had originally requested.
This was a moment for me. I realized how much I was worth and how much others might value me. But, had I gone with my instinct, one that told me to apologize for my age, second-guess my market value, and give over the power I held in the negotiation, I would have found myself in a very different position. Instead of bowing down to the stress and pressure, I stood up and made everyone aware of my limit.
What’s more, in telling them that not only would I not adjust my salary expectations, but also why I was worth that amount, I reminded myself why I was deserving of that salary. I’m relatively unique in my field, and the chance of them finding someone else as qualified and with the same experience and skills as me was close to zero. I reread the job description later (one of the many versions) and saw how well I matched up to their needs. Then, I thought of all the other opportunities I had come across recently. Yes, this was the job I wanted, but I knew there were options outside of this offer, and that even if it took a bit longer, I would eventually find someone willing to pay me for my expertise.
I set to writing a long email on why I was the best option they had for the role and what I would do to ensure they made the most out of my salary. But I also made sure to note that if that wasn’t what they were looking for, I was happy to walk. I will admit, my ego grew — but so did my belief in my decision.
I realized why I was finally able to demand what I’m worth when I was recently watching TFD’s interview with Anna Akana. When asked what she thought was the difference between people with money and people without it, she remarked on the desperation for money when you don’t have it and how it can undermine you. One comment really stood out to me: “The power to walk away from things is often what will lead to the money coming.”
I’m fortunate to currently be in a position where I have somewhat of a financial safety blanket. A perk of contracting. This was the only reason I was able to take the risk to stand my ground. But this was not the case eight months ago. Until recently, I’ve spent a lot of time budgeting, struggling with paying bills, and constantly feeling the strain on my wallet while living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Now I feel the freedom of having financial feet to stand on, and the power that gives you to think clearly: the ability to consider your skills and talents against the current job market without having to accept the first offer that comes your way.
But I wonder about this confidence that comes from having stable finances. If I had it without the finances, might I have been able to take more risks sooner? What if I hadn’t been so desperate for that contract last year? Could I have negotiated a better fee? What if I had trusted in my abilities and worth for that freelance job? Could I have convinced the client to trust me more?
I find that confidence is frequently the key to unlocking opportunities, and yet, more often than not, I don’t trust in my abilities enough to march through those open doors. Going forward, I’ve realized I know my market value, I know my strengths and weaknesses, and I have the confidence now to trust in this knowledge and set limits. And should I ever find myself, again, desperate for money and succumbing to the pressures of negotiating my worth, I will make sure to take a second to remember this confidence, check that I’m not undermining my success, and stand strong in the knowledge that I have value — and that they need me more than I need them.
Clare Nicholson is an HR Professional working in the tech world in London. Originally a kiwi and having lived and worked in Japan for a few years, she moved to London to pursue a more international career. Focusing on Japanese business and bringing it into the modern age of HR practice she works full time in a standalone role while writing an HR blog on the side detailing her experiences and encouraging women, in particular, to chase their career ambitions. Follow her blog at onuphr.com.
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