I Was Desperate For A Job During My Negotiation And It Cost Me $10,000/Year

I remember the moment I got my first industry job offer.

It was incredible.

When I first started my job search, I really didn’t think anyone would want to hire me.

The stress and negativity of my PhD had worn down my self worth and I didn’t feel qualified for any industry position.

But, through the job search process, and with lots of hard work, I learned that I had skills that were desirable.

Apparently, I was good at things such as communication, writing, and team management — things that companies needed.

I found that there were industry positions available that were suited to my unique talents.

And eventually, I was offered a job where I could use my skills — and, when I saw the salary they were going to pay me, I was so excited!

How could they be willing to pay me that much?

I accepted the offer right away.

A while after I started working for the company, I found out that other people, doing the same job as I was, were making more money.

What the heck?

It turned out that these people had negotiated their initial salaries.

I hadn’t even realized this was something I should be doing.

Compared to academia, the salary I was making was high — but, in industry it wasn’t.

I was disappointed that I hadn’t negotiated and was now making less than what was possible.

It was a tough learning situation.

But next time, I will definitely be negotiating.

What PhDs Will Gain Through Salary Negotiations

Negotiating increases starting salary by an average of 13.3%, according to Glassdoor.

That means if your initial offer was $80,000, simply engaging in a basic negotiation could raise your salary to above $90,000.

All you have to say is, “Thank you so much for the offer. I am so excited to join the company. But, I was hoping for a high salary. What’s possible?”

That simple sentence can earn you $10,000.

But, the majority of people don’t negotiate.

A recent survey by the Robert Half staffing agency found that only 46% of men and 34% of women negotiate their salary.

The vast majority of people are completely missing out on the incredible salary bump that negotiation can bring.

Most people don’t negotiate because they are scared.

This fear of attempted negotiation leading to rejection is totally unfounded.

Inc reported that 89% of people who tried to negotiate their starting salary were successful.

So, if you ask one simple question about salary negotiation, you have an 89% chance of making $10,000 more per year.

Face your fear and negotiate your starting salary because the reward vastly outweighs the risk.

3 Negotiation Mistakes That Set PhDs Up For Failure

Negotiating is tough for PhDs.

It’s a new skill.

In academia, you are expected to just take the low stipend that you are offered.

But in industry, it is different.

You should be your own advocate and negotiate your salary.

But, you don’t want to do this the wrong way or you will end up burning bridges and missing out on opportunities.

Here are 3 common mistakes PhDs make after they receive a job offer…

1. Being too desperate or afraid to negotiate and losing out on massive amounts of money.

Not negotiating is a huge mistake that many, many PhDs make in their job searches.

The negative environment that exists in academia leaves PhDs feeling desperate to leave.

You may be tempted to take the very first job offer that comes your way because you are worried that you may never get another opportunity.

Don’t give in to this feeling.

As a PhD outside of academia, you have a great deal of value and, when your job search is executed properly, you will find multiple opportunities.

But, since the salary that PhD students and postdocs make is so very low, PhDs often have a skewed perception of their value.

For example, if you are being paid $30,000 a year it’s hard to imagine that you could actually be making more than $100,000 per year.

But, this is the reality.

The average salary for an industry scientist is $120,000 per year — meaning, many industry scientists make more than $120,000.

You have the skills to earn a high paying salary, but in order to be paid what you are worth, you must negotiate.

Many PhDs are afraid, or don’t know how, to negotiate.

But, negotiating is just a skill.

And, like any skill, it can be learned.

As a PhD, you are capable of learning anything, so put in the effort to learn the right way to negotiate so you can earn what you deserve.

2. Setting ultimatums and using “car salesman” techniques.

When you think about negotiating, you might envision a high-stress situation.

Two business people staring each other down, sweat rolling off their foreheads as they try to get the best deal possible.

Or, you might think of a car salesman who is trying to sell you a busted up car for way to high of a price.

In these situations, there is a clear winner and loser.

You either pay too much for the car, or you get a good deal.

But, in salary negotiations there is no loser — it is a win-win situation.

You will get the pay you want and the company will get a happy, high-quality employee.

When you negotiate your salary, you are advocating for yourself, which demonstrates that you know your own value.

If the company offering you the position sees value in hiring you, they will probably be willing to negotiate your salary.

But, this will not work if you have a negative attitude.

If you try to act like a car salesman, thinking you are going to beat your employer, the negotiation is not going to end well.

Always remain positive.

Continuously convey your excitement and use we/us instead of I/me to show that you are on the same side.

Don’t use phrases like “this is not enough” or “I need more than that”.

Instead, ask open-ended questions such as, “I was hoping for more, what can we do?” or “I am so excited to join the team, but I was hoping for a higher salary, can we discuss what is possible?”.

Stay positive, stay team-oriented, and remember your value.

3. Squeezing every last dollar and benefit you can possibly get out of the offer.

Let’s say you are negotiating your starting salary and the company offered you a 12% salary increase but you wanted a 15% increase.

They seem pretty set on this 12% increase, but you know they really want you to join their company.

You could push them for that last 3%.

But, is that a good idea? Usually, no — it’s not a good idea.

If the starting salary, with the 12% increase, is above your walkaway number, then pushing hard to get that last 3% could be harmful.

Remember, you have to work with these people after the negotiation.

If you get too pushy, it could impact the relationship you have with your colleagues once you start work.

The most common problem that arises is when you make mistakes during the first few months of the new job.

If your boss thinks that they are paying you too much and you make mistakes, it could lead to resentment.

And, feelings of animosity in the workplace are not good.

It will impact your well-being, as well as that of your co-workers and the company.

This does not mean that you shouldn’t negotiate at all — you should, and are, expected to negotiate.

It just means that you must maintain a positive, win-win attitude and know when you should accept what is offered to you.

For many PhDs, salary negotiation is the hardest part of the job search process. And, this is okay. Negotiation is a new skill that you need to learn and develop. You are not going to automatically be an expert negotiator. But, it’s important for you to recognize some of the biggest mistakes PhDs make when trying negotiating, such as: being too desperate or afraid to negotiate and losing out on massive amounts of money, setting ultimatums and using car salesman techniques, and squeezing every last dollar and benefit you can possibly get out of the offer. To avoid these mistakes, it’s important that you learn the right way to negotiate your salary.

If you’re ready to start your transition into industry, you can apply to book a free Transition Call with our founder Isaiah Hankel, PhD or one of our Transition Specialists. Apply to book a Transition Call here.

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ABOUT CATHERINE SORBARA, PH.D.

Cathy has a PhD in Medical Life Science and Technology and is COO of the Cheeky Scientist Association. Cathy is passionate about science communication including translating science to lay audiences and helping PhDs transition into industry positions. She is Chair of Cambridge AWiSE, a regional network for women in science, engineering and technology. She has also been selected to take part in Homeward Bound 2018, an all-female voyage to Antarctica aimed to heighten the influence of women in leadership positions and bring awareness to climate change.

Catherine Sorbara, Ph.D.

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