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Salary Negotiation Tips From Top FBI Negotiator (For PhDs)

Skip ahead to:
7:50 Show Me The Data
23:04 Chris Voss
44:00 Mansi Khanna, Ph.D..

Does the thought of negotiating your salary fill you with fear? 

Learn how you can increase your starting salary and negotiate confidently.  

In this episode, we are joined by Chris Voss, top FBI negotiator, CEO and Author of Never Split The Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It. Using his many years of experience in high-stakes negotiations, Chris will share proven negotiation strategies that you can apply in your job search.  We are also joined by Mansi Khanna, PhD, Regulatory Writer at Synchrogenix, who will discuss the regulatory writer career track and how other PhDs can pursue this career.

About Our Guests

Chris Voss has used his many years of experience in international crisis and high-stakes negotiations to develop a unique program and team that applies these globally proven techniques to the business world. Chris was the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as the FBI’s hostage negotiation representative for the National Security Council’s Hostage Working Group. During Chris’s 24 year tenure in the Bureau, he was trained in the art of negotiation by not only the FBI but Scotland Yard and Harvard Law School. Chris has taught business negotiation in the MBA program as an adjunct professor at University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.  He has taught business negotiation at Harvard University, guest lectured at The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, The IMD Business School in Lausanne, Switzerland and The Goethe School of Business in Frankfurt, Germany.

Mansi Khanna, Ph.D. is a regulatory writer at Synchrogenix, a Certara company, where she prepares clinical documentation for national regulatory agencies for assessment of the safety and efficacy of drugs. Her inspiration stemmed during her postdoctoral studies in the Drug Discovery Group at the University of Pennsylvania. She became interested in the final stages of drug development that involves late-stage clinical trials and marketing. During her postdoc, she was also an Editor with the Postdoctoral Editor’s Association and a peer reviewer for multiple journals. In addition to her career, she loves traveling and is never found without a book. She is a big fan of Harry Potter and Cat in the Hat!

Key Takeaways

1. Use questions to shape thinking not to gather information. 

2. Get a “that’s right” out of your potential employer. 

3. Regulatory writing is different from general medical writing and is a good option for those who want to be connected to drug development.

Salary Negotiation Tips From Top FBI Negotiator: A Conversation With Chris Voss

Isaiah: What are some of the phrases that you use that really get people talking about what might be possible in terms of increasing a salary?

Chris: Well, what we do is we use questions to shape thinking. We don’t really use questions to gather information.

So how am I supposed to do that? I’m trying to shape your thinking into looking at my position. You could ask, what does it take to be successful here? A lot of people don’t ask that question. Instead they ask, what are you looking for in a candidate? Which is a stock question and has a stock answer.

When you say, what does it take to be successful here? an employer hears oh, you’re trying to make sure you’re successful with us as part of our team. You want to say something that’s gonna make them hear a bunch of other things.

And we’ve had a lot of people in job negotiations, you know, there’s always an interview panel on the other side and there’s always a guy in the interview panel doesn’t say a word. What does it take to be successful here? One of my students from Georgetown asked at a job interview, and the guy on the other side that never said a word, leaned forward and said, no one ever asked us that before. And then he laid it out.

Now the, the magic trick that just happened at that point in time, you get somebody who’s telling you, what does it take to be successful in that with that employer. You’ve actually just recruited your first mentor because if they lay that out for you and they’re wrong, they got something at stake. So what they’re going to have a tendency to do from that point on, without telling you is they’re going to look out for ya. You know, they’re going to, they’re going to keep you from getting blindsided. Unofficial mentors are far more important than official mentors. And that’s how you recruited on official mentor.

Isaiah: Another problem that I think the people that are watching here have is just the uncomfortableness of negotiating, They think  I don’t want them to take away the job offer. I don’t want to lose. You’ve done some very high stakes negotiation. So how do you approach that? How do you handle that fear, that uncertainty?

Chris: Be in the moment instead of thinking about where you’re going. One of the sayings we have is “Never be so sure of what you want that you wouldn’t take something better.” I mean the whole idea is to get your focus off of the objective a little bit because the more focused you on our objective, the more tunnel vision you get, the less you see other options and opportunities and the more out of the moment you are and the more you miss stuff.

I mean, I was coaching somebody last night and she was saying, you know what if this happens, you know this didn’t work out last time. I said, look this to some degree, this is like walking a tight rope. The guy walking on the tight rope, doesn’t look at the other side of the Grand Canyon where he wants to go because you’re going to fall off the rope. He looks down at his feet, he focuses on each step. He makes sure each step is right and low and behold he’s on the other side.

So you get a lot better if you just get into the moment, get your head out of where this is going. What if this happens as a disaster? I mean those are all distractions. As soon as you get into the moment and realize there’s a lot of space between yes and no. I don’t have to say yes, I don’t have to say no. I can just respectfully explore and clarify with that. Accepting or rejecting anything the possibilities really opened up.

Isaiah: What, what can you do to have that kind of bonding moment with, with an employer?

Chris: Yeah, it’s actually really simple. You know, it’s the stuff that we’re afraid to say.

You could look at an employer and go like, look, you guys are restricted here. I mean you guys are under a lot of pressure. You know, you got a lot of people inside your company that you really like them, the good people, but you know, you’re a little worried that you’re going to bring somebody else in and be disappointed.

I mean, you guys want to take your company to the next level and you want people that are committed to taking you to the next level. Employees that are not selfish and a not just looking out for themselves at all. You want people that are saying to themselves, what’s in it for us? How do we get to the next level? How do we do a better job feeding our families, putting our families in better houses, putting our kids in better schools? How do we succeed as a group?

Employers going to be blown away by that. That’s when what you say and what they hear  is this person wants to make us successful. This person wants to help me have a better life for my family and my children, better future for my children. And that makes you immeasurably valuable and also gives you the opportunity. 

Regulatory Writer Career Track: A Conversation With Mansi Khanna, Ph.D.

Isaiah: How did you find out about this career path? How did you get interested in regulatory affairs or regulatory writing?

Mansi: I started getting interested in medical writing specifically during my postdoctoral years at the University of Pennsylvania. I started to look at careers away from the bench because I realized pretty early on during my postdoc that more than actually doing the experiment I enjoyed actually analyzing them. And it didn’t matter to me whether the data was mine or someone else’s in a paper. But that seemed more exciting to me than actually doing the experiment myself. So I started to look at ways in which I could leave the bench but still be associated with the science part of it, where I could still see the data, like data driven careers but not necessarily generating the data myself.

And so medical writing came up. Now medical writing can be of two kinds. One is the regulatory path which I took. And the other one is just regular medical writing. But since I was in the drug discovery group realized that not only do I like analysis of data, but I like to keep up to date with what’s happening in the world of drug development. And so that’s how I chose the regulatory writing and started looking specifically at how I could stay within the realm of regulatory writing as opposed to just medical writing in general.

** for the full interviews check out the video above

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Isaiah Hankel Ph.D.

Isaiah Hankel Ph.D.

Isaiah is a Ph.D. in Anatomy & Cell Biology and internationally recognized Fortune 500 consultant. He is an expert in the biotechnology industry and specializes in helping people transition into cutting-edge career tracks.

Isaiah believes that if you feel stuck somewhere in your life right now, you should make a change. Don’t sit still and wait for the world to tell you what to do. Start a new project. Build your own business. Take action. Experimentation is the best teacher.
Isaiah Hankel Ph.D.