#JustABoss is a blog series about women who’ve negotiated their pay to level up in their careers and their financial journeys!
For this weeks #JustABoss spotlight, Meet Mindi, an employee benefits manager who used an external offer as leverage for an internal promotion
Employee Benefits for Auto Company (the other HR side)
Years of Experience:
What’s your Negotiation Story? :
1. This was about 8 years ago. Fresh out of college, desperate for a job. Worked 6 months as a temporary at a consulting company. At the 7th month, they offered me a full time job offer for $55k/year. I responded that I had expected the offer to be $65k with my experience on the job the past 6 months. The recruiter said I needed to have passed actuarial exams to be paid more. I explained to the recruiter that I’ve done a great job during the last 6 months with the company and that the job does not require actuarial certifications to do a good job.
In fact, none of the people on the team that I was working with had actuarial certification, and I happened to know the salary for some of them. I asked the recruiter to take it back and reconsider. He took it back, discussed with the hiring manager, and came back with $56k/year. A win is a win, so I took it. I worked at the company for another 9 months, then interviewed at another company that gave me the salary I wanted/deserved, and resigned from the consulting company.
2. This was about 2 weeks ago. I generally like the job that I had been doing. But I also felt like I was outgrowing the role. So I applied for a managerial promotional opportunity that opened up. During the time I was waiting for the company to schedule interviews with me, I was also scheduling interviews with other companies. I purposefully interviewed with other companies for 2 reasons: one – to get practice and prep for my manager interview; two – to understand my market value (performing fiduciary duty for mysef).
Feb 1, my company offered me the promotion to be the Retirement Plan Manager. It was a little more than 9% increase to base salary (also barely 1% above the minimum salary for the promoted level – my company publish the minimum and maximum salary ranges for each level). I felt the increase was a little low for my experience and knowledge, but I wasn’t sure. I didn’t say much and accepted the offer anyway.
Feb 9, the other company called to make me an offer (I had a strong feeling that other company would give me an offer. After all, I went through 4 rounds of interviews with them and talked to their VP and EVP!). I told them my salary changed since the last time I talked to them due to a promotion. This company came back the next day offering me 20% more in base salary than my promoted base salary. Regarding target bonus, my company’s target was about 18% of salary while the other company’s was 4%. But as you know, target bonus is never a guarantee, so the 20% addition in base salary was very tempting. However, I preferred the promotion opportunity at my current company more, and the numbers were the reason for my hesitation to stay with the promotion. So i brought the other company’s offer to much manager, told him of the base salary and target bonus offer the other side was willing to give me. My manager asked if I had a specific number (increase) in mind that would allow me stay. I said no.
I’d recommend you to answer no if you are asked the same question so that you won’t be the one to put a limit on your worth – let the company figure out how much they can pay you and come back to you. The day after my discussion with my manager, he offered me an additional 7% increase to my promoted base salary increase – this is to match the base salary plus target bonus offered by the other company. It took less than a day for my company to approve the negotiated amount (surprise). I, of course, gladly accepted it. Plus, benefits at my current company is way better than the other company.
Unknown fact to all parties was I was going to stay even if my company came back with no additional increase. I had declined the other company’s offer in the morning (didn’t want to string them along) before my manager called me in the late afternoon to give me the good news.
This is because I know the manager position at my company will open a lot of doors for me down the road. The numbers are important, but what’s more important are doing a job that I like, good work/life balance, and how much I can grow in a role.
How did you first prepare to negotiate?:
For me, I don’t feel very comfortable going in and stating that I deserve more money because of the work I do or the experience I have — because other people in the team does just as much with similar experience. Though I don’t know their salary, I have a feeling some of them may be paid more, and some less, than me. So I choose to prove my point by finding my market value with other companies, then use that as leverage.
What are your best tips to get in the right mindset?:
Be grateful for what you have. Don’t compare yourself to others about what you don’t have. But always ask for what you are worth. Market value is fair value.
Know your worth and be prepared to prove your worth with examples of your accomplishments or if you want it to be quick and easy like me – bring in another company’s offer, then no one can negate your demanded value.
Remember, you are not entitled to an increase just because you want it. You have to do the work and be able to prove that you are worth it to the company. It has to be a mutually beneficial scenario for you and your employer.
Have you ever dealt with imposter syndrome in your negotiating?:
Yes. Always. I always ask myself:
– Am I worth that much?
– These are my accomplishments, but i don’t think they’re good enough to ask for more – are they?
– What if my employer thinks I’m greedy for asking more?
– Will this conversation have a negative impact on my future with the company?
– The company treats me well, am I betraying them?
Have you ever tried to negotiate outside of your compensation?:
No. I wish I had known that I could negotiate other benefits outside of compensation 7-8 years ago. But from what I understand, PTO rarely is negotiable unless you have at least 4-5 years of experience already (not fresh out of college). Remote work if definitely easier to negotiate nowadays but not as easily negotiable 3 years ago. That said, if I ever switch to a new employer again, I will surely negotiate all aspects of the benefit package (to the extent I feel is fair).
Keep in mind though, for every negotiation, you must have a valid reason to win.
What financial goals are you currently working on and how has negotiating impacted your financial journey?:
– max out 401k limit
– max out IRA limit
– max out HSA
– pay off mortgage
– invest in brokerage account for the future
– travel more
Negotiating helps reach those goals faster and easier for sure. I’m achieving 4 out of 6 goals above. The mortgage one will take another 5-6 years. The travel one is a new goal since the start of the pandemic.
If you could offer one piece of advice to someone who is nervous to negotiate, what would it be? :
Self-doubt is always there – that is a glimmer of your humility. What’s important is to never ever self-reject.
Do you have anything else you would like to share?:
If you feel like you’re underpaid, have an open and honest conversation with your manager. Don’t come into the conversation feeling entitled to an increase. But explain why you think you are underpaid or why you think you deserve an increase.