This week I’ve had the pleasure of supporting three female leaders, two of them women of color, through the final hurdle of their interview process—the dreaded offer negotiation.
I spent many of my formative years in Asia where bartering—either at the market for cute bangles or with the police officer to let you off with a warning and a small ”tip”—was simply a fact of life. I took these skills into the corporate world, and embodying an authoritative, masculine style of leadership, have always negotiated my job offers. I’ve been lucky enough to work in technology; I fully recognize that I am privileged to have coveted skills in this labor market. It’s been rewarding to support women in their negotiations through most of my career in tech.
College-educated women in the US make 75c to the dollar for each college-educated man. It’s even lower for LatinX and African-American women. The biggest mistake women make is not asking.
I’ve written many tips around negotiation in The Art of Salary Negotiation, and this piece focuses on something different, on what matters more than money in a negotiation.
When you’re at the final stages of talking to a company, you’re evaluating fit. You’re trying to figure out what it would be like to work there. Of course, you should negotiate on the basics of money—base salary, signing bonus, stock—and, there’s more that you can think about in your decision-making. The first step is figuring out what really matters to you in the next job, and most people’s desires fall into these three buckets of Freedom, Relationships, and Legacy.
Some of us have discovered a newfound freedom during the pandemic in the ability to work from home. We’ve learned that we can do our work without the need to go into an office location, and some people prefer working like this. It gives us physical freedom. There’s a newfound ability to choose how to spend the time won back from commuting hours. I’ve heard people share how much they enjoy more time with their pets, their children, or with different home-bound hobbies that can be tended throughout the day.
For one of my clients, the freedom to work remotely from China for some period of time to be closer to her family was what mattered most in her negotiation. For another client, it was working for a company that offered equitable family planning for the LGBTQ community. She negotiated a commitment from a startup to replace their current less-then-inclusive benefits provider. This gave her the freedom for her and wife to plan for their future.
When thinking about freedom, ask yourself what you really want. How can this job best support the lifestyle you want to live. Negotiating to support your freedom could look like asking for:
- Flexibility of permanent remote work. You may need to get specific permission to work internationally.
- Flexibility of hours to build in time for childcare, elder-care, or self-care
- Flexibility to transfer to a different role or pick up different skills in the company
- Health benefits
- Vacation and leave of absences
- Learning & development budget. Many of my clients get their companies to pay for all or part of their coaching.
The process of negotiation also gives you a better sense of what it would be like to work with the people in this company. The way that the company negotiates is an early indicator that this is the way that they will conduct all their business. Carefully consider all the key relationships in this prospective company so that you understand and get as much information as possible. If they’re already showing some danger signs in how they negotiate, this may not be a place that you want to work. This is the nicest that they will ever be to you during this job relationship.
Some people leave a job because they can’t get along with their manager. For others, it’s the company culture or leadership. Think about the places where you’ve thrived and what relationships have supported you the most. As you go through the negotiation process, consider how the other person shows up.
If you’re negotiating with an HR person or recruiter, how they show up with you as a candidate will be indicative of the level of professional support you’ll receive when working at the company. If you’re seeking to hire up a team, this recruiter will be your right hand person, so evaluate if you like their style & process.
If you’re negotiating with your manager, don’t focus on whether they say yes or no to your request, instead watch how they behave. Do they give you an explanation behind their answers? Do they consider the relationship to be the most important thing or does it seem like a purely transactional negotiation?
Finally, as you’re going through this process, ask to speak to the company’s leaders. It could be the CEO, cofounders, or the head of the organization. You’ll get a better sense of company culture and what the leader values. And if you choose to accept the offer, that leader will be personally invested in your success.
Many people who work in Silicon Valley have a bigger sense of purpose. The possibilities of technology at scale enable us to reach millions if not billions of people. We think a lot about impact.
What legacy would you like to leave after your next job? For some people, it’s:
- Working at a mission-driven company where you personally believe in the mission
- Being part of an IPO
- Using this job to transition from individual contributor (IC) to manager. Your legacy may be the people you impact and not necessarily your hands-on product impact.
- Perhaps the legacy is outside of the job and what matters most is having the time to support your side-gig, whether it’s speaking, podcasting, writing a book, or running an etsy store
You can negotiate around:
- The specific product you’re working on (if you have a choice) and the scope of your role within the product
- Future headcount and scope of the team you’re coming into lead
- Timeline and support to move from IC to manager track.
- Company support, and resources for your personal brand-building that mutually beneficial to the company
Most of these negotiation asks aren’t going to written into an offer or 100% tangible. However, they set up the foundation of a conversation that will extend into your work with the company should you choose to accept the offer.
Yes, salary negotiation for the monetary value of what you’re worth does matter. Everybody should gently negotiate against the initial offer, especially women. However, it’s equally important to think deeply about what matters most to you in this potential job. Use the themes of Freedom, Relationships, and Legacy to shape what you desire, and what to ask for in a negotiation conversation.
Hello! I’m your host, Tutti Taygerly. I’ve spent 20+ years in product design & technology, leading teams at startups, design agencies, and large tech companies. I left Facebook in the summer of 2019 to focus on leadership coaching full-time. I write weekly about topics related to design & coaching which you can follow. If you’re curious about coaching and how it could unblock your life, come learn more.