What does “being a woman who asks” mean to you? To me, it means knowing what you want, having the confidence to speak up about what you desire and to do so while also taking into account the perspective of the others involved in the negotiation process. In essence, being a women who asks is a woman who acts. Are you a woman who asks? Do you want to be?

As a trained facilitator of the Start Smart Salary Negotiation Workshop created by the Wage Project (2012), I’ve not only considered the strategies that lead to a successful salary negotiation for a job offer but have also thought deeply about the ways I can apply these strategies to the other aspects of a woman’s career and professional experience such as for a promotion, a professional development opportunity, moving through a conflict with a coworker or establishing rapport with a new boss/colleagues. I share below the five ways you can build your negotiation muscles for whatever you want or need in your professional life.

  1. Identify your reasons for the negotiation. Self-reflection is critical to successful negotiation conversations and should happen early and often in your career. Essentially, you can confidently negotiate for anything if you know what you want and looking inward first is the way to do so. Some questions to consider are:
    1. What is my desired next step? (in life, career, personal relationship, work relationship, etc.)
    2. What are my top 3 pains in this situation?
    3. What emotions do I associate with this situation?
    4. If I had a magic wand, what changes would I make to the situation immediately?
    5. Where do I feel most confident in this process?
    6. What yet do I need to learn?
    7. Will this opportunity allow me to grow in the ways I need?
    8. How much money do I need to maintain my lifestyle?
  2. Make a budget. Knowing what you can afford allows you to be more confident at the negotiation table. Use this worksheet, one of these apps or com to crunch the numbers. Benchmark the salary range for your type of position on websites such as the Wageproject, Salary.com, Glassdoor or NACE’s Salary Calculator. These steps will help you know if this is a good move for you financially and what is reasonable to ask for in the process. Secondly, make a “budget” or list of characteristics you seek in a workplace and rank or place percentages of importance on each factor so that you can evaluate them effectively when looking for a new opportunity or in gaining traction for a promotion. A concept is what researchers on negotiation label as the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). Knowing what you will allow yourself to minimally walk away from the negotiation with will help you negotiate comfortably and allow you to be open to the options presented during your negotiation conversation. Budgeting in both ways allows you to see your BATNA clearly.
  3. Narrow down your list of items to bring to the negotiation. Come to the negotiation table with three reasonable points of negotiation or conversation, depending on your situation (i.e. flexible schedule, a change in responsibilities, bonus, moving expenses, or suggestions for professional development opportunities). For example, if you want to talk with a coworkers about how their behavior affects your working relationship, make a list of your feelings and their actions so that you can clearly sift through what are valid concerns, emotional triggers and items to be discussed. In response, carefully crafting professional ways to respond to these factors. Knowing what you value or want from the relationship moving forward, being open to the communication and asking clarifying questions in the dialogue are solid strategies for success.
  4. Consider the cohort model negotiation strategy concept. What if women had the chance to join together by industry to change the way they use their voice, advocate for themselves and negotiate for better wages? We might be more effective in closing the gender wage gap and advocating for promotions or senior levels positions in industries where women typically are not present. Many television and movie stars negotiated together to earn millions of dollars more per episode filmed (i.e. Big Bang Theory, Seinfeld, Friends, Marvel Avengers). Why shouldn’t women be thinking like this in a similar way? The first step would be to do your research and gain perspective on what you can earn within your position or field from someone who has been there. Taking the risk to ask is a risk but how will be know, if we don’t ask? Seeking advice and mentorship is critical.
  5. Practice the negotiation conversation. Find a friend, relative or mentor and talk through what you would say in the negotiation conversation so you can work out the nerves associated with speaking up and advocating for what you want. Learn more about the person or company with whom you will have this conversation. Ask yourself: how they prefer to be communicated with? What is their history/experience with the area or topic in question. Remind yourself of your accomplishments and skills and what you would bring to the position whether you are just entering it or are trying to advance within. These are facts you can share with the employer or colleague in the negotiation process.

Finally, remember to be nice to yourself in the process of learning. The more you practice, the easier it will get.


Meghan is a career consultant, advocate and speaker for women’s professional success in addition to the Associate Director for Alumnae and Community Engagement at Mount Holyoke College. For more tips and advice, subscribe to Meghan’s monthly email newsletter at www.meghangodorov.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MeghanGodorov.


Copyright © 2015 Meghan Godorov

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