The Salary Chronicles: How I Found The Confidence To Negotiate An Extra $30k

Welcome to The Salary Chronicles, where we’re bringing transparency to negotiation and salaries, one story at a time. We ask women to share their experiences negotiating their salary and what their advice is for others doing the same. We share these stories anonymously so they feel comfortable speaking as openly and as freely as possible.

This week we’re speaking with a woman who found the confidence to negotiate an extra $30k, without having a competing offer or a strong salary history to leverage.

Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Job title: Software Engineer

Salary Offered: $120k salary, $10k signing bonus, 5,000 RSUs

Negotiated Salary: $130k, $30k signing bonus, 6,000 RSUs

What was the situation when you decided to negotiate?

I was about to finish my Ph.D. program and was interviewing for full-time jobs. I was thrilled to be starting a career because as a student I was making $30k per year and I was eager to make more. I was also pregnant with my first child and was planning to become the primary breadwinner for my family.

I was interviewing with a few different companies, but there was one company in particular that I knew I wanted to work for. As I was going through the interview process, I had it in the back of my head that I may need to negotiate. I had read many articles on the subject and I knew that women leave so much money on the table because they fail to ask.

I didn’t want to be the person that didn’t ask, but I also was nervous to negotiate because I was currently making so little and I didn’t have a strong competing offer to use as leverage.

How did you get up the courage to ask?

I had read that women negotiate better when they are negotiating on behalf of other people, and I took that to heart. I didn’t focus on wanting more for myself. I thought of my future child and the stability I wanted for my family.

I also had a voice in my head that was telling me to do this for all of womankind!

How did the conversation go?

After the final interview, I received the offer and asked for time to consider it. I decided to focus on three main areas for my ask:

Salary: They offered $120k and I felt that a more appropriate salary would be $5k-$15k higher.

RSUs: As the company didn’t offer a 401k, I wanted more RSUs to make up for the lack of retirement benefits.

Relocation assistance: I needed to move for the job, but I didn’t live far enough away to qualify for relocation reimbursement. I decided to ask what else would be possible to help with the relocation costs.

I scheduled a call with the recruiter and wrote everything out beforehand. I was incredibly nervous, which was probably somewhat evident as I robotically read my requests to her.

She responded that she needed to talk to the hiring manager to see what was possible.

What was the end result?

She called back with an updated offer for me. They increased my base salary by $10k, which was the middle of the increased range I had suggested. They also increased my RSUs by 1,000 which was a huge deal for my future retirement plans.

And while they weren’t able to give me relocation assistance because I didn’t qualify, they tripled my signing bonus from $10k to $30k. This was amazing because I was able to get the signing bonus quicker than the relocation reimbursement, so I was able to put it to work immediately.

I accepted the offer and happily began with the company.

After starting I found out that they don’t negotiate salary or benefits for future roles once you’ve been hired. So the salary level I started with will affect my trajectory for the rest of my career with this employer. Finding this out afterward, I’m so happy that I asked.

What advice do you have for other women?

I watched this video from Margaret Neale, a professor at Stanford University, and it was enormously helpful to build my confidence and create strategies for what I could say. I also really believe it’s important to think about who you’re negotiating for, other than yourself. Is it your family? Is it to help close the wage gap? Research shows that negotiating on behalf of others helps women to negotiate more successfully, so try focusing on that external drive.


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