High Stakes Salary Negotiations for A New Job

by James & Miel on September 24, 2008 · 0 comments

We wanted to share some fabulous news from the DINKs.

I have accepted a senior position with development funded project in Afghanistan. In the development lingo this is called “Deputy Chief of Party” which in plain English means second in command. The Chief of Party is actually planning to work remotely, so I’ll be Acting CoP most of the time and hopefully move up permanently over time.

While the programmatic and professional challenge of the position was the reason for the move, the increase in salary was also a bonus. The processes of how I did it is instructive.

Getting the increase wasn’t exactly easy. It took over two weeks of negotiation, but it was worth it in the end. Initially they tried to offer the same as what I have been making, but the benefits weren’t quite as good. While looking at the offer letter I realized that I might be crazy to turn down such money, it also needed to be worth my leaving my current job and deciding to be away from the states for another year.

In the end I said no dice, and played the jeopardy card. I had been told that they were pushing up against salary brackets, so I put in a final offer at just below a round number to make it look like less of a request. This was a base salary of $69,550. In the end they replied with offering me more than I said was my minimum threshold, and my base is now $71,500.

Given the allowances and so forth, it adds up to a pretty healthy sum. Including my base, danger pay, post differential (payment for living in a crappy place), separate spousal maintenance allowance, and housing, it comes to a grand total of $148,980 per year.

True, the downside is not being able to spend time with my husband. But I do get to carry out my dream professional work and do my best to help a nation in need. Despite the difficulties of working in Afghanistan, it is still a very rewarding experience.

In dealing with salary negotiations this time around, my tips would be the following

1. Don’t be afraid to ask. This is most often more of your downfall than whomever you are up against in negotiations. You may be able to negotiate a higher base salary if you ask for it.

2. Know what you are worth. It is essential that you have a good assessment of what your total package is in comparison to what you are being offered. This includes the dollar value of fringe benefits, direct salary, retirement contributions and reimbursement for incidentals. This will give you a sense of weather you’re coming out ahead or behind in your negotiation.

3. Play nice.
While you want to be savvy in your negotiations, you must be professional and respectful at all times. Maintain a positive tone, reread you messages several times, and make sure you cover all of your bases. Remember, if all goes well you will be working with these folks, so you want to start things out on the right foot.

4. Essentials versus nice bonuses. Make a list of what your must haves are, and what you’d ideally like to have. It is best to make this list before you get an offer, otherwise you are less likely to be objective in the face of making a choice. Check your list twice and make sure you have covered all areas. Remember, you’ve got a one time shot to ask, so forgetting to mention a parking pass or day care could cost you in the end.

5. Don’t bluff.
While it is good to negotiate for more, know what your threshold is. If you want the job, then make sure that you play within your safety zone.

6. Be patient.
This is so hard, especially when you want it. Salary negotiations can take some time, and caving early on is a common mistake. Remember, she who breaks the silence looses.

Follow these simple steps, and with any luck you’ll be successful in your negotiations. For more information you might consider checking out a copy of Perfect Phrases for Negotiating Salary and Job Offers, available on Powells.com.

Good luck!

Miel

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