I came home last night to a phone message from the activities director at the senior residence offering me the assistant job
. . . but the salary is entry level––what I'd get if I were just out of high school.
*So I decided to do something I've heard rumor of but never seriously considered before:
negotiate my starting salary.
But first I spent the evening sulking and feeling bad.
This morning I googled "negotiate salary".
Got a low-ball offer? An article about negotiation in Forbes advised, "Don’t sulk and feel bad."
I felt better knowing my go-to reaction is so common, a leading business magazine names it.
Asking for [more] money = right up there with FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) in TID (Things I Dislike).
I looked it up and found out I'm not alone, of course, especially among women. The female career coach who wrote this other article in Forbes said,
"Women rarely negotiate their starting salary. Most of the women I’ve coached tell me they’ve never even considered negotiating their salary for a new job."
[^ via salary negotiators (I didn't actually read their stuff tho)]
To gear up, I asked myself the old standby, What's the worst that can happen?
In this case, nothing much. No bamboo shoots under fingernails, no being stripped in public: they can just say no.
And if they say no, I can still decide whether or not to accept their offer––I won't have burned any bridges. If HR won't budge, I could view the job as a kind of paid internship in working specifically with people with Alzheimer's; I could do it for a year and then apply to better-paying jobs.
So, borrowing an approach from sample letters online, I e-mailed saying I wanted to accept the job but also wanted a wage more in line with my life experience.
The director wrote back and said she really hoped we could work together; the HR department set the wages based on work experience. What more, she asked, could she tell them to change their mind?
At this, I felt both a little annoyed and a little tenderly toward her. Have I mentioned that this director is very young? She's only a couple years out of her MA studies in music therapy, and I get the definite feeling that what she doesn't know about hiring is a lot.
I remember a resumé coach warning me about this.
"If you choose a career working with seniors," he said, "you're going to find yourself working with a lot of younger supervisors who don't know as much as you do, because a lot of good people get burnt out in such a hard, underpaid work."
Godknows, I wouldn't want to be dependent on my younger self to interview and hire me. I cringe to remember the one time I had to interview job candidates. I was twenty-six, pre–e-mail era, and I didn't even call people back after I interviewed them for a job cooking at a vegetarian deli.
[I'm so sorry, very nice guy who only knew how to cook steaks.]
Anyway, I wrote back to the director clearly outlining my experience. I used bullet points.
And she wrote back this afternoon saying she'd composed an e-mail to HR and hoped it would help.
I feel like I should give her a gold star.
Honestly, I think I would like working with this personable young woman––she can play all the old classic songs on the piano without sheet music. But if I work with her, I won't expect her to know how to negotiate bureaucracy. Not that I do, but I guess I'm old enough to try anyway.
I feel like such an old broad tonight. And that's not so bad. Me and Shirely Schmidt.
* Shirely Schmidt, senior partner of Boston Legal, played by Candice Bergen. OMG, she's even better than Capt. Kirk. (Maybe. Almost.)