Equal Pay 2017: A Helena PowerHouse's wage negotiation story

April 03, 2017

By Helena PowerHouse Amber Conger Spiders. Heights. Public speaking. Many of things have been known to cause fear. You may know the feeling- sweaty palms, shortness of breath and an instinct to run away from the perceived threat. I would gladly face off with a spider over my fear. It may not be one you expect to hear, but I have no doubt that as more and more women “Lean In” I think it’s something we will (and should!) hear more about - negotiating wages. As a successful thirty-something I have had many opportunities over my career to face my wage negotiating fear. And I usually run from the chance. Getting a job offer often feels like the final hurdle on the long process of job hunting. As we get an offer it is easy to think that we are done and simply accept what we get. I think its important to add another step into the process. It is so much simpler to skip past the money talk. But gals, let’s get real! We are leaving money on the table. We know the stats, women in Montana make on average 74 percent of what men make. One major contributor? We often don’t ask for more money. Why? For me it was about my fear of joining the conversation. It’s easy to accept the first offer. I want my employer to like me, and find me easy to work with. I don’t want to offend anyone. I don’t want them to think I am being greedy. And frankly, it makes my palms sweaty and my breath short to even think about bringing the subject up. Recently, I finally found it within myself to have the uncomfortable conversation and face my fear. Over the years I have read articles about tips and tricks to negotiate wages. When my time came to put my knowledge of salary negotiations to the test, I finally leaned in. I won’t lie. It wasn’t easy. As I was presented with a signed job offer for an opportunity I really wanted, my initial instinct was to accept and get to work. But I didn’t. I sat confidently and smiled, trying to hide my sweaty palms as the HR person slid the paper across the table. I felt nervous but optimistic. Surely Company X know what a catch I am and the number on the paper will reflect my hard work and dedication, my experience, my drive, my skills and talent. This was just a formality at this point. As HR talked about my new job duties and start dates, I glanced down and saw the number. And it wasn’t close to the range I was hoping to see. I felt defeated. I nodded along as HR continued to talk. But I wasn’t paying attention anymore. I was trying to figure out a way to interject salary into the conversation because no one else at the table was mentioning it. I had to do it. Without much grace I interjected, “This all sounds like an exciting opportunity…BUT… I think we still need to talk about money.” The words I had been rehearsing in my head for years finally exited my mouth. And you know happened? Nothing. The world didn’t end like I thought it might. HR didn’t take away my offer and kick me out of the room. I could feel my face reddening but I stood my ground. HR said, “We are pretty firm on your salary.” I found my voice and replied, “So am I.” In the end, I didn’t get Company X to budge. What I did get was a chance to finally join the conversation. And that alone has value. Want to learn how to ask for what you are worth? Watch our wage negotiation webinar here!