Storytime: Negotiating My First Salary
Planning for your first "adult job", as they say, can bring out insecurities in yourself. How are you going to do? Will you know enough to succeed? Will the people like you? But even before that, it's scary applying to jobs. You're basically trying to sell yourself to a company when you have no idea if you're worthy yet.
After sending out a countless amount of resumes and doing interviews, I finally received the call from an employer that I was wanted to work for. I had two weeks until college graduation which timed out perfectly. I had planned for this call, in my mind, for months. I knew exactly how it would go down. I would hear out the offer then accept it, plain and simple. However, when the call came, I did something I never thought I'd do.
Let's go back in time to before I started applying for jobs. It was my junior year in college and all my friends had dropped out by now. Even though I partied just as much as the rest of them, I had a stronger drive to graduate. I grew up very poor and this was my way out. My plan all along was to get a paid internship my junior year and a job at the end of my senior year, before I graduated. Well, now it was time to get the internship. I looked everywhere but wasn't having luck so I began calling people I knew for help. That again was a dead end. I felt like I wasn't good enough. I was scared of being wrong about what I had told everyone I was going to do. The words a person close to me rang out in my brain, "You just think you're going to do all of that and it's going to go exactly how you planned? It's not that simple.". My next plan was to meet with every professor I had a relationship with to see if they knew of any opportunities. This one was the money maker. The very first professor I visited said he knew a company nearby that needed someone. He gave me a number, I called, and an interview was set. A week later I was working for this company for 50-60 hours a week because they offered overtime. At the end of my internship they offered me a job full time job but I declined because it was an hour drive from where I was living. I learned a lot during the internship but now it was time to focus on the rest of my senior year and find a job close by.
With the death of my sister combined with a breakup, and temporary homelessness, I was overcoming some mental battles. However, each day that passed brought new growth. I was starting to feel confident in myself again and knew it was time to start applying for jobs. Applications were sent to every company, big and small, within the area that was looking for employees in my field. I would go to class all day then send applications all night. Energy drinks were my best friend. Interviews came and went. Some offered positions but for different reasons they weren't right for me. Finally a small company invited me out for an interview and it went great. I knew this was the right place for that period of my life. It was small enough that I could learn from the owner as well as get a better idea about how a company runs. It's one thing to read to about running a business in books or case studies but I knew it would be much different seeing it first hand.
One day I was sitting in class and my phone rang. I grabbed it out of my pocket and recognized the number immediately. This was either a job offer or a rejection call from the place I wanted to work. I went into the school hallway and just how I had planned it out in my head, they gave me an offer. Now it was my turn to accept, plain and simple, as planned. Just before I accepted, something in me took over. I said "Thank you for the offer BUT I have another offer that is higher. However, I'd rather work for your company. Would you be willing to employ me at your offered rate for the first three months on like (Yes, I said "like".) a probation period, so you can be sure I'm worth it, then after that you pay me at the higher rate I was offered by the other company?". They paused and in that moment I was scared shitless. What was I thinking? Did I just blow my chance at working for the company I had wanted to work for? Thinking about it afterwards, I learned how to negotiate like this in one of my many college jobs. I worked at a string of pawn shops over the span of two years. Buyers and sellers would stop in all day long and the price I paid for or sold items for were purely at my discretion. I learned to read people and to gamble on that intuition.
They talked it over and came back with a "Yes, let's do that. Welcome to the team". I could hardly hide my excitement as I walked back into class. People had to of seen the huge grin on my face. I not only secured a job before I graduated but I was going to make more money than I ever had before (which really wasn't that much). A sense of imposter syndrome filled my brain but I quickly shoved that aside. I was happy and proud of myself. Shit, I would have taken the job at less than the original offered rate. The thought of people, who had either believed in me or doubted me, finding out that I had accomplished my goal elevated my confidence to a unknown territory.
I have since told this story to others and one person close to me even used the exact same tactic to negotiate their salary. It worked for them too. I recently heard of something called the madman trick (spinoff of the madman theory) where in circumstances when you have nothing, you try to make your counterpart feel like you're ready to leave at any time. This gives you leverage that you wouldn't have otherwise. There is a right and wrong time to use this tactic but make sure that if you use it to be prepared if it doesn't work.
Good luck out there to everyone starting their careers. Find confidence from within and go for it. Thanks for reading. Until next time...
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Greg is a Grand Rapids, Michigan native with a passion for personal growth.