Why and how you should negotiate as part of a job offer

By Joseph Barber, in the Inside Higher Ed Carpe Careers series.

Negotiation is an important way to advocate for your professional skills and experiences. Let me start, in fact, with a sweeping generalization that, whatever your circumstances, you should negotiate for something as part of your next job offer. We all need to take opportunities to tell others the value we bring to a new position, and ideally employers should find value in supporting their new employees.

That said, knowing that you should negotiate is not the same thing as finding yourself in a position where negotiation is easy, enjoyable and in no way stressful. I will highlight some general negotiation best practices that can be helpful in most cases, and then I’ll identify a few scenarios where those practices don’t always work.

Given that no one ever taught me any job offer negotiation strategies, that job offers could or should be negotiated, or that doing so would be important to my professional trajectory, it is not surprising how I approached my own first offer. I hadn’t officially finished my Ph.D., and I had traveled from the U.K. to Disney’s Animal Kingdom to interview for a (just about) postdoc position. Everything was overwhelming: Florida, the temperature, Disney, the giant Disney characters parading past my future boss’s window, and also my future boss saying that she would like to offer me the position and asking, “The salary for this position is $XXX — does this work for you?”

“Um, sounds great” was probably my answer. With all my preparation focused on succeeding in the interview, I hadn’t given any thought to actually receiving the offer. At that moment, I remember my brain focusing on all the projects I was going to be working on, all the information I would have to learn, and all the new responsibilities I would have when the position started. At no point did I reflect on the post-offer, pre-acceptance period where negotiation can happen — or on whether the salary offered was good, bad or somewhere in between. . . .

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