You may have probably come across advice telling you that you should not be shy about negotiating and asking for what you are worth. Advice that probably sounds like this:
But after months of sending your CV to all your friends, relatives, friends of friends, relatives of friends, friends of relatives and all the careers@**** email addresses you came across, it’s almost hard to imagine how you could possibly negotiate an offer and risk losing an opportunity you really need. In fact, the thought of negotiating makes you feel really anxious. I also feel nervous about negotiating even after taking a whole course on the subject. As women, especially in Africa, we are socialized to be more focused on the welfare of others- such that it feels very strange (and even wrong) to advocate for our needs. In truth, there is a risk of getting penalized for self-advocating because society doesn’t expect us to break away from social norms that are attached to feminity. That nervous feeling is warranted!
So why negotiate even after being aware of these risks?
Here are a few reasons:
Unless you have had prior discussions about your offer, you can always assume that any offer is negotiable.
Recruiters can choose to initiate salary discussions at any point of the process. This can range from disclosing salary bands when advertising a position to providing an exact amount during the contracting process. Sometimes, recruiters ask about salary expectations during the interview process. In all of these cases, there is an underlying assumption that the salary is negotiable unless it has explicitly stated that this is not the case. This is also why recruiters often quote salary bands when they disclose compensation at the beginning of the recruitment process as opposed to providing an exact amount. There is an understanding that different people bring different skills, motivations and personality traits.
The interview process aims to find the best fit and it is then assumed that you will communicate how this fit translates into value, especially after you’ve been selected for the position. An initial offer would then be the initial value as proposed by the employer. If you disagree with this proposed value, you are allowed to provide a counter-offer while indicating why you believe your number makes more sense. Here are is an example of how you could communicate this:
“Dear [Potential Employer’s name],
Thank you for offering me this position, I am very excited about this opportunity and I can’t wait to get started!
Given my skills, experience and [insert other relevant reasons], I think that further discussion of my compensation would be appropriate. For a starting salary, I am looking for something closer to [insert specific number]. Alternatively, I would be happy to start with a salary of [insert lower number] but with [insert other benefits that you value].
Happy to further discuss this with you- I am sure we will come to an agreement.
You can always do some research to confirm whether your counter-offer is reasonable
The above email example highlights some key components of a good counter-offer with the most important one being that the counter-offer is anchored by a (valid) reason. You can confirm the validity of your request by conducting research on online resources such as Glassdoor, Payscale and Africapay or by asking people within your industry. Most of the online resources don’t have extensive data for workers based in Africa so its wise to always counter-check your online research with peer-conversations.
Its also a good idea to provide alternatives in your counter-offer, allowing for the discussion to consider other benefits and not just the salary. Other benefits could include flexible/shorter working hours, more leave days, better medical insurance or pension contribution, once-off payment to relocate, transport, meals…etc. This way, you are able to signal flexibility while also ensuring that you get a good overall package, especially if there is little room to increase the salary.
In the long run, it is important to accept an offer when you know you have at least tried to get the best deal
It’s easy to get demotivated when you feel like you are undervalued. Its therefore in your interest (and also your employer’s interest) to get a package that will allow you to be fully engaged in your new role. Neither you nor your employer would be keen to have a situation where you are searching for a new job right after you’ve started a new role. Sounds like you are also considering the employer’s interest and not just self-advocating-right?
There is a community that can give you advice and feedback, based on personal experience
Although we’ve discussed some crucial points to keep in mind when negotiating, we understand that each situation is different and that there are so many other factors that may hinder you from negotiating. This is why we have the Heels & Green community. There are a number of people who have probably been in your situation or are in your industry and who understand the tricky bits that you just can’t find on the internet. At Heels & Green, you can connect with your peers and get more relevant tips, feedback and encouragement to negotiate. So even when you are super nervous, you can still get that courage to take the leap and not undermine your value!!
Wanjiku Kimani- Founder, Heels & Green