Meet Darra, an attorney from the Bay Area, whose most recent salary negotiation left her questioning all the advice she’d grown up hearing about how to get ahead as a woman in the workplace.
Here’s our conversation (edited for length and clarity).
So I was interviewing for a new role, an associate attorney position. They had wined and dined me, and I thought, “Oh wow, this is great”.
When they presented the offer, I was surprised because it was less than I was currently making.
I said, “Can I have some time to think about this, talk about this with my family?”
They gave me this hesitation that I wasn't going to immediately accept the offer.
They said, “Oh, okay. Well, you need to get back to us by the end of the day tomorrow,” and immediately I thought, “Okay, this is a little strange because this is not my first job and I've always taken the time to think about it, because it's not something I want to do flippantly.”
Then I went home and thought, Okay, I'm currently making market value for my position in my location. Associate attorney level, three years of experience - we all have a lot of data now about what people are making.
My fiance and I were speaking and he said, “Oh, you should ask for $15,000 more.” And I already was reducing that.
I thought, “No, I think I'll just ask for market because I have this data to provide to them about why I'm worth this and what not. I'm not going to ask for even more, because I don't know if I have enough to back that up.”
So I had gone through all this thought and then I send another email back and say, “I appreciate this offer incredibly. I look forward to working with this team. That said, can we move compensation to X?”
And I said, “In my current role I'm making market, which is this”. And I presented some of the data - associate attorneys in San Francisco, blah, blah, blah. And I signed it like, “Look forward to speaking with you about this. Thank you so much again for this opportunity.” You know, really gracious.
I sent that off and I didn't hear anything.
I thought, okay, it's a little late in the day - It was like 5:00 PM.
The next day, still hadn't heard anything. So I decided to give the hiring manager I'd spoken with mostly a call to see what was going on.
So I gave her a call and I said, “Hey, this is Dara. I'm checking in on the offer”.
And I said, “I'm surprised. This is sort of the pro forma response in a negotiation setting or in an offer setting.”
I asked, “Can I still accept?”
And she's like, “We're really wrestling with that idea. I think we need some more time to think about it”. And I was really surprised.
Which really caught me off guard because I'm an attorney and mostly what I do is negotiate - contracts terms. I negotiate payments. I negotiate all day long.
I was baffled by that response.
She then said, “We need more time to think about it. We're not sure you're the right fit for this position anymore.”
The call ends. I feel livid. And I immediately called my dad.
My dad is very much an old school software engineered type, he works in these crazy Silicon valley ecosystems, where the negotiations are huge for their salaries and it's, “Oh, shoot for the moon. If you miss you land among the stars.”
Same thing with my fiance. He is also a software engineer also in Silicon Valley, also makes crazy amounts of money, and has huge leverage when negotiating, asking for way more money than I think I'd ever asked for over an office. And it's been helpful because the two of them have taught me ways to advocate for myself, but the outcome has not been the same.
It's just a different experience and it's pretty clear.
I absolutely did not anticipate that. In fact, I'm embarrassed to say almost that I bought into some of these ideas, like, “Well, the only reason why some women don't have that experience is because they don't try, they don't negotiate”.
Like I said, I did not anticipate that reaction. I really did think maybe the reason why some women have that experience [was] just because they didn't negotiate or they didn't do it in the right way. And I feel sad that I thought that because it's so unfair. And it's so not reality.
On the next installment of Ambition Diaries, I’ll be picking up my conversation with Darra to hear what happened next and how that changed her approach to salary negotiation - including what happened when she decided to share the response to her negotiation on social media.
For that and more conversations like these, subscribe to Too Ambitious. And if you know someone who can relate, please share.
Image: Marko Gerber / DigitalVision via GettyImages