How I Bungled My Salary Negotiation So You Won't Have To

Money will come to you when you are doing the right thing.

Money will come to you when you are doing the right thing.

About ten years ago, I bungled my salary negotiation and ended up getting paid only about half of what a typical hedge fund analyst makes. 

I made several, embarrassing mistakes. One was not doing my homework and not finding out the going market rate for my position. Another was giving a low number ($50K) as my minimum salary requirement, which immediately became my starting salary.

I was under the dangerously naive misconception that the hedge fund manager would reward my unarticulated, unproven future potential by paying me fairly. I didn't know about the gender pay gap, gender bias or sexism in the workplace. I didn't even know I had power. 

Unconsciously, I assumed that all I had to do was say the magic words, "Can we negotiate?" and he would not only praise me for my negotiating wisdom (ha!) but reward me with tens of thousands dollars more in salary. 

"No," came the terse reply. "I don't negotiate. Take it or leave it." 

I took the job. But the fit wasn't right. I was the only female staff at the trading desk. The hours were long; the growth potential never made clear. I never felt I belonged where my gender was a barrier, not a strength.

Two years later, I quit. I left the paying job for an unpaid internship with Golden Seeds, an angel investment fund that invests only in women-founded companies. 

I voted with my feet, and it was the right move for me. Interning at Golden Seeds connected me to a powerful network of powerful women. One connection helped me land a job in the tech startup field where I eventually earned a six figure salary. 

My wish for you is that you won't make the costly mistakes I made early in my career. So please, do you homework. Research. Prepare. Practice. (We have free resources and consultants to help you with that.) 

Don't be too quick to give away your power or ask permission to negotiate, because they'll say no. If you can, avoid using the word "negotiation." Instead invite the other side to a "conversation." 

Most importantly, be motivated by something bigger than money. Act and negotiate in alignment with your personal values. Find your allies and find ways to add value to their projects. Vote with your feet.

For me, it was about opting for feminism -  that radical idea that helping women achieve economic equality is good not only for women, but also for families, societies and businesses. When I went to intern at Golden Seeds at age twenty-eight, I chose a feminist enterprise over a paying job where I was more often judged by the choice of my blouse than my contributions.  

It was the right move for me. Eventually the money followed.

So do the right thing for you. The money will follow.