You Are Not Average

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Don’t settle for average compensation

I don’t know why so many of my clients answer my market value compensation question with an average. Maybe it’s because most online sources like the one above ( highlight the middle. Maybe it’s because we women are taught to be modest. Take a look at Modesty Isn’t a Virtue over at Quartzly where we’re reminded of Maya Angelou’s clarion call, Still I Rise:

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don’t you take it awful hard’

Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines

Diggin’ in my own backyard.

“Modesty,” says the author “asks women to be quiet about their accomplishments, harkening back to the idea that a women’s professional successes are an affront. Women are also under pressure to perform the related definition of modesty, meaning moderate.

We all get tangled up in the limitations of our gender roles, not simply because we’ve internalized them, but because we continue to experience micro- and macro-punishments for celebrating our successes, insisting that it’s time for a raise or promotion, or asking for . . . well, anything, really, if it’s for ourselves.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that hasn’t yet embraced confident, powerful women. Here at She Negotiates, we always discourage middle-road thinking because our clients have never delivered middle-road services.

We’ve said this before but it bears repeating.

  • First, understand that you belong where you’ve been ranked on every standardized test ever given you - somewhere in the 80-99 percentile. You aren’t now and never have been average. For the senior nuclear engineers among you, the difference in “average” compensation and anything above 75% (you’ve always been above 75%) is somewhere between $15,000 and $30,000 a year. In ten years, that’s somewhere between $150 and $300K. There’s college tuition for the kids right there. And that assumes you’ll be stagnant for a decade. No, you’ll be getting raises every year so those numbers are modest.

  • Second, use objective metrics. This is the nod toward modesty. Say “I’ve benchmarked the market rate for senior nuclear engineers and for someone with my credentials, it’s $151,000.” You don’t say “I deserve.” You say, in essence, “you’ll have to pay anyone with my credentials something north of $150K.” You pick the top of the range because, well, you’re AT THE TOP, right? More importantly, you need room to negotiate so you’ve got to start at the top even if you don’t end there. And you never, ever give anyone a range because they’ll always pick the bottom of the range. Make them do the work they’re paid to do — negotiate you down. Don’t negotiate yourself there.

  • Third, expressly align your services with their greatest needs. Stress your loyalty to the company, your desire to spend your entire career there and your desire to discuss not only compensation but a career plan that accomplishes what the firm or company wants to accomplish during the coming year.

  • Fourth, plan your concessions in advance and save the reasons why you shouldn’t have to make those concessions. In other words, don’t give all the reasons why a top performer like yourself shouldn’t be accepting average performer compensation.

  • Fifth, always be closing. Tell your negotiation partner you’re grateful for the opportunity to problem solve your role and compensation for the coming year. Let them know that if you can’t reach agreement today, you’re certain that together you’ll find a way to serve both their needs and yours. It’s a problem solving conversation. Make a firm date for your next meeting.

Finally, remember that it’s a sellers’ market. We’re at full employment. There aren’t a lot of you standing in line waiting to take average compensation in exchange for the delivery of highly skilled services.

That’s it.

Go get ‘em champ.