Negotiating a job offer can make us all feel uncomfortable because the noise in our head stops us from asking for what we want (and often deserve). Ladies, this post is for you because, even as physicians, we still earn less money than our male colleagues[1. From the White House: In 2014, Women Continue to Earn Less Than Men. From Forbes: Even Women Doctors Can’t Escape The Pay Gap.] and we often do not assert ourselves as much as we could during negotiations. That doesn’t help us as individuals or as a population.
One of the most important things to keep in mind during negotiations is that you’re not asking for “too much”. You are going to work hard for your employer. You want to arrange the details of your job so that you can create your best work with as few obstacles as possible.
As a resident, we had to pay for parking on nights when we were on call. We all hated that. Why do we have to pay for parking when we’re in the hospital working all day, then all night, and then for most of the next day? If we could have negotiated our jobs so that parking was covered when we were on call, then we would have felt less resentment about our roles. This is an example of a psychological obstacle that could get in the way of doing your best work.
First, consider that it is your employer’s job to say “no” to any negotiation request you make. That doesn’t mean that s/he will say no. If you assume that it is your employer’s job to say “no”, though, it’ll make negotiations feel less personal. (This is an example of a mental shift that is meant to help you, even if it is inaccurate. Sometimes cognitive distortions are helpful.) This mindset will also help you assess your priorities during the negotiations: What matters most to you, where you won’t take “no” for an answer? What is less important, but would be nice to have?
Second, consider it your job to ask for everything you want. By asking for everything you want, you demonstrate multiple things to the organization:
- You have the confidence to ask what you want.
- You show your strong communication skills in asking for what you want.
- You have the skills to advocate for yourself.
- You can use those same skills to advocate for your patients, your colleagues, the organization, and other parties.
On a practical level, naming everything you want also provides room for compromise. Your inner critic may balk at the idea of asking for everything you want (“I’m asking for too much!”). Organizations use your inner critic to their advantage because they know it is difficult for potential employees to ask for what they want. However, organizations need employees and, if they’ve already offered you a job, it shows that they specifically want you.
Know your style when it comes to negotiations. Some people aren’t “phone people”. Some people prefer conducting negotiations over e-mail, where one can take time to mull over options before responding. Some people prefer having conversations in person. This last preference has an advantage over the other two: It is hard to say “no” to someone’s face. Negotiating in person also sends a meta-message that you can manage potentially uncomfortable conversations with skill.
Lastly, remember that potential employers should be on their best behavior during interviews and negotiations. If they aren’t treating you with respect when they ought to be courting you, how will they treat you once you are formally working for them? All of these interactions provide information: Do you want to work for someone who isn’t putting forth a best effort to impress you? You’re likely working hard to make a good impression on them, right?
I hope the posts in this series will help you have more confidence and skills as you seek work. People often talk about “self care”, a concept that can sound hollow and corny. May these concrete suggestions help you in the realm of self care, as crafting a job that brings you satisfaction will help you take better care of your patients. Good luck.