Thursday, November 17, 2016

Ready for Takeoff: Notes from the First Senior Launch Lunch Series

Friday, 11/4 was the first installment of the Career Center's Senior Launch Lunch Series, a year-long series of workshops exclusively for Tufts seniors. Traditionally, Senior Launch has been a day-long event, but this year we decided to change things up to make it easier for seniors to attend. The first seminar was on negotiation in the workplace, and how it can be used to secure a fair starting salary/benefits package and more. Facilitated by Farzana Mohamed, a renowned negotiation expert and co-author of the book "How to Negotiate Your First Job", this was an event jam-packed with incredibly helpful and informative advice. In case you missed it, here are my key takeaways from the workshop:

Can I negotiate? The answer is usually yes. An overwhelming majority of young professionals, women, and people seeking their first job do not negotiate their salary or benefits. If asked why, people will often say that they didn't think they could or they feared it would be construed as aggressive or overzealous. The reality is that many employers expect some amount of negotiation from all newly-hired employees - and as such, they frequently low-ball new hires so that they can negotiate up to an amount they were willing to pay all along. It's important to do your research beforehand - whether it's through online databases like Glassdoor, or through personal networking - and be informed about the appropriate salary for a position you've been hired for. Then, be brave, put your game face on, and ask for what you deserve.

Trade on differences. One of the most interesting points that Farzana brought up was trading on differences - a synergistic move in which both parties are able to converge on a mutually beneficial solution. Since that phrase sounds very jargon-heavy and overly-professional for my normally cool and casual self, I'll explain what I mean using an example Farzana gave. She was negotiating for a job that would involve travelling to India several times a year. The pay was slightly lower than Farzana wanted, but she thought of a solution that both she and her recruiter could agree on: in exchange for a slightly lower pay, Farzana proposed that every time she traveled to India, she could take a few days off in London to visit her family. As Farzana explained, she received invaluable time with her family while her employer didn't have to scramble for more money. Synergy. Boom.

Negotiation is more than getting your ideal salary. I used to think of negotiation as something that only high-powered financial executives use to get a multi-million dollar salary; one of the biggest lessons I learned from this workshop, though, is that negotiation is so much more than that. When you are at the point of negotiation, the employer has already hired you and you have accepted their offer - in other words, you've both made it clear that you are invested in one another. Negotiation is your first chance to begin building a long-lasting relationship with your employer. Instead of thinking of it as two competing interests on opposite sides of the table, consider negotiation to be a cooperative process for two parties with common interests. When you go in for a negotiation meeting, take the time to ask the other person about their professional path, and why they enjoy their work for your employer. You might learn about something the employer wants that you can provide (e.g., a person with graphic design skills), and you can make yourself even more valuable to them. By forming relationships early, you will get the most out of your position and your employer.

There's no doubt that negotiation is is an unavoidable part of the professional world. Still, it's often a point of confusion or anxiety, especially for first-time job seekers. Hopefully after reading this post, negotiation has become a little less scary (and maybe even a little more exciting - more money, more benefits, meaningful relationships! All exciting things!). When the time comes for you to enter the workforce, make sure that you are prepared to have the negotiation conversation.

Until next time,
Sean Boyden
Class of 2017