Know Your Value and Negotiate Your Worth!

Know Your Value and Negotiate Your Worth!
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courtesy of Daily Mail

How much are you really worth?

I recently had the privilege of speaking to a group of women pulmonologists at the American College of Chest Physicians’ annual CHEST conference. I was asked to speak on the subject of contract negotiations. Since all physicians at one time or another in their careers must master negotiating skills or leave significant money and other benefits on the table, I thought this would be a fairly routine talk. So routine, in fact, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to hold their attention through my 20 minutes at the podium.

But, as I spoke, I noticed how quiet the room was, heads bent taking notes and a focus on what I was saying.

We usually think of physicians, women doctors included, as being in charge and able to control any situation. And, here I was, speaking to 300 accomplished professionals, many of them leaders and trailblazers in their own right, absorbing my advice on how to master the art of negotiating…for themselves.

Following the talk, many in the audience who wanted “real world” advice and guidance on their specific situations surrounded me. They all voiced one major concern: the lack of financial opportunity and advancement for women in medicine.

Among all physicians, women earn an average of 74 cents for every dollar a man makes, according to a new report from Doximity, a social network for healthcare professionals. That translates to female physicians earning roughly $91,000 less a year than their male counterparts, and they are promoted less frequently to leadership positions in their practices, hospitals, and academic centers.

That’s an even worse track record than the average full-time woman worker who earns an average of 82 cents for every dollar a man made in 2016 – up from 77 cents.

As I flew home from the conference, I asked myself, if these women were having difficulty navigating contract and salary negotiations, how much more difficult must it be for a woman with far fewer letters following her name?

Outside of the gender wage gap, the key problem is that women, unlike men, don't ask for what they want. In my experience, after 16 years in executive search – and the data continues to show as well – men initiate negotiations four times more often than women. The negotiating process to them is like "winning a ball game.” Women are more likely to equate it with "going to the dentist."

Women are more pessimistic about what they can achieve through negotiations and ask for far less than men do. The result: On average, even when women negotiate, they still receive 30% less than men.

I shared some thoughts on negotiating with the women pulmonologists, and I believe they are applicable to women in other fields as well. So here are a few pieces of advice I shared with those physicians. They may also help you avoid getting less than what you are worth!

  • AIM HIGH. Identify the most you're likely to achieve in terms of pay and benefits and the least you're willing to accept. Set targets that are ambitious but realistic, and know what your best alternative is if negotiations fail.
  • RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH. Talk to friends; search the Internet; and use connections, such as alumnae associations and professional organizations, to learn the going rate for someone with your experience and training.
  • CONSIDER ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVES – Understand the viewpoint of the organization with which you are negotiating.

But the key is to negotiate everything. Money isn't the only issue on the table. There is much more to contract negotiation than just getting the salary you want. Benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, maternity leave, and vacation can create substantial added value to your compensation.

Other perks worth bargaining for – i.e., resources, a better schedule, extra vacation days, job title, and training opportunities, better hours, flexible schedule, moving expenses—can help you land a better offer while negotiating collaboratively and adding substantial value to your contract.

Let’s not forget bonuses! Bonuses come in many shapes and forms, and all of them are negotiable. A signing bonus and end-of-year bonuses can be valuable, so don’t forget to include them in your negotiating strategy.

Last tip, but the first thing a good negotiator must keep in mind: do not be the first one to bring up money. Never, ever mention salary. Whoever mentions salary first is at a disadvantage. Remember, the objective of a good negotiation is to build a long-term relationship. You have to work inside the organization after you’ve negotiated your deal.

If you’re past compensation negotiations have left you less than satisfied, stop holding yourself back, and get to work improving your skills! Your confidence will improve and so will your bank account and your professional life.

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