Posts tagged salary raise
How I Left My Job & Negotiated My Exit

Jennie here.

From day 1 at my (now former) company, I knew that I was going to leave. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy my job or that I didn’t always give 110% of my effort. I just knew what I wanted:

Ivan and I wanted to travel the world (and work simultaneously) starting in September 2018.

So, Ivan and I have had this planned out for more than two and a half years. At the end of July, I finally informed my manager of my intentions.

Given my current manager-employee relationship, I decided not to disclose that I was traveling the world. That’s my personal life, and it was really none of their business.

However, I did share the reasons why I was planning to leave. I stated that I’d changed managers three times in the last year and my relationship with my direct manager always seemed out of sync. I felt like she never really trusted me - her only team member. I also shared that I was exhausted by the constant need for political maneuvering. This is a problem with “careerists” in any industry - everyone’s just angling for the next seat. Whether that’s on a rocket ship or the Titanic hardly matters because nobody has skin in the game.  

I was just tired of it. It all seemed so pointless.

Here was my ask to my direct manager:

  1. I was willing to finish out all of my projects over the next month and help train/transition any new hires.

  2. During my last month of employment, I wanted to work remotely from New Mexico to spend time with my family.

  3. If they wanted to keep me on to tie up loose ends through August, I wanted an extension on my benefits and be on payroll through the end of September.

Truth is, I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out. Ivan and I were prepared for any one of  three scenarios:

  1. They would let me go on the spot (very likely).

  2. They would let me finish out my work over the next month (not so likely).

  3. They would attempt to persuade me to stay (not so likely).

The Results Of My Negotiations - What I Got Paid To Leave:

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In the end, it didn’t turn out 100% the way I wanted. Maybe just 75%. But that was more than enough, considering that Ivan and I would’ve been perfectly happy walking away with nothing:

  1. My manager gave me a one week to “finish up my tasks/projects.” There had been a lot of tension for some time so this worked out well because I got time back in my life.

  2. I coordinated with our HR department and managed to get one month’s pay without the work.

  3. They did not choose to extend my benefits into September (this was always a stretch goal and not a completely necessary one. Our international health care plan begins coverage starting September 1st).

I knew that it was highly unlikely that they’d accept all of my terms and I was right. Ivan and I had anticipated that my manager would be inflexible and might respond negatively to my resignation so we actually pre-emptively cancelled the lease to our apartment at the end of July.

Lessons Learned and What I Would’ve Done Differently In Leaving My Job:

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Here are some of my lessons learned from my first tech startup:

  • Lesson #1: I wish I had better negotiated my employment contract from the very beginning. My former company (like most tech startups) aspired to the “hire fast, fire fast” philosophy. And here’s the thing - those companies will always exist within the startup world, but there are consequences to this type of mentality. In theory, it’s a great idea to cut your B and C players quickly. But this assumes that management is competent and has the ability to distinguish between A and B players - and not be caught up by their own biases and prejudices. Sometimes objectivity and rationality is just a cloak for arrogance and a poor understanding of your own limitations.

    Had I known what I know now...I would have demanded a severance package and better sign-on bonus (relocation package) from the beginning because I was accepting a job across the country. In my next opportunity as a director level or higher, I will definitely negotiate terms that are more favorable to me.

  • Lesson #2: I should’ve done better due diligence. I joined the company because I was desperate to leave Boston at the time - my job was going nowhere and my managerial relationship was hostile (Ivan: misogynistic) to say the least. And in this new opportunity, I jumped without thinking too hard about it - I didn’t even negotiate my salary - which I should have.

8 Steps to Negotiate & Execute Your Job Exit Strategy

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Everything in business is negotiable. Trust me, you have more power than you can imagine - no matter what your situation.

Here are a few steps that I’ve gathered to help you negotiate your exit when you decide to leave your job.

Step 1: Decide on what you want and make your plan.

For me, I wanted to leave and travel the world by September 2018. You don’t have to wait as long as I did but I felt grateful to have two and half years to do good work, queue up the “next thing” in 2018, and mentally prepare to leave my job. Because I’m a planner, I needed this sort of thing. And I knew that if I didn’t have a “deadline,” I would never leave.

Step 2: Always lay the groundwork.

One of the most important things that’s always relevant - whether or not you leave a job or want to negotiate a raise - is you should always do your job well and document everything. Make sure to always document the following:

  • Schedule quarterly reviews with your manager.  
  • How well have you performed in the last 6 to 12 months? What are your metrics?

  • Have a presentation that covers your accomplishments and accolades, with testimonials from other team members across the organization.

  • Send a follow up email of what you discussed and shared with your manager. It’s critical to have a paper/digital trail of your good work.

Step 3: Prepare for your “next” thing.

Are you looking to get a new job? Traveling? Give yourself at least 3 to 6 months of interviews, informational coffee dates, or start doing some freelancing. Start early because it’ll only give you more options down the road.

Step 4: Assess your relationships.

In any organization or team, you should know who you can  depend on to advocate for your work and accomplishments (before and after you leave). Also, it’s good to have relationships with your executives if you work for a small tech startup. This makes it easier for them to accommodate to your asks when you finally decide to leave.

Step 5: Understand your leverage.

Understanding what your advantages are in any given situation. For example, was a lot of your team’s work dependent on you? Are there key company events/milestones during the year where your presence is essential? That’s leverage. And with proper timing, you can use it.

Step 6: Decide what you want.

Do you want a more flexible work environment (e.g. working remote 100%)? Are you leaving because you don’t agree with the direction of the company or management? Regardless of the reason, think about what you’re willing to do to help the company transition - and what you want to ask for in return. For example, if you’re a star employee - you can offer to help train the new replacement over the course of x months. And for your troubles, you could asked to be paid x extra for the additional months you’re putting in. If you’ve got a family, always ask for an extension of your benefits. In my case, my healthcare was 100% paid by my company so it would have saved me over $1,500 a month.

Step 7: Understand and accept the fact that the exit meeting may not go the way you want.

That’s just life - it’s not always going to work out the way you had intended. The moment you say, “I’ve been thinking about leaving the company…” it’s up to external forces and how they respond. I don’t want to downplay luck in all of this. On the other hand, they also say that luck is preparation + opportunity.

Step 8: Control your own narrative - remember the future and leave on positive terms.

Sure, it’s important to negotiate the best terms in your separation agreement but keep in mind that this goes beyond money – what you agree to and how you go about it can affect your career long term. When I left, I did an informal “exit interview” with every single one of the co-founders and executives at my company. I wanted to express gratitude to them, share why I was leaving, and make sure that I controlled my own narrative even after I’m gone.

The Bottom Line: Everything Is Negotiable; Ask For What You Want

If there’s only one takeaway that you have from this post, it’s that the world is malleable and you have more power than you think. And you owe it to yourself to ask for everything that you want because who knows - you just might get it. 

Early on, Ivan and I both realized that the “where” you end up isn’t nearly as important as the “how.” The journey over the destination applies to pretty much everything in our lives. And even when things don’t work out the way we want, you can still be confident in the fact that you played your hand the best you could. And that’s all anyone can ask for.

If there’s only one takeaway that you have from this post, it’s that the world is malleable and you have more power than you think. And you owe it to yourself to ask for everything that you want because who knows? You just might get it. 

5 Negotiation Strategies For The Modern Woman

Jennie here.

In January, I negotiated a 25% raise after just one year on the job. To “celebrate,” Ivan and I went out for some Vietnamese pho in our neighborhood. We probably would’ve done the same thing regardless of the outcome. To be honest, we have larger ambitions than extra numbers on a paycheck.

That said, I came away with a few insights on what it takes for a woman to get ahead in the workplace. So in the spirit of tilting the scales in our favor, I wanted to share some non-obvious advice on how to tackle a negotiation. 

1. You’re Only worth as much as the relationships you cultivate

When I decided to move out of Boston back in 2016, I had two offers on the table:

(1) a six figure job in New York City with a brand name company

(2) a below six figure job in Los Angeles at a little known start-up

On paper, this looked like an easy decision. Ivan and I love New York and I could have definitely learned to love a six figure salary. But here’s the thing: the person who was recruiting me to L.A. was a mentor from my former company. And having just escaped a sexist situation at my last job, I was willing to take less money for a guarantee that my new boss wouldn’t be a misogynistic dick.

That decision paid off almost immediately. Not only has my mentor been a constant advocate for me, he’s also been completely open about giving and receiving feedback. Knowing I had turned down a more lucrative opportunity to work for him didn't hurt either. If I could trace my raise back to one thing, it was that I  had chosen to invest in a relationship over a company.

Jennie’s Takeaway:
When in doubt, pick the Boss with whom you can speak your mind over a higher salary and a faceless brand.

2. It’s not about what you deserve

It’s not even about how hard you work. A negotiation is all about what you can leverage. Broadly speaking, there are two types of leverage: market and emotional.

  • Market leverage means you become so essential in your role to the point where it's difficult to replace you. A good test is to strategically take a two week vacation a few months before your review meeting and see if things slow down or fall apart without you.

  • Emotional leverage means you have people outside the company who would hire you in a heartbeat and people within your company who would be sorry to see you go. This goes back to cultivating relationships. 

Jennie’s Takeaway:
Figure out what kind of leverage you have and use it.

3. Negotiation begins months before the actual review

Like the movie Inception, by the time your annual performance review rolls around, the idea of giving you a raise should be so firmly planted in your boss’s head that he'll think it was his idea all along.

From day one, I began scheduling weekly one-on-one sessions with my boss. Even though my startup had no formal performance guidelines, I wanted to make sure to get into the habit of asking questions, finding areas of improvement, and summarizing those conversations and goals in an email to my manager. By the time my annual performance review came around, I had every available proof of my work, my goals, and my progress, all documented; everything spoke for itself. 

Jennie’s Takeaway:
Treat your career as one continuous negotiation.

4. At the review, listen more than you Speak

Your case should already be made before you even set foot in the meeting. A quick reminder of your past accomplishments should suffice. Then state your market value (based on thorough market research) and when prompted, throw out a salary range in percentage terms. Remember to let your boss do most of the talking. Better yet, ask him probing questions. What does he think about your accomplishments? How much does he think you’re worth on the market? Let him deal with the uncertainty before you counter with hard numbers. When you hold all the cards, you can only mess this up if you panic and start running your mouth. 

Jennie’s Takeaway:
Don't Give Your Cards Away. Ask Questions and embrace the long pauses.

5. Know what your response is going to be

Since meeting Ivan, I’ve become much more pragmatic about approaching situations. Negotiations are pretty simple. It’s just business. And no matter what the end result, you need to know exactly what your response is going to be.

So, I suggest that you prepare follow up responses and action items for both the “yes”, “no”, and “less than ideal” situations.

Here are some responses that you might have to prepare yourself for:

  • I can only offer you $xx,xxxx right now. (Much lower than what you expected.)

  • It will take a while to run this by management.

  • Sorry, we just can’t afford this raise in the middle of budget and hiring freezes.

After my most recent performance review, I simply stated that I wanted to keep working for the company but if they were going to continue pay me 75% of my market value, I would have to open myself up to other offers moving forward (subtext: just remember I waited and came to you first). 

PS. Here's where having a fuck-off fund comes in handy. There's nothing they can say or do that'll hurt you. 

Jennie’s Takeaway:
If you know what you're going to do In Every scenario, why WOULD YOU LET ANything bother you? 

Although my story and suggestions are not a silver bullet for any situation, I think it will help you think of more strategic ways to approach your own career goals and negotiation tactics.