Negotiating a Salary for New Job Offer in Libraryland.
August 30, 2012 1:08 PM   Subscribe

I have been offered a position as librarian in a very rich area of California. Though my qualifications (5 yrs experience w/ MLS as librarian in busy urban area), they offered the base amount in salary range, when adjusted to where I live now, is somewhat less as far as I can tell by about $2000. I asked to negotiate salary. This field is tough to move around and this is one of the best libraries in the country. Pay is low in libraries regardless and lower now because of the glut of degrees. The HR person is contacting me soon and I am not sure how to negotiate and feel in a position of little power.

(The salary negotiation sites I read are aimed more towards high end business professional though I am gleaning a bit from them.) This isn't a question of greed but making enough to afford the move, and make enough for rent, and a little extra for emergencies. Moving from the midwest there would def be a social plus but I need to cover bills and loans. Benefits actually are not as good as current library job but the atmosphere here is...uh...toxic. I don't want to make a move on desperation but do want to be wise. My father passed away recently and he usually was my go-to guy for this kind of stuff. Any negotiation ideas, phone behaviors, etc that you recommend? Is it possible to negotiate myself out of a job? (This is what I am worried about, too) It doesn't help that I am not usually assertive. Thank you most kindly for your answers. I should be hearing in 1 hr or so.
posted by snap_dragon to Work & Money (18 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Well, if you aren't willing or able to turn their offer down, you aren't in a position of power.

Ideally this is a "if you want me, you'll pay me market adjusted rate that I'm getting now plus some extra to cover the difference in benefits" situation, but if it isn't and you really want the job you might have to roll with their offer.

General advice wise... don't talk about being unhappy in your current position, be confident, relaxed and cool; try to make them react to your needs and not vice versa.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 1:13 PM on August 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

If it were me, I think I'd just present the situation to them as you have here - tell them you'd like to see if there's flexibility with the salary because you've looked at cost of living, etc., and are worried about living on less compared to your current situation. Keep it brief, factual, and polite (of course!). :)

If they've offered you the job, they're already invested in you, so just asking isn't going to make them take back the offer. There might be a little back and forth and a yes on their end, or they may say "I'm sorry, we're dealing with a tight budget and it's just not possible." In that case it would be good to know if you'd get a raise at 6 months or a year.

It usually helps me to remember that you don't get what you don't ask for... and there's nothing wrong with asking. Good luck!
posted by hms71 at 1:16 PM on August 30, 2012 [10 favorites]

"I need to negotiate for x% more than the current offer. It is not possible for me take this position without being compensated such that I can afford xyz expenses and the cost of living increase associated with the move, and I know that I'm bringing [these] skills and years of experience to the job."

The best advice I have seen is to be ok with silence during these types of conversations. Keep it simple, and don't feel like you need to blast them out of the water with confidence or anything like that. Best of luck!
posted by skrozidile at 1:23 PM on August 30, 2012

What makes you think this is even open to negotiation? You're getting a job in the public sector. Civil servants' salaries are generally dictated by GS tables and/or negotiated collectively.

Further, as you point out, there are a "glut of degrees" and very few jobs available. It's not like you've got any leverage here.

I guess what I'd do is say "Look, I'm really interested in the position, but your offer would actually represent a pay cut. Is there any way we can at least equal my current salary?" That's not an unreasonable request, and the HR people with whom I've interacted would treat it as such. They might turn you down, but they wouldn't think you were wrong to ask.

All they can say is "No." But I'd consider it very unlikely for them to revoke an offer because you asked for a higher salary.
posted by valkyryn at 1:24 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Never state salary issues as a question "can you pay me more" "would you be able to..."


"I am looking for 94 thousand dollars a year plus moving expenses" then STOP talking

Let them speak.
posted by French Fry at 1:25 PM on August 30, 2012 [18 favorites]

Matt is correct--i would recommend you say, in your own words " In order for the move to work for me financially I would liken to make $XXXXXXXX--That is $XXXXXXX more than your current offer. Given the differences in cost of living this salary is comparable to my present position. Is this negotiable. They may well be bound by a union contract, their own salary administration plan or their budget. There is certainly nothing wrong with posing the issues and asking. It does not ( should not) be posed as an ultimatum unless that is your position. In which case it is certainly OK to say--Due the differences in the cost of living I am unable to accept the position unless the starting salary is $XXXXXX. And then be prepared for a a no/counter offer/yes. If something is your bottom line let them know it so you are not negotiating in bad faith.
posted by rmhsinc at 1:25 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is it possible to negotiate myself out of a job?

Yes, but you need to decide if that is a good thing or not. I had a job offer on the table at a place I really wanted to work so I could get out of a shitty job, but it was going to end up being a pay cut (more money, but fewer hours). I regretfully declined, but several months later, I found out about a MUCH better position at the same organization, and that has worked out fantastically.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:29 PM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

They've made you the offer, which means they want you to work with them. I doubt you'll negotiate yourself out of the job unless you behave unprofessionally or make a crazy demand. So assuming that there's room to negotiate...

- Emphasize factually that you have loans and cost of living to cover. You don't have to tell them what your payments are, just that this is a factor in your decision making.
- Act like you want the job and that you deserve the money. Because you do.
- Have a number in mind that would work for you. Get this by computing your own estimated expenses and various salary sites on the web, or by asking people who're working in that area. Make sure it really does work for you. Don't lead with this number, but there will come a moment when the HR person will ask what figure works for you. Tell them this number plus a little bit.
- Be ready to bargain. They'll come back with a counter offer and you'll push towards the final goal.
- If their offer really amounts to a salary cut, then tell them this. You don't have to be belligerent about it, but it's reasonable for most people expect to move up in salary when they change jobs.
- If moving costs are an issue, then bring them up. Perhaps they can arrange for relocation money.

- Don't tell them you don't like your current job. That's for you to know, not them. You don't want to appear desperate to take their offer.
- Don't apologize for wanting more. You deserve it. You have experience and you're in the noble field of education. You're not being greedy.
- Don't worry about the "position of power" deal. There's no shame in asking for more. And you don't have to hold all the cards to appear to be holding all the cards.
posted by Mercaptan at 1:32 PM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Absolutely negotiate. They will not rescind your job offer. There is always wiggle room, even in the public sector for civil servants. You did exactly right by telling them you would like to negotiate--now HR is calling you to discuss it. If negotiation was off the table this would not be happening.

The best thing you can do to gain power is to do your research. Is it a public library? An academic library at a public institution? See if the salary books are public record; what are other librarians there making? If not there, what are librarians in neighboring cities/counties/universities making? How much are you 'losing' by not having comparable benefits? Sounds like you have done a lot of this. Make a list of your bottom lines; what you will accept, what you won't.

Then have the conversation. I like to just say "Is this open to negotiation?" and then let the institution steer the conversation; if the salary is bound by union contracts etc., then they'll tell you and you haven't asked for a specific number.

IF you can't negotiate for a higher salary, then think of asking for things like --
-a parking / transit pass
-joining payroll a month early to transition seamlessly
-startup or professional development funds
-moving expenses
-expenses for you to fly back and secure housing
-flex time

And listen. As one librarian to another, I know what the market's like. If you got the offer it means you're qualified and you have something they need--I live in BFE and you should have seen the application pool we got for a very entry-level position this spring. You ARE in a position of power--and you never get what you don't ask for. Good luck.

And I'm really sorry to hear about your dad. I know exactly what you mean; mine always helps me with this kind of stuff too.
posted by stellaluna at 1:33 PM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Even in the public sector things are sometimes negotiable. I know one of my coworkers successfully negotiated to start on the middle step of the pay range AND somehow negotiated to start with the amount of vacation time that people don't normally get until they've been here five years (that was HUGE, we could not believe it). Just ask for what you want. Only you can decide if you still want the job if they say no.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:47 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also ask about whether the salary is open to change in a short period. If there is a fixed grid for salary, does it step up? how quickly?
posted by girlpublisher at 1:53 PM on August 30, 2012

I work at a public library in a very rich city in CA. The salaries for all positions are set by their respective (full-time or part-time or department-specific) unions on long-term agreements with the City Council. The salary range that is displayed is always started at the lowest rung and then annually increased until the maximum is reached. The City has negotiated for no cost-of-living increases so that range is basically it and once you reach the max your salary stops increasing. Ostensibly that's when you get promoted, ha ha.

I'm sorry I don't have any advice on how you should negotiate on this phone call, and you don't mention whether you're applying at a public library or a college/private one, but that's one potentially relevant data point I guess.
posted by carsonb at 1:58 PM on August 30, 2012

Who knows if it is actually open for negotiation, but it is unlikely to harm you if you ask. Everyone covered what to say in there initial request, and the silence right after part

My suggested language, regardless of whether they can up your offer or not, is to say something like: thank you for considering my request/ hearing my thoughts on the offer. Please know I remain very interested in the position. Can I give you my final decision by tomorrow/ whenever is 48 hours later. I would like to review there entire offer. Would it work if I called by 4?

Or something like that. You can express appreciation, and still give your self some space to consider the offer. That is, try not to negotiate and accept that negotiation in the same conversation. Give yourself 24 hours to think it through. If it really is a deal breaker for you, give yourself time to consider everything before you say no.

Finally, practice saying your pitch out loud. If you're not used to saying the words, it is easy to stumble. So practice!
posted by anitanita at 2:35 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Things went ok, considering. Wasn't much wiggle room, but thanks to the MeFi gang I am in a better place and did the best I could in the time I had. And, I know have this knowledge for next time around as well if/when that may be.

You all are like The Justice League! (Don't get me started on how awesome Alex Ross is...)
posted by snap_dragon at 2:44 PM on August 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

I did most of the things mentioned above and it helped. I was succint and listened more than talked and used silence to keep him talking. He then offered some other perks that weighed into the package. It could be better but I am at peace with it. I imagined I was sitting next to an old zen master or Morihei Ueshiba and that gave me the Yoda-like calm repose, I guess....that and this shit-ton of good advice, that is.

thanks again.
posted by snap_dragon at 2:49 PM on August 30, 2012 [18 favorites]

[Don't call people ignorant and jerks - if you can't be constructive it's okay not to answer.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:52 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Congrats on the job, snap_dragon!
posted by two lights above the sea at 6:29 PM on August 30, 2012

Good job negotiating. Plus, YOU JUST GOT A LIBRARIAN JOB IN CALIFORNIA IN 2012! Time for champagne. Er... or at least a beer. Seriously - congrats. Pat yourself on the back, thank your lucky stars up above and get ready for a big move :-)
posted by barnone at 6:35 PM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

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