Job Negotiation 101: State University Edition
April 15, 2013 8:41 AM   Subscribe

I am looking at transferring from a corporate job to working for a state university in Iowa. Help me get the best deal.

I have no idea what I can negotiate. Benefits are set, the hiring matrix seems inflexible, no phone or parking paid, etc.

My background is corporate and I've negotiated a higher salary and a promotion in the past. I get quite a few perks I take for granted. I'm willing to take a bit of a pay cut because I will save on insurance and commuting costs, but I don't want to step too far back and I don't want to miss something. I want the move to be as sideways as possible.

I would like to know what they can move on beside the equipment I need to do my job.

There's no offer yet, but there's a good chance there will be one.

Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Getting your job category "right" is huge, if you can classify yourself as a higher "step" (network technician vs. computer specialist in my case), you'll leave more room for salary progression. Also, with generous leave allotments already, you may want to negotiate a certain amount of "pre-accrual" to cover stuff you already had planned for the year.
posted by Oktober at 8:59 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

You're right that some negotiation points are set, but a lot of this depends on what kind of job you're going for, what level, etc. Can you add a throwaway email here?

Are you going for an hourly/union job (can be fairly high-end), academic staff (including administration) or faculty? At our state university, each of these are governed by separate bodies and have different rules. Depending on where the funding comes from (a grant from the UW Foundation, perhaps, or money from industry/federal institutes) they may have more flexibility.
posted by Madamina at 9:00 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

At the one I work at, there are 2 distinct kinds of positions: those governed by the State Personnel Act, and those exempt from it. The later are faculty positions, administrative positions (like deans and provosts and vice presidents). The Universities' ability to negotiate terms of employment is quite limited in the first class of jobs: benefits and pay bands and so on are set by law.

If Iowa has a similar structure, and terms of your employment governed by State law, there's just not much they can negotiate.
posted by thelonius at 9:00 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Jobs in higher education (below "management" - VP level at least) are very much NON-negotiable, even more so for public institutions. There is probably a very narrow salary range in which you can negotiate, if at all.

Additionally, benefits (including vacation time) will be standard across the institution.

The type of job you are applying for matters, which you didn't specify here. Are you looking to do fundraising and development? You may get travel allowances to visit donors. Are you looking for public affairs? You may be able to get a secondary device (iPad or laptop) so you can keep on top of news on weekends or while away from your desk. In general, any perks need to be justified as making it easier for you to do your job, or to do it better.

I've found the best thing to do, if possible, is get assurances from HR and potentially the hiring manager, that the position is not terminal. In other words, are you taking a role as an assistant director without the possibility of promotion to associate director? Is a promotion possible WITHOUT your direct supervisor leaving? Generous salary bumps typically only come with promotions, even if that promotion is only a change in title - so you want to make sure you're not locked out of that possibility from the start.
posted by trivia genius at 9:05 AM on April 15, 2013

Unlike the corporate world, a lot of the salary information in US academic jobs is a matter of public record. You might be able to search for a table that gives the salary range for your position and/or grade. Actual salaries are probably public record as well - Googling for "Iowa public employee salaries" or something similar will probably lead to a site where you can see what other people with your job description are getting paid. That will at least give you a better idea of how much room they have to negotiate.
posted by penguinicity at 9:07 AM on April 15, 2013

It seriously depends on your job title. If you're applying to be some form of classified staff, your ability to negotiate salary / benefits will be limited. On the other hand, states are pretty much boned when it comes to IT hiring, and I've always had the ability to negotiate wages, even as a union member (conversely, you could say the union was unwilling or unable to represent me during salary negotiations).

That said, there are some unusual benefits to State Universities that applicants often fail to factor in. They're government and nonprofits, which means you qualify for both a 403b and a 457. These are similar retirement plans, but separate and you can max them both out every year, at like 17k this year. This helps reduce your AGI, which is a key factor in nonstandard student loan repayment plans. Which is my other main point: public service loan forgiveness. By paying less on student loans, you can have the remainder forgiven after ten years. There's also tuition benefits that you should look into, if you'd like to get a Masters in something.
posted by pwnguin at 8:14 PM on April 15, 2013

Also, I really like snickerdoodle's approach of asking for a written commitment for training budgets, internet / cell service, and flex time for graduate studies.
posted by pwnguin at 8:15 PM on April 15, 2013

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