Negotiating Your Worth: How To Have That Salary Conversation
The first time I was lowballed during a job interview, I didn't know I was being lowballed. I knew I didn't feel good about the offer, but I was desperate to be employed and I was chronically naive, had limited experience with salary negotiations and was totally impressed by the profile of my would-be employer.
It’s been 12 years and I have grown from that naive and impressionable young woman to a self-assured professional. I have made many mistakes along the way but I have learned from them. I have also garnered a ton of experience working with different levels of employers and teams in the media industry and I believe these experiences put me in a good position to share some wisdom about employer/employee relations, salary negotiations and general information that will protect you and hopefully keep you from making some of the mistakes I made.
If you’re working in the Nigerian media space, employers lowballing prospective employees is sadly common practice. This happens for various reasons; some media organizations truly cannot afford to pay top $ (or Naira), some are trying to save on running costs, and some are simply not willing to place premium value on their human resource. Whatever the individual case may be, they are all after one thing; to get maximum value from employees at minimum costs.
Let’s get one thing out of the way; Employers are not doing you a favor by offering you a job. I know the country is in an economic crisis and unemployment is at an all time high, but thinking your job offer is a personal favor is a very dangerous mindset that not only reduces you, it also messes with your ability to acknowledge the value you bring to the position and puts you in a permanently subservient position. I once sat on an interview panel and I witnessed this play out so heartbreakingly. The majority of the candidates interviewed came into the room shoulders bent, with an apologetic attitude and looking willing to accept whatever was offered. The only thing missing was a begging bowl in their hands.
Know this; you are there to provide value. When an employer hires you, they are investing in your skills, knowledge, and experience. You provide value to the employer by using those skills and knowledge to contribute to the success of the business. Employers do not hire out of the goodness of their hearts. They hire employees because they need them to perform essential tasks and responsibilities that are critical to the success of the business. Without employees, the employer cannot operate and achieve its goals.
Offering a job is not a favor, but a mutually beneficial agreement between you and the employer. You both benefit from the employment relationship, and you both have responsibilities to fulfill in order to ensure the success and wellbeing of the business and yours too. A fair salary, benefits, and opportunities for growth and development are not favors; it is a basic requirement of any employment relationship. That is why you need to come into the room with confidence; knowing what you’re bringing to the table and ready to ask for what you deserve.
So you have applied for the position and you have received that exciting email inviting you in for a chat. Awesome! The first thing you do is research the company standards and research the industry standards for the role you’re interviewing for. This will give you an idea of what the going rate is for the position and what other companies in the industry are paying their employees. This information can serve as a benchmark for your negotiations and prevent you from short changing yourself. Don’t be afraid of talking to people, asking questions, networking with current or former employees, check out reviews on Glasssdoor.
I cannot overstress how important it is to have a clear understanding of your worth as a professional. This includes your education, experience, and skills. Knowing your worth will help you confidently negotiate your salary and ensure that you are not being undervalued.
Your level of education and the specialized training you have received are a huge part of the value you bring into an employment. Do not let anyone, employer or not, turn up their noses at your degree(s) and certifications. Emphasize on it when negotiating.
Talk about your work experience with confidence; mentioning not just where you have worked but your contributions there and how that experience will benefit the role you’re currently interviewing for. Share anecdotes of your successes, talk about your leadership or participation in teams you have been in, discuss projects you have been part of and how all that you know will add value to the organization. Let them see that they are talking to an experienced professional. When you step into that room, the mindset is “this is what I am adding to you”.
So what happens when they ask ‘how much do you want to earn”?
And here comes the dreaded question. “How much are you expecting to be paid for this role”? The first time I was asked this question, I stammered. That stammering cost me dearly. I was so underpaid that, not only was I the lowest paid member of my team, an entry level staff with zero experience was paid twice my salary.
It hurt. It hurt very badly.
The next time the question came, I was better prepared. I had not just the job experience, I had valuable and monetizable skills and I was AWARE of them. I called the figure that I wanted and guess what? The employer refused. He said the company couldn’t afford me. He then offered to pay half of what I asked for (which was still a good wage based on Nigerian media standards) but I refused. I said no thank you, and the meeting ended at an impasse. I picked up my purse and left.
Why did I refuse?
I refused because I recognised the offer for what it was. A classic lowballing. You see, I had researched this particular company, I knew what my peers within the company were earning and most importantly, I knew what my skills were worth because prior to that offer, I had earned within that range. So when the employer said the company could not afford to pay me what I asked, I knew it was not true.
Four months after that meeting, I received an email from that company inviting me to another meeting, offering me the job and willing to pay exactly what I had asked for.
Now, your situation might and probably will be different and I am not saying walk out on every job offer that doesn’t agree with your salary expectations. I told you the story to let you know that knowing the value you bring and doing your homework about the organization and global industry standards matter. (I said global industry because what Nigerian media owners refer to as “industry rates” is an atrocity. But story for another day)
Another practice I have witnessed with employers in Nigeria is asking to see your previous or current pay slip. Let me state unequivocally that It is absolutely wrong. When they ask to see your payslip, it is because they have no desire of stepping you above what you were previously earning. If an employer bases a job offer on your previous salary, rather than on your qualifications, skills, and experience,this is pay discrimination.
It is also a violation of your privacy. Your payslip is confidential information between you and your previous employer. A prospective employer asking to see this is a violation of your privacy rights. Asking to see a candidate's pay slip also signals a lack of trust in the candidate. It suggests that the employer is not willing to make a fair and competitive offer based on the candidate's qualifications and experience.
And frankly speaking, It is not relevant. Your previous salary may not be relevant to the job you are applying for because this job may require different skills, responsibilities, or experience, which clearly warrant a different salary. A fair and competitive job offer should be based on your qualifications, skills, and experience, rather than what you were earning before.
Finally, It is important to note that while negotiating or discussing your wages, you should consider additional benefits like possible housing, healthcare, self development allowance, and other benefits. Be open to negotiating and finding a mutually agreeable solution.