Ask for more

Practice your negotiation skills 🚀

Some of you know that I’ve been thinking about making videos about bilingualism, teaching, academia, and some random rambling. Until I figure out how to edit decent videos, I’ve decided that a blog would be an easier entry point to share some ideas with you. If you know me, you’ve probably received at some point an article or a podcast that made me think of you, or that I knew you would love. I actually heard in a podcast that sharing content with your people is a love language. This definitely resonates with me and I guess it is why I decided to start a blog: to share those ideas with more people.

The academic job market season is here and I’m not telling you anything new if I say that this year is going to be the toughest ever. For those of you in the middle of it, you probably have already read The Professor is In (if you don’t know it, stop reading here and go get that book), have prepared your materials, sent applications, and maybe even got an interview. I am going to press the forward button until you get an offer (I know, in 2020/2021, this is going to be almost impossible, but bear with me because I think this is still important). When I got my job offer I thought I was done, I could finally breath, relax and finish my dissertation. Little did I know how stressful the negotiation process would be (or at least it was for me).

I was lucky to have an advisor with top negotiation skills who helped me navigate the process. I had attended workshops on negotiating academic jobs, but the real problem was my fear of asking for things. These were some of the thoughts going through my head when I had to negotiate: “I don’t know enough”, “I’m asking for too much”, “They’ll think I’m an arrogant”, “They’ll rescind the offer”, “Can someone else do this for me?”. The trugh was that I went through a rigorous selection process and I had all the qualifications they were asking for. Why was it so hard for me to ask for the appropriate conditions to conduct my research and teach efficiently? Answering that question would probably take a few years of therapy. In the meantime, I’m going to share with you how to make negotiations less nerve-wracking.

I received an email from the provost to schedule a phone call on February 13th and accepted the offer on March 4th. During those two weeks, I had trouble sleeping and focusing on wrapping up my dissertation. This is why I’m writing this post, I wouldn’t want you to go through the same struggle. For many Ph.D. students, this is the first time you are actually negotiating an offer and chances are that you have no clue about what to do. On top of that, if you are a woman like me, you might have a hard time asking for things. But I have some good news: you can train to get over this fear and you should start practicing now.

When I noticed negotiation was getting tricky, I did a quick search on negotiation books. One idea that stuck with me was: “If you never hear no, you are not asking enough” Ask For It. However, I now realize that this behavior does not change overnight. You need to practice it and you can start as soon as you are done reading this post. You will soon notice that 1. you will get a lot more things and 2. it is ok to hear no. Where do you start? I’ll give you a couple of examples:

  • I’ve been buying second hand technology online and I have asked for a discount on every single item. Guess what, I’ve got the discount (or close) on all of them. I used to be afraid of asking for discounts, but after doing it a few times, the fear has completely disappear.
  • The other day I went to a bar with live music (I drove 1 hour to get there, that’s how much I miss live music in these COVID times). When we finally got a table, it wasn’t a great table, we were far away from the music. I had noticed that a couple sitting at a much better table was about to leave. I asked the waitress whether we could wait a couple minutes and get the nicer table. She said no, but I felt happy for having tried. A couple minutes later, after we were already sitting at our crappy table, she came and told us we could get the nicer table.
  • Finally, I haven’t tried this one yet, but I found it interesting. Next time you go to a coffee shop/bar, ask whether you can have a 10% discount. Most likely you won’t get it, and you will realized that you’re still alive and nobody cares that you asked for it. Remember, the purpose is getting over the fear of asking for things (and sometimes you actually get the discount).

As for how my actual negotiation went, I had read and been advised to do everything via email. However, the provost insisted on talking and was not giving me any details about the job other than the salary (no info on start up funds, research funds, nothing, technology). I tried to get some information via email but after a week going back and forth, he requested to talk on the phone again. I was petrified. I sat down with my advisor and we went through a list of everything I should ask for and, most importantly, why I deserve it and how it would benefit the institution. I couldn’t sleep the night before talking to him, I was picturing him getting outraged at me for asking for an expensive eye-tracker (I actually need it to continue my research). Well, none of this happened, he was very cordial, eager for me to accept the offer. He took notes of everything I asked for and got back to me a week later saying yes to everything I had asked for. This probably means that…I could have asked for more. In the meantime, I received another offer, which I also negotiated. This second negotiation was a lot easier emotionally. However, I did not get many of the things I asked for (the department’s chair really tried to get some of my requirements, but not all universities have the same means). The decision between the two offers (both at the assistant professor level) was fairly straight forward once I knew the job conditions.

Finally, I want to emphasize that negotiating reasonable conditions required to efficiently carry out your job is not selfish. It is an act of support for all those that look like you. As I recently heard on this podcast: “you are going to ask for more, because when you teach someone how to value you, you teach them how to value all of us.” And this is crucial for women and minorities in general. We need to keep asking for more in order to normalize it and ensure that we don’t get any less than the average white guy. For some of you this post might be obvious, consider yourselves lucky! But for many of us, reaching the negotiation stage is nerve-wracking. Start practicing now and your future self will thank you.

Cristina Lozano Argüelles
Cristina Lozano Argüelles
Assistant Professor

My research interests include bilingualism, second language acquisition, interpreting.

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