Negotiating your worth

By tamara on
gold dollar sign

Somewhere within our career goals we all strive to be valued and appropriately compensated.  Rewards come in many forms and so does gratification so we must first try to understand what we are seeking.  That what motivates us becomes the goal which we then work towards.

For me, money was never the sole motivator, but I did want to be fairly paid.  I benchmarked my compensation against my colleagues and industry peers, relative to performance.  This gave me a sense of what my job was worth and what my value should be to my company.

When I worked at JPMorgan, I had few bad financial years when I suffered the wrath of corporate politics.  Although I would be able to financially recover, I knew that it was going to take time and more importantly it was going to take sponsorship.

Frustrated by my situation, I reached out to one of my key stakeholders for support.  I expressed my frustration and the demoralizing feeling of being undervalued.  When we put our heart and soul into our work and are not properly compensated we feel cheated, disrespected and yes, demoralized – and it has an impact on our confidence and our self-worth.  She recognized my talent and capabilities and offered to help me.  Then there was a restructuring and she became the head of group – suddenly her interest in me became vested.

Now I had leverage – she needed me on her team so she set up a meeting to discuss my future in the department.  She underscored my importance to the group.  But I wasn’t interested in a discussion that was peppered with corporate rhetoric about loyalty and commitment.  All I wanted to discuss was money.  So we did.

I had a number in my mind which I shared with her.  That number took into account raises and bonuses that I rightfully deserved, but never received.  That number rounded up to about a 130% increase.

It took several conversations to negotiate my raise and bonus that year.  It was bad year in the markets and the firm hadn’t done as well as it had in previous years.  An announcement had been made by management that there would be no raises and that bonuses would be cut by 30% across the board for VPs and above.  I was a VP at the time.

In one of our meetings she reiterated management’s message.  But I held firm and told her that management’s message wasn’t going to apply to me – and that I was going to be an exception.  She then gave me a ballpark number – up 50% over the year prior.  In a bad year that was good and difficult to achieve.  I told her that it was a good start, but it wasn’t enough.

That year, my all in compensation was up 95% over the year prior.  And although it fell short of my original number, I was satisfied; especially knowing how tight the bonus pool was that year.

It took me years to gain enough confidence in my ability to drive such a hard-line negotiation….as it should.  A track record of success is the foundation of career confidence and a conversation of this nature can only be successively had when your track record is proven.

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