At our last therapy session, we agreed that, to make you superhappy with your job, all management would have to do is pay you a boatload of money.
Unfortunately, that boat has sunk. If you’re not getting paid the salary you deserve right now, and you still haven’t quit, it’s very unlikely that management will short-circuit their Teslas, wipe the caviar off their chins and decide on their own that they really should pay you a lot more.
Which means it’s time for you to get off your flattened wallet and get yourself a high-paying new job.
This is easier said than done.
It’s the prospect of negotiating a fat-cat salary that turns many people into scaredy-cats. This is where Niya Dragova, a specialist in compensation issues for high-tech high-flyers, can help. Dragova has come down from the heights of the org chart with a post in Lenny’s Newsletter, “The 10 Commandments of Salary Negotiation.”
Let’s discuss my top three.
(Warning: many of these commandments are designed for negotiating with “FAANG” companies. It’s an acronym for Fred’s Apple & Apricot Nectar Group, a frozen fruit juice conglomerate in Walla Walla, Washington. Not everyone can forge a career with a dynamic, fast-growing company like Fred’s, but these tips should also work for boring dinosaur companies, like Facebook, Apple, Alphabet, Netflix and Google.)
Commandment No. 1 tackles the salary issue head-on.
Expect the recruiter to ask what you want to make. If you don’t have a specific amount in mind, or if the most honest answer is “a ton,” the critical piece of advice from Dragova is: “Do not — I repeat — do not give them the number.”
Instead, your only answer should be another question — what is “the range” that is budgeted for the job? If you’re not at home on that range, bail out immediately. If a recruiter is persistent and will not give you their number until you give them your number, simply say, “One million dollars, half in bus tokens and the other half sent directly to my Cayman Islands bank account.”
If you get a positive response, you’ve determined that the company is totally corrupt and probably doomed for disaster. In other words, it’s a place where you want to work, at least, until everything blows up and you can grab the next bus to the Caymans.
Commandment No. 6 concerns stock options.
If you’re visualizing a major salary boost by taking a job at a startup, expect that a large portion of your compensation will consist of stock options. By accepting options, you are forgoing current income for a major payday down the road, when the company goes public and your options, now worth 5 cents each, are suddenly worth 6 cents each.
Let’s say it together — “kaaaa-ching!”
Of course, if the company goes public and your 5 cent options are suddenly worth 4 cents, you will feel like a big dope, which is why you should protect yourself with what hedge funds call strategic leverage. While the company is still in startup mode, strategically leverage your salary by taking all the paper clips, tape dispensers and printer cartridges you can smuggle out the back door to sell out of your garage.
In investing, this is called diversification, and should work out quite well as long as there’s another doomed company ready to buy the remains of your last doomed company.
Winning “hearts and minds” is the subject of Commandment No. 7.
There comes a time in negotiations when, to get the company to come up with more cash than you could possibly deserve, you will need to “upsell your worth.”
This requires “follow-up meetings with decision makers.” For high-level candidates, this could mean fancy dinners with VPs or C-level executives. For you, it means food-truck lunches with the people with whom you will interface regularly — cranky IT drones, baby marketing managers and, most importantly, the cleaning people.
Don’t scoff! No one knows more about a company than the person who stocks the paper towels and empties the wastepaper baskets. In these meetings, you can learn who in the company is having affairs and who is spending their coffee breaks in the computer closet with a bottle of Jagermeister to keep them company.
I admit, “don’t underestimate the power of blackmail” may not qualify as Commandment No. 11, but let’s be realistic.
When it comes to earning a whole lot more than you’re worth, even scaredy-cats occasionally need to show they have very sharp claws.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.