This is the latest edition of Job Seeker Love Letters where I respond to job seekers' questions with what I like to call "tough-love and love-love."

Dear Liz,

I’ll start with the good news: I think I have a job offer coming in this week!  My interviews have all gone well, and the hiring manager told me herself that she wanted to cancel the interviews with other candidates because she thinks I’m the perfect person for the job.  This is my dream company and I’m jumping out of my seat I’m so excited!!!

I’ve thought about negotiating, but since this is my dream company, what’s most important to me is not blowing the offer.  Should I just take what they offer, or should I try to negotiate? I’m feeling totally lost in this and would appreciate your guidance.




Dear Scared-To-Negotiate:

Ooh, the ‘black box’ of negotiating risks, rewards, and tactics...  

I feel the tension you’re experiencing, and let me tell you, it’s a challenge for most of the professionals I coach.

To help you get through this (and yes, you will get through this!), or any job search problem for that matter, I always have two responses.

The first is the unconditional-love response, because I think it’s what is warranted given where you are -- and it’s what we all need and deserve, especially when we’re feeling lost:

1. What you’re feeling is perfectly normal

I know that you’ve fought really hard to get to this point (congrats by the way -- it’s a huge accomplishment!). You’ve put yourself out there, prepared for interview after interview, probably experienced some number of rejections…

You’re ready to be done with your search and start your next professional adventure already!

With a bird in hand (especially one at your dream company), it’s beyond normal to worry about any or all of the below:

  • Could negotiating make my prospective employer pull the offer?
  • Could it damage my relationship with them?
  • Is it even worth extending the process when I just want it to be over already?
  • How on earth can I go up against a recruiter who spends all day every day negotiating??

And you’re not alone: According to a LinkedIn 2012 Survey, 39% of people feel anxious and frightened about negotiating generally -- and roughly a quarter of people nevernegotiate.

So give yourself some credit -- this is tricky stuff. You may be feeling lost and scared, but really, you’re just feeling human. Take a deep breath, my fellow human.

And then let’s quickly move on to the second response -- my ‘tough-love’ response:

2. Don’t let your fear stop you from getting what you deserve

The process of negotiating isn’t nearly as scary and complicated as recruiters and employers make it seem.

In fact, 84% of companies expectyou to negotiate.

So although you may feel like you’re taking a tremendous risk, take a moment to recognize that the risk is actually quite small.

And negotiating does not have to be a complex endeavor. I’ve seen dozens of my clients secure significant raises by mustering up the courage to ask a single question.

Here’s one of my favorite stories to help illustrate:

One of my clients, I’ll call her Jennifer, wanted to leave her big law firm to join a technology company in California. She was miserable at her firm job, over-the-moon excited about getting into tech, and her dream company was getting ready to make her an offer.

But she was scared. She wanted to advocate for the best possible offer, but she didn’t want to do anything that might make that offer disappear, and she feared getting into a complex and serious negotiation process would damage her ability to start the job strong.

So although Jennifer wasn’t comfortable busting out all the negotiation best practices, when she got the call and received her offer, she did feel comfortable enough to ask my ‘bare minimum’ question:  

“What kind of flexibility do you have on that number?”

And what happened?

Did she lose the job? Get yelled at? Incur recruiter wrath and get blacklisted by her target industry?

In fact, no. Three hours later, she heard back from the recruiter that he was able to secure an additional $45,000 in compensation.

I’m serious, $45,000 because Jennifer asked one question!

Just like most fears, overcoming it wasn’t as hard as it seemed for Jennifer, and I know it doesn’t have to be for you, either.

Once you ground the reality of the risk you’re taking in the data, and start taking baby steps to lean into it…

… that scary voice that says “No you can’t!” in the back of your mind starts to get quieter and quieter…

… and eventually gets replaced by cool confidence in your ability to advocate for what you deserve.

With love,