My first two full-time professional jobs in Student Affairs were entry-level housing positions. I was so thrilled to have a job that I was in full-throttle people-pleaser mode. “They think I’m able to do this job that I’m not even remotely qualified for? Awesome!” I never dreamt of rocking the boat by starting a negotiation for more money or additional benefits.
Now, being some jobs removed, I can confidently say that negotiation is a great alternative way for advancement without having to conduct a full-on job search. Some of my colleagues, however, still feel as though they don’t have the ability or shouldn’t ask for more. They often tell me, “You can’t negotiate in Student Affairs.”
“WRONG,” I say.
Higher Ed is a Business
No matter what university we’re talking about, budgets are always a concern. Do you really think that a few thousand dollars, some vacation days, or additional benefits are going to crumble the foundation of the institution? Of course not. Good hiring managers and supervisors expect their employees to advance.
The key here is to do your research, have the confidence to ask, and the evidence to back it up. There are a few well-known websites where you can check out comparable salaries in your particular area. Glassdoor and Payscale are two big ones. You could even get lucky on social media! One of the Student Affairs Facebook groups a little while ago had a long running thread where everyone was posting their position and salary.
Additionally, here’s an article from The Muse that takes you all the way from preparing for the negotiation to getting an answer.
Don’t Let the Imposter Syndrome Keep you Down
The Imposter Syndrome–definitely a long-standing hot topic in the Student Affairs world. We all feel like we ended up where we are by some compilation of random luck and chance. Forget the fact that a lot of us have many years of experience and hold advanced degrees. I was a full-on Imposter in my first job but, thankfully, I’ve almost fully shed that skin.
You should too.
If you’re considering starting the negotiation process, it’s likely you’re good at what you do. It may be cliché, but you were hired for a reason and managers want happy employees. A satisfied employee is a productive employee. A lot of us are familiar with the concept, not only because we live it, but because we also manage varying levels of employees.
Practice Makes Perfect
Ask a mentor for help and PRACTICE!
Mentor guidance through the negotiation process is invaluable. Be careful about asking a colleague because you can never be sure who might react weirdly to this kind of information. Make sure you can trust that whoever you reach out to has your best interest in mind. You can read articles and advice columns all day long, but if you have someone to actually discuss the situation, you can come up with a thorough game plan.
Last but not least, you need to give it a practice run at least once. You can certainly do that with a mentor but personally, I like to practice with my significant other because our banter ends up being way more difficult than what I’d experience with my supervisor. He knows what my strengths and weaknesses are, so he can tailor the argument to be difficult on purpose. And I love to argue. Great combo, right?
All joking aside, lay out your pros and cons. The worst they can do is say, “You are an awesome employee, but we really don’t have the ability to increase your base salary.” At that point, they’ve kicked the door open to negotiate for other things like a new title, vacation days, professional development funds, flex time, maternity/paternity leave, placement on a special team or committee, and anything else you might deem attractive. Your university has a lot of resources to offer in return for your great student services work.
I’m not sure how the “No Negotiation in Student Affairs” urban myth began, but it stops here.