In January of 2017, Casey graduated from college and took a part-time assistant coaching job at a local university. Having just helped her swim team make it to the championships after an eight-year lull, Casey was excited to earn a paycheck doing the work she loved most. 

She put her full heart into her coaching job, while teaching swim lessons on the side to help make ends meet. 

An Opportunity to Shine

After working in her part-time assistant position for a couple months, the full-time assistant had to leave suddenly, opening the opportunity for Casey. While she had limited experience, her drive and determination landed her the position just a few weeks later. 

Casey felt lucky to have landed such a remarkable opportunity at a top-notch Division 1 university.  With the full-time position came increased hours and responsibility. She didn’t know what to say or do regarding a pay raise, so she avoided the topic. 

Would She Know To Ask?

Rick, her boss (the head coach) pulled her aside and asked if she was going to ask for a raise.  Like a deer in headlights, she froze. A few moments later, he nudged her with, “You need to learn to ask for what you deserve.” Then, he walked away, leaving her to think it through. 

Later that same day, Casey found herself sharing her experience with Susan, a leadership coach she had met just a few months prior.  Susan insisted that she should come up with a salary that she would feel good about earning, as well as set a time with Rick for a conversation. 

“I’ll end up crying,” Casey said to Susan. 

Learning to Be Stronger

Any woman who has ever been in a position to advocate for her worth knows this is far from an easyconversation. The good news is that Casey has the support she needs to develop the strength and the language for these conversations. However, not all women have such an advocate.

In preparation for her meeting to discuss her compensation package, Casey did some research on salaries and then popped into Rick’s office.

Taking the Risky Step

“Sooo… do you have a minute to talk about my compensation package?”

Sitting in Rick’s office, her voice shook as she mustered the strength to communicate her desired compensation.  

“I had already submitted a request (of $3K more than her request) to HR. That’s how much I was going to pay the coach you’re replacing,” Rick said. This led Casey to a whole litany of internalized reasons she shouldn’t be getting paid as much. 

“He had five years more experience than me,” she thought, but managed to remember a suggestion that had been given to her in the past; “Don’t deny money that’s being offered to you. You’re worth it, or I wouldn’t be making this offer.” 

She kept it together long enough to accept the salary Rick offered. 

Authentic Care Leads To Great Results

I asked Casey if her level of dedication to Rick and the team increased as a result of this generous salary negotiation. Her response was (and is) a testament to the most fundamental loyal drivers of all: authentic caring. 

“Wanting a full time job, and not knowing when one would open on Rick’s team, I had started interviewing for other positions. When I asked Rick to serve as a reference, he said, ‘I’ll do everything I can to get you that job offer, and then I’m going to do everything I can to keep you here.’ 

“With that, I realized how much Rick cares about me, values me, and wants me to be successful,” Casey shared. 

Jobs Are Also About Being Part Of Something

Beyond having a j.o.b., Casey feels like she’s a part of a community that cares about her, leaving her wanting to step up her game, give more, and help the organization succeed. She’s also abundantly aware of the lack of women in her same position, further deepening her commitment to the industry and the role she’s in. 

All of this happened because one leader decided to be a part of the solution for women (at least Casey) advancing in the industry. His commitment, encouragement, and support gave her the foundation from which to build, as she continues to rise up as a treasured leader herself. 

What can you do today to help the women on your team see, own, and communicate their value? How can you help them see what they must do to reach their potential? 

Send me your stories, along with your ideas. I would love to share them with my network. 

Here’s to your greatness, 

Misti Burmeister

Misti Burmeister has been helping leaders have difficult conversations for more than 15 years, increasing engagement and productivity across generations. Help your team reach its highest potential at