Ever find yourself wanting to negotiate for a better sign-on package, a raise or an increase in responsibility, but can’t bring yourself to make the request? You know there’s a decent chance you’d get a “yes” if you ask, yet you keep quiet and think, “Next time.”

Why is that?

That’s because you have a built-in commentator (self-talk) that has convinced you not to risk the possibility of rejection. It is superb at its job of trying to keep you safe. “You might come across as greedy, needy or selfish. They offered you enough,” you say to yourself, as you secretly wonder what might have been possible if you’d only asked.

Here’s the deal, though — this challenge is not really about the compensation. It’s about learning to advocate for your worth. Just take it from Lisa, a recently minted lawyer who got her first official offer letter a couple of weeks after completing her second courtship.

Excited by the possibility of working with people she had come to know and respect through the interview process, she was ready to get started. Yet, as she thought about the possibility of using her extra experience to negotiate the terms of her contract, she found herself battling her built-in commentator.

Here’s the story, as Lisa tells it—

I was sent a written offer with the details of employment, including my compensation, which was great—it even included a decent clerkship bonus! Accepting the offer was a no-brainer, yet I found myself wondering whether I should negotiate the terms of the letter.

The next day, I talked to a couple of mentors and they both encouraged me to negotiate, mentioning my double clerkship experience as a way to show that I had more value for my new employer.

So I called the hiring partner after about two days of hemming and hawing and perfecting what I should say, and I made my “pitch.” The hiring partner said that he would have to see if that was okay with the rest of the hiring committee and get back to me.

Now, as I sit here writing you this email, I have this terrible and icky feeling in the pit of my stomach just for asking about getting paid more money when I’m perfectly happy with the compensation that I was offered. I will take the job even if the hiring committee says “no” to my counter-offer for my pay. It doesn’t affect whether I want this job, which I 100% do!

I guess I just thought that if I don’t start sticking up for myself and my worth now, it may mean that I won’t do it later on and I don’t want that to happen when it might matter more.



P.S. I didn’t get any of these feelings when I negotiated the price of my house and I was pretty badass with that. I got a steal of a deal! Having that experience a few years ago is also making me feel so uneasy about having these feelings now because it’s not a feeling that I always have when I negotiate.

While Lisa signed the contract without the additional pay she requested, she walked away with the experience of advocating for herself, which is arguably more valuable than the pay itself. Go Lisa!

As you consider accepting increased responsibilities, consider the question Lisa used as her foundation for advocating, “What value do I bring… to this project, team or company?” Write it down, and then consider how you can position your value in such a way that you can practice advocating for your worth.

The outcome of advocating for yourself isn’t nearly as important as the esteem-building process you put yourself through as you practice. It’s best to begin by practicing with lower risk—not-such-a-big-deal—opportunities. That way, as Lisa pointed out, advocating for yourself in higher-stake situations won’t stifle your advancement.

Here’s to your greatness,

Misti Burmeister