The Biggest Mistake We Ever Made...

Natasha: It’s 2014 and I’m a year out of college. I’ve got two offers on the table for a new role, both at large financial services firms. How could I possibly f*ck this up, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

Company A presented their offer in writing first and I was buying some time from Company B to get back to me. Company A’s offer was $20K more than I made at my first job, and so I was ecstatic but in my heart, I knew I wanted to work for the team at Company B. Finally, Company B comes back to me. HR asks me what I currently make and I answered straight up - MISTAKE #1. It gets worse. Because I was so eager for Company B’s offer, I even said “I would even take it for less.” WHY THE *%}! DID I SAY THAT?! Company B ultimately offered the same as Company A, which in my eyes, looked like a victory. 

I pursued the Company B role and learned very quickly that I was making 21% less than other analysts. This lag stayed on with me for many years following. All because I

(a) did not leverage my other offer at all

(b) said the stupidest thing and sounded desperate

(c) left money on the table because I didn’t do research.

Credit: Christoph Hitz, New York Times

Credit: Christoph Hitz, New York Times

To this day, I have been climbing an uphill battle with my salary all because I started LOW. While things even out over time with bonuses, I really shot myself in the foot with this mistake that I made early on.

Andrea: I hate to admit that I also made this same mistake despite being told by countless people including my mom to negotiate my salary and not to accept the first number that was offered to me. Did I listen? Nope. Do I regret it? Yep. 

I was a leaving a really prestigious firm with a fresh promotion. I was honest in telling my new firm what my salary was and I felt I didn’t have the power to ask for much more because

(a) they knew my current income and I was scared I would seem greedy

(b) I felt I hadn’t yet proved myself or why I deserved the number I was asking for

(c) they offered me other perks that made the offer attractive such as more vacation days and compensation for my unvested stock

In hindsight, I realize how dumb this is. This is why New York and California have recently made it illegal for an employer to ask about your previous salary as it can perpetuate underpayment instead of paying you your worth or market rate. 

I wish I just asked the simple question “is this number negotiable?” Worst case, scenario the answer is no. But now I’ll never know what would’ve happened if they had answered yes.

Bottom Line: do not provide your current salary unless you have to, do your research to find out what a reasonable salary would be, ask if the figures are negotiable!