Can I Negotiate? Advice For All, Especially International Ph.D.s
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I am regularly asked “can I negotiate my offer when it’s my only offer?”
People constantly seem to think you need multiple offers to have leverage.
This is not true. For the vast majority of schools, you can and should negotiate your offer. The only time you should beware of negotiating is when there are red flags about the school itself, or the specific department you’re dealing with, red flags that I explain in my post, The Rescinded Offer: Who Is In the Wrong, and in more detail in the chapter on rescinded offers in my book.
But barring the danger signs explained there, you should absolutely expect to negotiate your offer. Sometimes you might gain only a couple thousand dollars additional salary–but as a recurring gain, that amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary, raises, and retirement over your career, so don’t neglect to get it!
And at R1s, you’ll negotiate a whole set of things, including salary, startup, moving, course releases, conference funding, lab equipment, and so on, that amount immediately to tens or hundreds (if in the sciences) of thousands of dollars up front, and massive gains over your career.
You should always get help with negotiating, as no new Ph.D. knows how to do it, or how to do it well (and frankly, neither do mid-career folks, which is why about a quarter of my Negotiating Assistance clients are tenured!). I work on hundreds of negotiations with clients each year, and I am constantly either PUSHING HARD to get over-diffident, insecure clients to ask for what they deserve, or more rarely, PULLING HARD against over-entitled clients who think they should be given R1 offers at tiny teaching colleges, and become angry and petulant (and very inappropriate in their email correspondence drafts) when they don’t. While some negotiations go like buttah, these two extremes tend to predominate.
And yes, women tend to fall into the first category. And while the latter category has a varied membership, I can say at this point, after three years of this work (which has grown exponentially as a part of The Professor Is In business), that if you are from South Asia, the Middle East, or Western Europe, you –whether you are male or female — might, possibly, fall into it. There are clearly strong and varied cultural elements at play, which are beyond the scope of this blog post. (And indeed, my East Asian clients overwhelmingly fall into the first category – one Chinese client cancelled our planned negotiating work last week saying, “I am sure I could get a better offer by working with you but I think right now I am not ready to take any risk.”). But, if you’re from the three parts of the world I just mentioned, and have a tenure track offer in the US, please move carefully. One Middle Eastern client had an offer rescinded early this year because she disregarded my advice and plowed ahead with a set of asks at a small teaching college that were both inappropriate in substance, and alienating in tone.
Please know that I would not name cultural groups in this way, if I didn’t see a very clear and distressing pattern.
So, if you don’t have anyone you trust to help you, please do contact me for help at firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact me the instant you get a verbal or email indication of an offer–the work starts from that moment!
And meanwhile, remember: you can negotiate almost all offers, barring specific red flags, whether or not you have any competing offers.
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