Negotiating Your Salary: Q and A with Be Brave Get Paid

We sat down with Kathlyn Hart, the founder of Be Brave, Get Paid, a step-by-step salary negotiation bootcamp. We sat down with Kat to talk about how she became a salary negotiation coach, why she designed a program to help women and traditionally underrepresented applicants gain the skills and the confidence to ask for the income they deserve, and how to approach entering the tech job market.

Q&A with Kathlyn Hart of Be Brave, Get Paid

Tell us about Be Brave, Get Paid

Be Brave Get Paid is the course that I created. It’s honestly the course I wish I had before I knew how to actually negotiate. It basically walks you through everything you need to know: from how to research your salary using online resources and your network, to how to gain confidence both with your body language and how you communicate through your voice.

The goal is to get you from not knowing anything about negotiation to being about to get that money at the end of the class.

How did you become a salary negotiation coach? What led you down that path?

I never grew up saying “oh my gosh, I want to be a salary negotiation coach.” I didn’t even know something like that existed. It really came out of a need that I had. I didn’t know how to negotiate my salary, I was never taught how to do it. And when I learned how to, it was like “this was life changing.” And it was always something in the back of my mind, that I need to teach more people how to do this, and that’s how it actually formed into a legitimate thing.

I began volunteering at colleges, just because I wanted more young women to be able to know how to do this. And as I began doing that more I also began getting asked by friends who were older and were like, “Okay, I’m 25, I’m 28, but I don’t know how to do this. I’ve never been taught.” So the more I began to do it the more impact I began to see, and I was like, “Oh this is something I need to be doing more of, because the results are life-changing.”

Why in particular do you think women need salary negotiation coaching?

Nobody needs anything. You’re totally welcome to accept whatever job offer. But the reality is that women are leaving thousands of dollars on the table every day. Depending on where you live and what kind of position you’re in, it can be well over a million dollars over your lifetime. That gap trickles into everything. I want to help people be empowered. I want them to be earning what they deserve. I want more women in the C-Suite. And I also want more women to be in power positions.

Money at the end of the day is power, and I want you to not only be able to say yes to yourself, but to your family, to be able to serve the greater community that you wish you can make an impact on. For plenty of women they’re like, “I don’t want more money.” And I’m like, “Take the money, it’s market rate. It’s what you deserve, it’s what you should be getting.” And donate it if you don’t care to have the extra money. Just donate it to a cause that you care about.

I really don’t think that there’s anything negative that can come from women asking for more. And that’s why I’m a champion for it.

What advice would you give to a woman entering a job interview? How do you prepare your expected salary range?

That’s a tricky thing especially when you’re entering a new workforce that you haven’t traditionally been a part of. What can happen is that we feel like, “Oh I’m just lucky enough to get this job.” It’s really important at the end of the day to know what the market is paying.

I always talk about houses (because I just love houses), but you wouldn’t just put your house on the market for $100K less than you should because it’s your first time selling a house. You just go for what the market rate is. I think that’s the most important thing.

The second is when you come up with that range. Some people say shoot way over the moon. I always like to say that you should know what’s reasonable, but you should raise your expectations to get on the higher end. When you talk about what’s the bottom number in your range we just instinctively say “this is the actual bottom,” but you don’t actually want to show all those cards.

If your absolute walk away number is $63K, but you’re really shooting for something around $70K, give a range of $65 – $70K. Or even say, “I’m looking at something around $68K.” Or if you feel comfortable enough, just say, “I’m looking for something around $70K.” And then from there you can always go down. Know that with every negotiation you will start up high and then you will go down. It’s very rare that they will actually be like, “Oh wait we’ll give you more.”

What would you do if $63K is your bottom line, but you decide to ask for $75K and be really aggressive? You expect them to come down, but what if they just said, “No. That’s too much.”

You can just ask it back. This is just a conversation, so I would say something like, “I am completely interested in this position and I’m really excited by what you’re doing. What is a number that seems reasonable?” or “What have you budgeted for this position?” And then they can tell you.

They might lowball you and say, “We only budgeted about $60K,” in which case you need to know that that’s your absolute bottom. Even if you’re okay with it, you still want to express disappointment. You can pause and say, “That is significantly lower than what I was expecting.” You can even stop there and see if they jump back in. Or if not, then you could say, “Can we meet somewhere in between? How about $70K?” And even though that’s high, you’ve come down $5,000. If you go from $75K to $65K, they know that you’re not that strong in your original ask. So just go down a little bit and see what they have to say. And again, at the end of the day, it’s just a conversation.

What if they recruited you, and they offer $68K and you feel like that’s in range and would be happy with that number. Is it okay to not negotiate? Or would you always have that conversation?

This is what I recommend: salary is just one part of the package. It’s important for you to understand the entire package. Maybe it doesn’t include sick time you’re looking for, or PTO, vacation time, healthcare, expenses, etc.

When they give you the offer, you always show gratitude, but you ask to see it in writing. Because from there you can look at the entire package and you can decide, “You know what? $68K is technically higher than what I was expecting, and it’s closer to my higher range, but I still really want $70K.” Or, “You know what? I’m happy to accept $68K, but there’s a few things that are important to me,” that you want to see if they’re open to discussion for. So no matter what, always get the offer letter so that you can look at the package as a the whole.

Also, take your time, so you can really evaluate if you’re truly okay with that number. We often feel like we have to answer in the moment. They say “$68K, what do you say?” And you feel the pressure to answer. You have no need to feel that pressure. Even if they’re making you feel that way, you’re entitled to at least 24-hours to review the offer.

What if you’re lucky enough to actually getting multiple offers? Is it okay to play them off of each other?

If you are in that position that’s amazing.

It’s really ideal to have so many offers at hand. Different people that I work with feel differently about it. If you’re personally somebody who’s just like “I just can’t. I can’t do that I feel so bad.” That’s okay! I don’t think that you should ever feel pressured to do something that feels really gross and icky to you.

However I would say, that if you can allow yourself to be open to the idea, you can essentially pit them against each other in a way that’s not aggressive. It’s just, “Hey, this is another position I’m going for. I’m really interested in you but they’re offering me something like this. Is this something that we can match?” That’s the most simplistic form. You like Company A, but Company B is offering you something more, so you just ask, “Can you match something at that price?” And most likely if they really want you, they’ll say, “Yes.”

Going back to evaluating the complete package. What about stocks or shares? How do you approach the non-salary part of your compensation package?

It’s going to depend on you and what’s important to you.

If it’s a very early stage startup and they’re only going to give you $30K in cash, but they’re offering the rest in stocks, you have to consider the likelihood of the payout.

How many years are you going to be working at this pay? What do you feel about the company? How do you feel about its projected growth over time? What is your bottom line?

Realistically, can you live off of $30K in San Francisco? You can, but that’s very, very tricky. So it depends on where you live, what your basic needs are, and what’s important to you. For me personally, I really value financial security. So I have my absolute bottom line where stocks and all that are amazing, but I need to make sure that the base is at least here, and if it’s not, I’m not going to feel comfortable moving forward. So you have to know that about yourself and what’s your bottom line.

Also, get realistic about how long is it going to take. How likely is it to succeed to the level at which they’re promising? Is it likely? Every single founder thinks that they have the best idea ever, and not every single founder does. Many startups fold, and that’s the reality. And while you want to believe in the company and be excited, you have to take a realistic point of view of what’s important to you, and base salary is definitely a part of that. Everything else can be additional.

What advice would you give to women who’ve been on the job hunt for a longer time? How do you maintain your worth going into negotiations after a longer search?

That is super tricky because at that point you are thinking, “I just want a job.”

The thing that I always like to say is that negotiation is an expected part of the process. Most of the time the majority of people don’t negotiate, but it is an expected part of the process. So just by bringing up the conversation to see if there’s flexibility, you’re not demanding a higher salary, you’re simply exploring it. That conversation, which may just take 5 minutes, could actually give you a bump of maybe $5K or more.

I just like to help people rethink, “What would you do with an extra $5K?” “What would you do with an extra $10K?” “Do you feel confident to have that conversation for 5 minutes?”

If a company does retract an offer after that initial conversation, for me that is a huge signal. If you made a reasonable ask to explore it and they say, “You know what? It seems like you don’t want it,” and they’re going to take it back, I think that’s a saving grace. It’s a red flag that this is a company that’s not going to be willing to have those kind of conversations with you long term. Like asking for a raise later on. You will literally be locked into this job for the next one, two, three years, so do you want to set yourself up for that environment?

Look at other companies, and don’t put yourself in a position where you feel almost powerless at the end of the day.

Do you have any other advice for women out there? What about Hackbright’s graduates who are entering the job market as new software engineers?

When you’re starting the job hunt, focus on one thing at a time. The negotiation should really happen closer to the job offer.

When you’re applying, it’s all about putting your best foot forward. You are the most stellar person. Especially for Hackbright. You’re changing positions, and in many cases you’re coming from a whole different industry. You maybe feel like, “What do I know? I’m just going to be starting salary.” But actually you’re bringing many years of experience to the table. Understand how the experience that you already have will help support you for that job going forward. And know that when they say, “What is your expected salary?” You can say, “I’m happy to talk about that later but right now I just want to focus on finding the right fit. I want to learn more about this company.” And then you can take back your power in that position, because really, you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you.

When it comes to negotiation they’re looking for their bottom line. You have to be the CEO of your own life. You’re the only one who can take care of yourself when it comes down to the actual money you’re going to get for the job that you are fulfilling.

If someone is getting job offers and they need help negotiating… where can they find you?

Find me at Be Brave, Get Paid! You can also find me at KathlynHart.com. It has all the information for all the different things I do. If you want support, I’d love to be there for you.

Interested in learning to code? Check out our upcoming Prep Courses and our immersive 12-week full-time or 24-week part-time Software Engineering Programs

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