Interviewing in NYC? Be expensive but worth it

17 Mar

“You know, Aaron* didn’t negotiate at all, and he should’ve. He’s got more experience than you.” —my former boss in NYC, upon completion of my salary negotiation

Many young people new to the professional world, especially women, are timid about naming our price. But you’ll earn more money in 10 minutes of salary negotiation than in three years of cost-of-living increases. So buck up.

In a city like New York, where a raise can be the difference between paycheck-to-paycheck and relative comfort, negotiating skills are your best armor (after being of high character, of course).

Here’s what’s always worked for me:

• Never, ever throw out the first number. They will want you to, but it’s not up to you to decide if what you’re asking is too much money — it’s up to them. Instead, ask, “What is the range of salaries here for my position?”

• Never, ever accept an offer on the spot — always ask for more (even if you’re excited by their initial number), and be ready to defend why. All they can say is no. Take 24 hours, as you’ll want to research the range of salaries for similar positions in your field before you counteroffer, if you haven’t already.

• More or different work for the same pay, even if it’s for a better title, is crap. A career is not supposed to go sideways. Let your boss know that you consider a promotion what they call a reshuffle. If it’s a demotion, find a new job.

• If they won’t budge from their initial offer, ask for a full performance review at six months. Tell them you’re going to work your butt off until then, and that you want to revisit the salary discussion at that time.

• Further, if they won’t give you more money, go for more vacation. You want $5K more, and they can’t get it for you? Ask for another week’s vacation. You can also bargain with things like moving expenses or work-from-home days.

• Related to this: Your vacation time should never decrease when you get a new job, even if it’s a lot more money. Careers are meant to go UPWARD, not downward or sideways, and vacation privileges are indicative of that.

Once you do it a few times and get comfortable, salary negotiation is an exhilarating exercise. It’s just business, and they’re just people. So do your research, earn the respect of your boss, and go forward confidently. Even if you don’t get everything you want, you’ll know your stuff, which reflects extremely highly on you and how seriously you take your job.

*Not the real name of my former coworker.


**My latest book, The Guide for New New Yorkers, shows newcomers how to survive and thrive in your adopted city, with advice on everything from apartment hunting and salary negotiation to meeting friends and avoiding debt. Want more insight into what it’s like to build a New York life from the ground up? Check out Two Years in New York City, a memoir in snapshots of 20-something New York life, written as they happened.

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3 Responses to “Interviewing in NYC? Be expensive but worth it”

  1. Toronto to New York City 04/11 at 5:09 pm #

    I’m always terrified of asking for too much and not being hired as a result. Especially cus I’m right out of university. Tough times for finding jobs these days but I think asking about the salary range for the position you’re applying for is a really good idea :O

    • New New Yorkers 04/11 at 5:14 pm #

      If it’s any consolation, I’ve been in the working world since 2004 and have always asked for more than I think I can get. Not once have I been sneered at, shown the door, or been told, “Who do you think you are? Ivanka Trump?” It just doesn’t happen. Remember: You have no idea what, to them, is too high. You only know what YOU think is too high. And usually those numbers had a bigger divide than you’d think.

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