Help! I didn’t negotiate my job offer

by Evil HR Lady on February 26, 2013

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I have my Ph.D. I’ve been working at a big nonprofit hospital as a research postdoc (which is like half way between a real job and a student) for the last 20 months. Basically, I’ve been in school for the last 10 years. I’m 30 and I began my job search about 12 months ago. I was rejected by numerous places, but I’ve finally been offered that all-elusive “real job” at a big name university.

I undersold myself in the onsite interview and told them I would take 60K starting salary (the average starting salary is 85+K for a PhD in my field). When they sent me the offer letter, they bumped the salary to 65.5K, but only 1K in relocation costs. (Yes, after a year of searching and rejection after rejection, I am a broken woman with less confidence than ever….so I didn’t bother negotiating. Yes, I’m an idiot. My thinking was “beggars can’t be choosers.”) I can’t find a mover to do the move for less than 1.5K. I’ve signed the offer letter…is there anything I can do at this point? Or am I just going to have to suck it up and shell out the extra cash for the move? I know I’ll get it back when it comes to tax time….but it’s the upfront cost that’s killing me.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous February 26, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Suzanne, normally I love everything you say but I have to take issue with the reference of adjunct vs ft non-tenure track as a “real” job. The decision of a university to hire adjuncts vs FT/contract/tenure positions is not based on the worth of the person but on a huge variety of factors including budget, accreditation and school structure. While the pay is often quiet less for adjuncts (which is sad), their job is just as real as the FT “regular” faculty jobs. Often with the same service requirements and teaching expectations but without the pay and other benefits. Adjuncts would also be equally, if not more, qualified than your “sage on a stage” professor. Most work in the field as well and I think that provides a value that can’t be measured.

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Evil HR Lady February 26, 2013 at 5:26 pm

I’m not saying adjuncts aren’t quality people. But, there are precious few tenure track jobs, and clearly the universities value the people in those jobs at a higher level.

Something that pays as poorly as adjuncting doesn’t seem to meet the definition of “real job” for me.

I don’t mean to offend.

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fposte February 26, 2013 at 6:54 pm

I actually thought it was a research position rather than faculty–I saw “real job” as a contrast to the finite research post-doc. (But that’s just musing.)

In general, state university salaries (research as well as faculty, as long as you’re paid on hard money) are publicly available. That doesn’t always mean they’re findable on the web, but I know Ohio State isn’t the only one.

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Sally McKinney February 26, 2013 at 7:53 pm

I think it’s very possible to renegotiate both the salary and the terms without endangering the job offer. I’ve coached people in a similar situation to success in their efforts. Go to the hiring manager and ask to talk about the terms – say, “Isn’t there something WE can do about the starting salary?” Or, if the immediate concern is the moving allowance, substitute “moving allowance” for starting salary. The worst thing that can happen is they say no – and you’re no worse off.

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Catherine February 26, 2013 at 8:53 pm

“If you have reliable information that you’re being paid below your coworkers, you can absolutely ask for a raise to bring your salary up to theirs.”

I thought doing this was off-limits. I work for a state university and I know for a fact I’m being paid below one of my coworkers in the exact same position – and she has less experience and less responsibility than I do – but the reason she is getting paid more is because the job title was reevaluated before she was hired on, and they raised the starting salary. However I have read that when asking for a raise, I should not compare myself to my coworker, because there could be other variables that factored into her salary that I was not aware of – also I could be over-valuing myself.

Regardless, I would just like your opinion on this. It’s not something that really bothers me anymore, because I successfully talked with my boss about a promotion (where I am getting a new title and salary soon), so it’s a moot point to bring up my coworker, but I am wondering – should I have brought this up prior to that point? Thanks!

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mhwillia February 27, 2013 at 1:35 am

There’s still some things on the table. You could try to negotiate summer salary on top of what you have been offered (oh – I thought this was for my 9 mo appointment – what about summer salary?) You could ask for work study students to work in your lab for free (this might make room in your grant budget to pay you more if the salary $$ comes from the same pot). You could negotiate some of your start up money as salary or tech time as personal salary – these are all temporary solutions though because they don’t change your base. You could work with the university to get subsidized housing on or near campus. You could ask for leads on fellowships or internal grants that would pay summer salary or give you overloads during the academic year. I would try to get extra money from grants for overloads or pay in intersessions (winter and summer) which might make up the difference for you. After you’ve gotten established, you always have the option to go back on the market and use any offers you get to leverage an increase in pay. Just make sure no one knows this is what you are doing….

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Jay from Philly February 27, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Where are these jobs that people can negotiate their salaries? I’ve been in the workforce for 25 years, and any job I’ve ever had paid what it paid. I recently applied for a position closer to home than my current one. I was willing to take a cut in pay for this reason. The high end of the range offered was at the low end of what I was willing to take. At the end of the interview they offered me the job salary lower than I was willing to take. They told me flat out it was take it or leave it. I left it.

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