Show Me the Money: YPG Executive Track Hosts Panel on Salary Negotiation

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On Tuesday, April 29th from 12:30-1:30pm, over 60 members of the AAP’s Young to Publishing Group from 18 member publishing houses, as well as several members of the New York City chapter of the Women’s National Book Association, attended a YPG Executive Track/WNBA Brown Bag Lunch on Managing Your Career and Negotiating Your Salary. The focus of the event was to provide a forum for a panel of professionals to offer important and concrete advice about how you can position yourself to be successful, learn how to ask tough questions, navigate the corporate ladder, and work with your boss to achieve your goals.

Panelists included Michele Daly, Human Resources, Scholastic; Susan Gordon, President, Lynne Palmer Executive Recruitment; Tina Jordan, Vice President, Association of American Publishers; and Julia Montgomery, Technical Business Analyst, Macmillan; and the event was co-moderated by Jane Kinney-Denning, President, Women’s National Book Association-NYC and Executive Director of Internships and Corporate Outreach for Pace University MS in Publishing, and Sara Sargent, Chair of the Young to Publishing Group and Editor at Simon & Schuster.

Kinney-Denning opened with the insight that women are still paid 79 cents to the dollar for the same job as men, attributing much of that to the view that women often have weaker negotiating skills and are less comfortable engaging in interactions with employers. She expressed the hope that this event be a step towards encouraging everyone in the publishing community to invest in their careers by investing in their relationships, their networking opportunities, their mentoring relationships, and themselves.

YPG members submitted dozens of questions before the event, such as: How do I negotiate a higher salary when I’m not necessarily being promoted or taking on more responsibilities? What can I do to successfully request a raise or title change between performance periods? How do I start the conversation with my boss to talk about my progress and how can I advance my career without sounding like I’m unhappy with my job? Read on for the panelists’ answers to these questions and many more.

How and when do you negotiate your salary? How do you suggest bringing up a raise or change in title when there is no existing position to move in to?

Certainly the most clear (and often most comfortable) times to negotiate a higher salary would be when accepting a new job or being promoted internally. “When you are entering a new organization, that is the time to negotiate,” said Daly, urging prospective hires to practice using the language, “What is the salary range for the position?” which then provides the option of negotiating toward the top of the range. When negotiating around an internal promotion, Daly also advised attendees to respect a monetary cap if noted, but don’t necessarily let that end the negotiation. “If they simply can not raise the salary any higher, then look at negotiating for time, perhaps a third week of vacation, for example, or a one-time performance bonus.”

Gordon seconded this notion, encouraging attendees to show their employers tangible thought behind the request, such as crunching the requisite numbers. She noted that specifically at the more junior levels, salary might not be as flexible as desired, but she suggested being creative, and looking at everything from stock options to gym memberships to supplement the salary or negotiating a 10-6 work day rather than 9-5 if the company offers flexibility on the matter.

Montgomery recommended giving a heads up to the manager that you are interested in discussing your salary, out of courtesy to allow them time to prepare. “It’s a business,” she said, “so make sure you can make a business case to your boss so that they can argue compensation with the finance department and their managers. Do everything you can to help your manager think along with you. Point out what exactly you do, above and beyond your job description, what you are contributing to the bottom line, and how you are helping the profit center.” If proactively requesting a salary discussion, Montgomery noted that the ideal time would be right before the company finalizes their budget for the next year, because the company often has a pocket of money set aside for employee rewards that has yet to be distributed.

To this point, Gordon agreed that specifically when discussing a pay increase, it is vital to remain pragmatic and take the emotion off the table. “Have you taken a course? Point that out. Do you have numbers of what you have helped the company earn? Bring them,” she said. “This is not a quick chat. This will be a scheduled 30-minute conversation.”

How do I know if I’m making the right salary amount for my title?

The panelists spoke with great assurance with regards to the fact that while there are tricks and tips for finding out whether your salary is on par with your colleagues, industry surveys can be misleading. That being said, prospective employees can rest assured that the Human Resources departments are doing what they can to remain very competitive with one another.

YPG_WNBA BBL photo 4What can I do to make myself a more qualified candidate?

Gordon provided a wealth of knowledge on this point, beginning with curiosity. “At any level, be curious about what others are doing around you. You are a business unit, and to move upward, you should know what everyone is doing,” she said.

She encouraged the attendees to continue learning new skills—not just technology, but also financial skills, analytical skills, and a familiarity with publishing law. She suggested that everyone know how the publishing industry is competing within the big picture of technology, to continue networking, and to take every opportunity to help others. Gordon also encouraged attendees to make sure to dress the part for whatever part they want to take in publishing, and—in a nice nod to YPG—to always be doing things like what they were doing that day, attending educational industry events at every opportunity.

Most passionately, she encouraged attendees to be okay with failing. “Take the jobs that scare you and face your demons,” she said. “If you’re too comfortable taking an offer, don’t do it. You should never feel like you know everything at your job. Always, always push yourself.”

How can I make sure that negotiating a raise or salary does not negatively impact how my boss perceives me?

The panelists made it collectively clear that one does not have to be disgruntled to be looking for a change; one can be very happy and love one’s job and still be looking for the next step. If you’re good, they agreed, your boss will want to keep you happy. That being said, even if you are unhappy, the panelists were firm in insisting that an employee does not go in with threats or ultimatums unless he or she is ready to walk, and urged YPG members to keep in mind that while that method works for a finite period of time, an employer will remember it down the line as a power play. “Never, ever, ever use a counter offer,” said Daly. “You’re putting your boss up against a wall when you do that, and this industry is small. No one wants to be put in the corner. Instead,” she counseled, “practice using talking points such as, ‘I want to grow within the company. Practice in the mirror if you want, but keep the focus on how much you want to stay within the organization, and how much you love your job and company, while addressing the reality of how you are doing more than the current position requires.”

Gordon added that being logical and backing up an argument with facts is rarely viewed negatively by an employer. She did, however, stress that it is never a good idea to use counter offers or pit one company against one another, because both employers will resent you for it.

In further discussion, the panel agreed upon the importance of never comparing oneself to another employee, however tempting, but rather to only look at yourself and what you have delivered. Pointing out injustice elsewhere will not be beneficial; nor will engaging in the petty fights. Instead, they urged the attendees to keep in mind that much of the negotiation truly happens at the beginning of a relationship, and if an employee works hard to maintain a good relationship with his or her boss from the start, then the boss will go to bat for them when the time comes.

How important are the bullet points on the resume: title changes, joining organizations, volunteering, etc.? Any final thoughts?

Overall, all panelists encouraged the attendees to keep in mind how small publishing is in all of their encounters and decisions. “Be truthful,” Gordon said. “It’s about what you are doing, and if you are looking to make a move to a managerial position, it is much better to indicate that in the cover letter than falsify your title. The important thing is putting yourself in a visible position.”

With regards to including volunteer experience on a resume, Daly said that, given the importance that Scholastic places on social consciousness and philanthropic initiatives, she personally looks very strongly for volunteerism, although she understands it may not universally hold equal weight and won’t surpass on-the-job experience.

Montgomery urged everyone present to get in the practice of taking ten minutes every month to create a bulleted list of all projects done throughout the year, highlighting the ones that fall outside of the job description. When presenting the list to your employer, talk about how your love for the company prompted you to contribute more in all of those ways. “If your boss still tells you that you don’t have a business case,” she said, “make sure that your response is very sincerely asking, ‘Then what can I do to help convince you that I do have a business case? What else would you like to see from me?’ and work from there.”


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