Guest Blogger Lily Comba: Being True To Myself Started With Negotiating My Title

I didn't fall for the bait-and-switch

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When I started my senior year of college, I had one goal: have a job by the time I graduated. While I shared this goal with many of my peers, it was particularly lofty for someone with my English degree. Those who major in computer science have a 72% chance of finding employment after graduation, and although that can’t be said for my fellow humanities folk, at least our salaries have risen an average of 13.6% since 2015. Baby steps, people!

To guarantee that I reached my goal, I made a plan to network with three new people each week during my first semester, and in the second semester, I would begin applying to positions. Saying this was hard would be an understatement. Some days I couldn’t get myself to check LinkedIn. Then some days when the coffee was extra strong, I exceeded my networking goal. And at some point along this roller coaster, I achieved my goal of having not one, but two, job offers by the time I graduated.

Yet I did the unimaginable - and I rejected both.

This is the first story of how I negotiated my offer and navigated the intimidating world of job searching.

Job Offer #1: Advertising agency in Los Angeles
Salary: $32,000
Paid Time Off: Unlimited
Position: Program Assistant
What I negotiated: My title

When I got the email with my job offer, I did a double-take. They had offered me an Operations Research Assistant position. Where did that come from? Turns out, my interviewers thought I would have liked this other job better. But wouldn’t it have been good for them to tell me earlier on? I thought so.

The difference between the two jobs wasn’t vast, but the projection of my career would have been drastically different with the change in title. I decided that the rationale I should use when approaching this part of the conversation would have to address my development in the advertising industry. As Program Assistant, you’re exposed to the organization and implementation of campaign planning. The trajectory of this position was what appealed to me the most, since media companies are always looking for candidates with planning and strategy experience. The Operation Research position, however, would not have the same progression. I didn’t want to spend my days scouting for potential clients.

Negotiating this aspect of the offer was probably the most difficult, since it was with two people over the phone. I couldn’t read their body language or see their reactions. I had to practice listening intently and holding back any “worry talk” that would have filled the empty space between my questions and their answers. I’m a talker, and not talking during these seemingly awkward pauses was eroding me on the inside. But I knew that in order to be professional and respected in the conversation, I couldn’t ramble. So as silly as it sounds, I literally bit my thumb and used the silence to practice mindfulness. “Stay calm, Lily, let them think,” was my mantra.

In the end: They let me choose my title. But the entire situation left bad taste in my mouth, a generally weird feeling in my gut. The team clearly wanted what they thought was best for me, but I felt misled. They didn’t instill the type of trust I wanted with my future coworkers. So I turned the job down and rejuvenated my search.

Lily Comba

Lily Comba

Lily Comba is an Assistant Account Executive at OMD who works with a broad range of clients to strategize their out-of-home campaigns. She previously worked as a Career Consultant for two years at her alma mater, Scripps College. From her experiences in marketing and career consulting, Lily believes in making the world a stronger and better place for women. She continues to grow a network of industry leaders and influencers that share her drive to help women to achieve their goals.

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Alexandra Dickinson

Alexandra Dickinson is the CEO and founder of Ask For It, a boutique consulting company working to close the gender wage gap by effecting change at both the institutional and individual level. We work with companies, schools, organizations and individuals through a combination of trainings, workshops and consulting. Our goal is for women and men to be paid based on their talents and skills, regardless of gender, and for our company to have been an important part of that change.