Guest Blogger Lily Comba: I Was Scared To Negotiate My Salary But I Did It Anyway

What I wish I had known

When someone mentions negotiating a job offer, what do you assume they’re referring to? The primary focus is salary, according to a simple Google search. There are thousands of “How To,” “Guides,” and “Step-by-Step” handbooks for women to negotiate their salary. When I received my second job offer, I fell under the same umbrella as the 31% of women who are uncomfortable negotiating salary. I learned a lot of skills growing up, but being comfortable with money wasn’t one of them. I was well practiced in saving for sparkly sneakers, but that was about it.

So I knew I needed to face my fear of money - not just to prove it to myself, but on behalf of the 68% of women who avoid negotiating salary altogether.

Job Offer #2: Entertainment company in San Francisco, CA
Salary: $45,000 plus bonus (up to $5,000)
Paid Time Off: 5 sick days, 10 vacation days
Position: Account Representative
What I Negotiated: Salary

While this job offer was $13,000 more than my first, living in San Francisco is an entirely different ballgame. So I did the math. Each month, I would’ve been paid roughly $3,160. I’d live in an area with lower rent, maybe $1,500/month, but still within the city to avoid car payments. With essential costs taken into account, I would have about $1,300 left for non-essential spending, such as clothing, apartment upkeep, and savings. Not to mention contributions to a 401(k) or investment accounts. I don’t want to fall victim to the gender wage gap by having $320,000 less than my male counterparts by the time I retire. Needless to say, I approached the negotiation with a similar mindset to my last job offer: I need to ask for what I want.

To prepare, I wrote a script to keep me on track. I listed every reason for the extra $6,000 to $8,000 I needed (my income breakdown, plus my move from LA), and rehearsed what I would say. When I get nervous, I ramble. Discussing money is something that I wasn’t familiar with, and for me, unfamiliarity invites a host of anxiety, sweaty palms, and an influx of superfluous anecdotes. (Side note: Since this negotiation, I’ve become way more comfortable talking about money. All hail Farnoosh Torabi’s “So Money” podcast.)

When the time came... I talked for three minutes straight. One downside to writing a script? I read everything I’d written. After a brief silence, my potential boss said she wasn’t authorized to offer me more and that every Account Representative was paid the same. In hindsight, I should have negotiated a different aspect of my offer. Moving stipend? Work-from-home-Wednesdays? My advice: thoroughly develop your first negotiation goal, but brainstorm follow-up ideas as well. Cover the bases.

In the end, I turned this offer down too. Yet I was impacted differently. I felt sad saying no, like I was letting these opportunities become my past without having a future plan. So I got a cookie (treat yourself, right?) and hurtled my way towards a third offer.

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.


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.