When Shelby Wax first started receiving job offers, negotiation was a no-brainer. She’d recently graduated from college with a strong sense of self-worth and confidence — until her mom told her it would be ungrateful to negotiate, and Shelby was left second-guessing her own decisions.
In this interview, Shelby discusses how she felt waiting on job offers, what emotions ran rampant, and why a generational gap when it comes to negotiating can be incredibly impactful.
“During my junior year of college, I went to a negotiation seminar with the career office at my alma matter, Scripps College. It was a really great first step and made me think about what I need to do going into my applications. But by the time I’d graduated, it was this weird thing. I hadn’t received any offers. I was getting more stressed out about my job situation, I reached an insecure point where I would’ve taken anything.”
From working at The Hollywood Reporter and Martha Stewart Weddings, Shelby was well aware that the media industry she wanted to break into was competitive. But managing her expectations and emotions was a new element of the job search process she was surprised by. And yet, when it came time to negotiate, Shelby experienced a mental shift.
“Once I started getting offers I felt more confident. To prepare, I also had to research myself - break down my strengths and see what the company would benefit from, what they wouldn’t have to teach me, and why they should be offering me more for my services.”
When it came time for Shelby to ask for a higher salary, she researched the salary range for her position in the industry and physical area, San Francisco. She found that asking for $8,000 more, roughly 5% of her total salary, was reasonable. But there was something beneath the surface that was causing stress - her family.
“First of all, I was shaking and I hope that my voice wasn’t shaking too. There was no response on the other end except for the occasional ‘mmhm’s.’ After the call ended, it took a few hours for them to respond - I had that initial rush and then anxiety set in. One thing that was eating at me was that my mom did not want me to negotiate. She came from an earlier generation of feeling OK with what you receive and being gracious. When I was waiting, I started to think, was my mom right?”
And when the company called her back and offered her pretty close to the amount she’d asked for, Shelby was overjoyed.
“I called my mom and she was so excited - it was cool talking to her about it, about how things had changed. I think both of my parents are proud of me for doing that. Negotiation is this scary thing because it’s your future. I felt like I’d really advocated for myself. If you start on the right foot and have those aspirational goals for your paycheck or title or whatever it may be, it’ll make your goals feel more like a reality.”
Our interviewer, Lily Comba, is a business development associate at Ask For It. Her passion for writing and love of meeting new people means she'd love to talk with you! Want to encourage others to negotiate from your own personal story? If you’re interested in sharing, connect with Lily at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shelby Wax is the Associate Editor of Lonny Magazine, an online publication focused on accessible design inspiration. She previously interned at Martha Stewart Weddings, The Hollywood Reporter, and Los Angeles Magazine. Shelby is a proud alumna of Scripps College, where she studied English and Media Studies. Her experience at the women's college has driven her to be an advocate for women through her work and daily life. Shelby current resides in San Francisco.