This Monday morning, I thought I’d draw your attention to a new blog run by some librarians and archivists who write about workplace issues and are standing up for professional standards and against the casualization of academic labor. And, it’s got a great name: You Ought to Be Ashamed (or Eating Our Young.) Check out “Why You Should Always Ask for More Money” by Catalina, who tells a sad tale of her first job offer and her attempts to negotiate a better salary:
Shortly after finishing library school, I interviewed for a great position with an archive associated with a religious organization. The interview went really well, I liked the supervisor, and everyone was cool with me not going to church. Just an hour after the interview, as I was boarding my plane, I got a call offering me the job. Sweet, my first job offer! All is flowers and sunshine until they mention the starting salary is $32,000. Even right out of school that number was way too low for me to move across the country for, but on the call they mention the details can be negotiated. I get on the plane, go home, and after much debate decide I really liked the position and if I can get them up to $36k I’ll take it. It’s not like I became an archivist to get rich.
Despite this being my first salaried job offer ever, I was ready to negotiate and get the money. My school had an active career services department and a few months ago I had attended a salary negotiation workshop. I knew how to tell a potential employer I was worth more, how to ask firmly but nicely, and that if they couldn’t raise the salary to ask about relocation or conferences. I call the supervisor back, tell her I’m really excited but the salary is on the low side. Immediately, before I can talk about how much I want or why I deserve it, the supervisor offers me $35,000. Looking back, it’s obvious that was how much she was authorized to give me, at the time I was completely thrown as the script I rehearsed in my head didn’t have a scenario for “they offered me money before I say anything.”
In a far less articulate way than planned, I manage to convey I was actually hoping for more, which is inline with the market, my skills, blah, blah. Supervisor says she needs to check and will get back to me. She calls me back, can’t do it, $35k’s the max. I think about it, decide it’s close enough to what I wanted and that I’ll accept, but that I am going to use the tip from that workshop to see if I can get that extra $1,000 in relocation or a trip to SAA. I ask for that, supervisor tells me she has to check and will call me back. Finally, she calls back and let’s me know that based on my high concern for salary I’m probably not the candidate they wanted and that they are rescinding the job offer. Bam, ask for a trip to SAA and lose a job.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: how exactly is this a story about why one should negotiate for more money, when it’s also a story about how this woman lost a job offer by asking for some crummy one-time conference funding? Catalina explains it all:
Moral of the story: Archives are not like normal institutions and may feel threatened when you try to act like a professional, but you probably don’t want to work there anyway. Also, the career services people who put on the negotiation workshop assured me I am the only person they have ever heard of having an offer rescinded. So you shouldn’t read this and think that it’s a bad idea to negotiate salary – you should just read this and understand that archives sometimes don’t work the same way as everywhere else. This is why we work to set expectations of professionalism; if you’re in charge of hiring, do a better job than the people who hired you.
I’ll give that a hells to the yes. Had Catalina not asked for that conference money and just accepted the job, this story gives us some clues about the kind of workplace she’d be joining. As some of you may remember, I’ve told my story about my salary negotiations for my first job, and what a mistake it was not to listen to take the anger, hostility, and unprofessional behavior of the Chair of that department seriously. Because, readers–I took the job, and guess what? I signed up for more anger, hostility, and unprofessional behavior!
Catalina saved her bacon by being “greedy,” friends. I’m glad she recognizes it. Here’s something else for the rest of you to discuss: Catalina states above that the archives in question were “associated with a religious organization.” My first employer was a Catholic university. Are people at religously affiliated institutions especially bad with job candidates who try to negotiate better salaries and perks? Are they especially bad with young women who try to do this? Discuss.