Negotiating for Your First Academic Position
You’ve just articulated your research vision and completed a series of interviews with potential employers. You’re in your office revising a manuscript and you get a text… It’s your first job offer! How do you proceed in a way that gives you the greatest likelihood of success? You’ll have to face a situation that many in academics feel ill prepared to tackle – negotiating.
What do you need to be successful in this first position? You need enough to cover your needs until you generate other revenue streams. Enough of what? Some important things to consider include sufficient time to pursue your work, space, support staff, substrate (supplies/data/resources), and access to trainees/mentees. To understand your needs, talk with your mentor and peers. Create a prioritized list of the things you will need to give you the greatest chance for success.
Everything’s negotiable. Remember that (almost) everything is negotiable, including time allotment, resource pool, use of funds, and access to space. You won’t know if you don’t ask. A good rule of thumb is that you’ll be able to negotiate four major points, so prioritize carefully. Know that you can’t (and shouldn’t) get everything you ask for, so be prepared with the alternative you would be willing to accept.
Take it a step at a time. It’s best to divide the negotiation into stages. Reach resolution for the most important thing, summarize what you’ve agreed to about that element, and then move to the second, and so on. At the end of the negotiation, always request documentation in writing, signed by you and the organization hiring you.
Don’t stress out. The leaders who are hiring you want you to be successful. Negotiations shouldn’t be adversarial; treat them with respect. Keep in mind that you are advocating for your career and the things that you are most passionate about. Successful negotiations should feel like a win-win for all parties, and will position you to launch your career in the most positive light.