Today’s post is from a K-level scholar who knows a lot about negotiation.

Ready to get your first job? Getting too much advice about negotiation? Not sure how to best advocate for yourself while still being reasonable? Here are a few tips:

Decide what you want. Do you want to be a physician scientist with 75% protected time or less? Do you want to run a research team and teach graduate students? You can’t negotiate successfully if you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve.

Determine what you need to be successful. Do you need a research assistant or study coordinator? Do you need new equipment? How many animals do you need for your studies? What space do you need? Where will you store samples? Start with the big picture and then be more specific on different categories (personnel, equipment, salary, time, animals, sample testing). Make a detailed list and figure out how much things will actually cost. This entails asking for quotes and talking to human resources. A clear and detailed plan help you look and be well-informed and prepared.

Think about the other side. You know what you want and what you need to make this happen. Now, think about what your division chief wants and needs. Try to frame your discussion on how asking for X will help you achieve goal Y and emphasize how that investment is wise for the division. You need to realize your true value, but recognize that you are potentially replaceable. It is helpful to explore options outside your institution, but you need to be prepared to go if you try to play two offers against each other.

Remember it’s not personal, it’s business. Stay focused on your needs and how X gets you to Y. There are tradeoffs to everything. Be reasonable and professional. It’s ok to say you need time to think about the specifics.

Take notes. After each meeting or discussion, send an email summarizing what you heard (which may not be what they think they said) and what each person needs to work on before the next discussion. Having a timely paper trail is really helpful to keep things on track.

It’s scary and daunting at first, but remember you are not alone. We all have to do this along the way and we all make it through. Good luck!

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