Are you making enough money?
Are you leaving dollars on the table?
Have you ever struggled to ask for a pay raise? I mean really, when was the last time you negotiated for an increase in your compensation?
Pay gap, sexism, and just not asking – all of these contribute to women not making as much money as men in the workplace.
So what can women do to help themselves to a bigger piece of the compensation pie?
Audrea Fink: 00:00
Are you making enough money? Are you leaving dollars on the table? Have you ever struggled to ask for a pay raise? I mean really, when was the last time you negotiated for an increase in your compensation? Pay gap, sexism, and just not asking – all of these contribute to women not making as much money as men in the workplace. So what can women do to help themselves to a bigger piece of the compensation pie?
Audrea Fink: 01:04
Hi there! This is Audrea Fink here with Julie Holton and we are your Think Tank of Three. Our third today is our guest, Dayna Schmidt-Johnson and we are talking about negotiating your compensation.
Julie Holton: 01:16
Dayna is a digital marketing professional in Chicago who has worked for dozens of companies from startups to Fortune 100s, but there’s an interesting twist on her background. Dayna, thank you so much for joining us today.
Dayna Schmidt-Johnson: 01:29
Oh, I’m so excited to be here you guys. Thanks for having me.
Audrea Fink: 01:32
So, Dayna, when the economic downturn forced you out of your administrative assistant role in 2010, you took the opportunity to change industries. You went from a $12 an hour on food stamps as a single mother to a nearly six figures in a corporate environment, and in less than six years. Along the way, you discovered a repeatable path of learning new skills quickly and making quantum leaps in your salary through negotiation.
Julie Holton: 01:57
Not only does Dayna live and breathe the corporate environment, she is now speaking to organizations and colleges about her journey and how to make big wins as a top performer in the workplace. With her talk, “Get Hired, Get Noticed, Get a Raise, Get Promoted.”.
Audrea Fink: 02:12
And I love that we are tackling this topic. Obviously this is a big deal for women because compensation is an area where we see some pretty significant differences between women and men in the workplace.
Dayna Schmidt-Johnson: 02:22
Oh, definitely. You know, it’s interesting because studies actually show that women are negotiating their salaries about as much as men, but they’re not getting the pay raises. Certainly some of this is systemic. It’s a problem. We aren’t earning the same amount throughout all of careers across all demographics, but I’m not the type of person who can just kind of sit back and let the system run my world. I have learned through time and a lot, a lot of trial and error, how to speak the language of business.
And as we start to learn how to speak in this right way, we position ourselves as the obvious choice to get hired, get that raise, get, you know, told how well we’re doing, and then ultimately get promoted and continue the cycle on.
When I started learning this, learning how to do this, it wasn’t right away when I was let go, I had been an administrative assistant for several years. I had a background in journalism, radio, TV, and broadcast news and I had gone through my college years studying those things. Having worked in them, I realized that’s not really what I wanted to do. And so when I graduated I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and I just picked up work where I could and it, I just fell into this administrative role, which I think, frankly, a lot of women end up in administrative roles in their careers.
Fortunately and unfortunately because of the economic downturn, I was let go in 2010 and it gave me the opportunity to really switch gears in a big way. If I was going to take the opportunity that was going to be the time for me.
Right then is when like, social media started becoming a big thing. Email marketing started popping up. Everything in digital marketing was coming together and having the background I had, I felt that I could be a good fit for that. I was working for several different small little startups for a little while and just getting paid what those companies could pay me because I was unemployed. I had a young daughter, she was about two at the time. I had just left her father, so I was raising her basically on my own with a little bit of his help every now and again and I was on food stamps and it was a really humbling time in my life.
Ultimately, I was able to get a full time role with a medium-sized law firm in Chicago as a digital marketer and it was at that point where I was there for four years that I came to learn that you don’t have to accept the salary that you’re offered or given. And I was able to start structuring my own career to be negotiating my pay, my title, my raises, and really climbing the ladder in a way that I didn’t think was possible before.
And ever since I learned how to do this, I’ve gotten the raises. They may not have been as big as I wanted them to be. I may have wanted a 15% jump and I got a 10% job, for example. But that is better than just taking what you are given. There’s a really great strategy for negotiating your compensation that all starts with learning and speaking the language of business.
Audrea Fink: 05:40
What is the language of business?
Dayna Schmidt-Johnson: 05:43
Comes down to two really simple things, and that is dollars and data. Unless you’ve gone to business school, unless you maybe are an accountant, these are two things that we’re really not taught to position ourselves as. So when you’re negotiating your offer and negotiating your salary, it comes down to being able to position yourself as the right person and the right fit for how much money you should earn, where you are on a sliding scale, and how much you’ve been able to contribute in the past and in the future using perfectly simple numbers.
So this has never, you’re never going to walk into a discussion about your salary going, well, I think this last year I’ve done a really good job and I feel that I deserve this. I’m not saying those aren’t perfectly true. You do think that way. You do feel that way. But, when you start knowing your market value, when you start learning new things, you know without a doubt where you should fall and you know how to ask because you’ve done your research. You know why you’re a top performer compared to your peers.
Let’s say you’re a salesperson. You can say, well, I made X number of dollars this year. I made X number of new contacts. I brought this business into the company. I continued to drive business with these companies and increase their sales. You’re able to really tack on the dollars and the data, the numbers and the figures that are going to allow your position to be so much stronger than someone next to you who is just like, well, I worked really hard this year and I get along great with everyone and I just deserve it.
When you’re talking in dollars and data, you show your value. It will blow your competition out of the water.
Julie Holton: 07:34
Let’s talk about this for a moment, Dayna, because we talk on this podcast quite a bit about Impostor Syndrome and we talk about it a lot because it comes up a lot amongst our listeners and they’re reaching out and talking to us about it. Many women share that, even when they are at the top of their game.
We’re talking CEO’s of major companies, top women professionals in their field, still question their job performance or second guess whether they’re good enough. What you’re saying is put your feelings aside and focus on the data. So what are some things for women who might be in that position that are just maybe feeling the overwhelm of, okay, I need X amount, you know, in this next salary negotiation and I don’t know if I’m going to get it.
So what are some, what are some questions they can start to ask themselves to prepare for that conversation?
Dayna Schmidt-Johnson: 08:22
I think the most important thing is to recognize that yes, you put your feelings aside and we’re looking at hard data here. And once you start to do that, you’re actually going to be able to compound your own feelings about yourself.
I think we as women way undervalue what we accomplish and we way overstate in our own minds our failures. It’s really easy for us to be like, oh my gosh, I didn’t do this. I should have done that, those kinds of things. And then we are successful, we’re not celebrating it, we’re not getting excited. We’re not writing it down and counting it as a win.
So I think the most important thing for people to do in their current position, assuming you’re not currently looking for a role, let’s say you’re going for your next pay bump, is to start writing down your wins. Keep track of them. Every time, I have a folder in my inbox that is just for accomplishments. Every time I get a good job from someone, every time somebody says, hey, thanks for helping out with that, or we’re really glad this worked out well. We’re so happy. All of those emails go into my accomplishments folder because I will so easily forget how, how well I did on someone’s behalf. You know, it’s very easy for me to be like, well, you know, I screwed up an email last week, but three weeks ago I sent three emails in two hours and I just rocked it.
You have to start keeping track of these things. Make a calendar reminder every month, every quarter to go through and start really tallying your successes and that’s what you’re going to bring to the table when it’s time to negotiate. You’re going to say, look, I have done all of these things and if you’re negotiating a new role, you’re able to say, you know, this is what I’ve done in the past and this is how I can flip that to what you’re telling me you need.
So there is both paying attention to yourself and qualifying and quantifying yourself, and then listening to what your employer is needing and interjecting your past successes into saying, well, you needed, you know, XYZ. I’ve already done that. I’m an expert in it. And I’ve done it these three ways, and let me tell you what I found was the best, so you need to know kind of what your options are when you’re going into negotiating outside of like your straight salary because there are lots of other things we can negotiate here too.
Audrea Fink: 10:57
Dayna, one of the things you mentioned at the beginning is a lot of women take these administrative roles and I think we see a lot of women’s roles have this sort of soft skill element to it that a lot of times I think the roles are built that way and then sometimes I think we just add it. If I’m really in a position where my soft skills are what are selling me in my role, my soft skills are maybe what make me a top performer, how do I quantify that? How do I put a number on that?
Dayna Schmidt-Johnson: 11:28
It’s really important to be able to do that because you want to be able to still speak in this language of business while acknowledging that, hey, I’m not a salesperson. I’m not bringing in tons of dollars, but I’m a really valuable part of this company. And there’s lots of ways to do it. It takes, you know, kind of changing your lens a little bit and how you look at things and how you do things on a daily basis.
Do you take X number of phone calls? Do you support X number of people, if you’re an administrative assistant? Have you added to your workload? In what ways have you increased something? And start to figure out what the numbers can be around that because we all are constantly adding to our own workload. It’s only because we get better at what we do and we have the bandwidth, but also it shows that we’re moving up in our own careers, figure out what those things are. You’re having, you’re setting so many meetings, you’re attending so many networking events, you know, think about how maybe outside your actual 9 to 5 job is actually the things that you’re doing are increasing the benefit for your company. So those are a few things that you can start to do.
Julie Holton: 12:54
Dayna, one of my biggest pet peeves before I started my own company and I was in the corporate environment was when in applying for a new job when I would get asked: how much do you currently make in your position? Or how much have you previously made? And it was a huge pet peeve for me because that has no indication that what I’m doing now even pertains to what this job is that I’m applying for.
But so many people fall into the trap of answering that or you know, kind of building this box, these walls around themselves so they get stuck, you know, one, feeling like they have to answer, but two, having that kind of follow them. Like, you’re never going to get that leg up because you’re constantly looking back at what you’ve previously made. What do you say to those women? What’s your piece of advice when you get asked that question by a potential employer?
Dayna Schmidt-Johnson: 13:44
Don’t answer it. It’s really that simple. I know it sounds crazy and there are times undeniably when I’ve had to answer, it’s just, it’s just a fact of the game. But you know, you’re really in this golden opportunity here. Like you said, where your previous role, as much as it’s given you the experience to get into the next role does not dictate what your earnings are. And you’re talking about this project, this job, and what you bring to the table and how you should be compensated as a result.
It’s really important to know that a lot of states are actually making this question illegal. They’re not allowed to ask what are you currently making or what did you previously make.
And so they’re going to be asking, well, what are you targeting? What salary are you targeting? But these are classic negotiation techniques. If you think about like car sales, you’re never supposed to be the first one to give the number. It’s the same kind of thing.
And in this negotiation you’re setting the stage for future negotiations as well. The 30, 60, 90 day negotiations on pay and other perks. And so I don’t want you to give away the store. I want them to tell you what the price is.
Audrea Fink: 14:58
How do you go about in the beginning when you are negotiating for a bigger offer at the start of your job, how do you go about asking for that range? One of the things I struggle with is just how to figure out what, how that range is outside of maybe like, LinkedIn research? Maybe using something like PayScale?
Dayna Schmidt-Johnson: 15:18
You’re exactly right. Go to LinkedIn, go to PayScale, go to salary.com, glassdoor.com. All of these are great resources. Sometimes you can look into the actual position you’re talking about and find out what others in that role has made previously, so you’re coming at it knowing without a doubt what the pay range is.
You as a top performer should be getting in the top, I like to say 10 but even 20% of that pay range. The middle of the road is not for you. You’re great at what you do and you should be getting top pay as a result. So you just go to those resources, plug in your information, your city, your title, your years of experience, and it’s going to just kick out exactly what you should be earning.
So now you know what number you’re going for and you’ve got this question from your employer saying, what’s your target salary? And again, classic negotiation technique. You don’t want to talk first. So here’s the exact script I use. I say, what’s really important to me is that this is a good fit for both of us. I want to be the right person for this role and I’m really excited about it. Make it very clear that this is like, the perfect job for you.
And through this whole discussion, because this should be in the first round that you’re talking about this, this is with an HR person. They’re trying to qualify you and check the boxes that you’re the right person for this job and this salary range is one part of that. And it’s probably at the end of that discussion. So you’ve already checked a lot of their boxes. They’re like, yes, she’s the, she is the right person for this job and now let’s just check this one last box and make sure we’re in the right money range. So you say, I want to make sure I’m the best fit for this role. Do you have a budget for this role?
Of course they have a budget for the role and 80% of the time they’re outright going to tell you. Yeah, you know, we’ve actually, we can go up to 75 on this. And you know, based on your research that that’s where you want to be or not where you want to be. Because I’ve definitely been in the situation where it’s been much lower than I was expecting and I actually had to pull out of that role just because it wasn’t the right fit for me. Right? We’re going to go back to that fit. It really is important when you get in a new role that you are the best person for the job and you make yourself the obvious choice and being in that target range is just one part of that.
Julie Holton: 17:46
And that might be one of the most important things that we emphasize today because it’s not just about what they are offering you and whether you are good enough for that offer. You are also interviewing that company, that position that you, they need to be what you need them to be. And if money is going to, I mean money is important. Money is what pays our bills. It keeps the roof over our heads, the food on the table, the kids happy, you know, you name it, we need money to survive. And if money is a problem in the beginning and not just the money, but if if the salary and the compensation package are not what you need it to be for you, then that is just the beginning of a long line of problems you’re going to have related to the financial difficulties associated with that job and it just might not be the right fit.
Also when you’re having that conversation and negotiating, I mean women, how many of us feel uncomfortable during that conversation? Like, it’s just, you know, I can have that conversation just fine, but it’s just not where I, where I love to live. Like I am not like someone who just can’t wait to have that next talk about money and benefits. Right?
I think so many of us feel that way. But if you’re not getting a good feeling from the other person, if that, like, if they feel fidgety, if they aren’t answering your questions, if they’re not giving you a range, I mean, think about that. I think that also says a lot. I mean, we all have to kind of protect, you know, the cards in our hand and not give everything away, but rely on your instincts and know whether that situation may or may not be the right fit for you.
Audrea Fink: 19:18
Well, and if you start off with low pay, you need to know that you’re not going to make it up over time. The largest jump in your salary is going to be when you’re switching positions. So once you’re in that position, you’re looking at somewhere between a three to 10% increase every year. You’re not gonna get that big bump, which means when you start this, you need to know that the offering salary sets the stage for what you’re going to make for as long as you stay at that company.
And I think that as women, we just, we want the job or we want to prove ourselves. And so we sort of like, I mean, I don’t even think this is a thing just women do, but I see we start with, well, I’m going to get there, and prove myself. And what we will need to say is when we show up like this is what you’re getting. You’re getting me. If it fits, you’re going to pay this. And from there on out, I will be okay with the fact that I’m not going to make as big of a jump. Although I’m going to negotiate for the largest jump I can every year.
Dayna Schmidt-Johnson: 20:20
Definitely. That’s exactly right. It’s such a golden opportunity to get a bigger piece of the pie when you change jobs. But you have to be confident. You have to know what you’re doing going into it, and you have to be prepared to ask yourself because they won’t always give you that budget. And then you will have to pick a number. And I always say pick a range.
At that point, you know, well I’m looking at a range between this and this and make it on your higher end and see what they say. Because they, they may be able to say, well, you know, we were really looking, you’re looking at 75 this is really 70 but you know, I want to keep having this conversation. And at that point that tells you that they’re open to some other possibilities, whether that’s going to the 75 or maybe negotiating and other great ways down the road. And at that point you can hold the conversation about the negotiation talk until the very end when you’re actually offered something.
Julie Holton: 21:22
How would you recommend negotiating the rest of the package? What if I don’t love the benefits being offered, you know, maybe the pay is fine but vacation is low or healthcare just isn’t where I need it to be for myself, for my family. What are some of your negotiation tips for things other than salary?
Audrea Fink: 21:40
And before you answer that, Dayna, I really want to talk about this idea of compensation. I think too frequently we talk about compensation as your salary and that’s problematic because your compensation is the whole package. It’s vacation, it’s sick time or PTO, it is flex work time, it is 401k package, it is life work balance. If the pay is solid, and thank you so much for bringing this up Julie, if the pay is solid but the rest of the compensation package is problematic, how do we negotiate that?
Dayna Schmidt-Johnson: 22:16
I love what you’re saying. Yes, it is absolutely part of the whole package and you need to take it that way. And I think you know, too often we get into these roles and we’re like, okay, here’s the salary. Good to go. And we don’t actually know even what we’ve signed onto with these additional benefits.
So it’s really important that you get those up front in writing with your, your salary offer letter. So it’s your salary offer plus X number of vacation days. If you have been talking and hopefully you know, during your interview process you, you at least have an idea of whether flex work is a possibility. So you can build that into that offer letter and make it very clear, you know, you want to outline these things so that neither yourself nor your employer is caught off guard when you want something. When you’re like, oh, but I thought we had flex work and yet it turns out that that’s like one day a week that’s not really flex work to you, something to that effect.
So you just really need to be able to know everything going into it and also do your research on the company because a lot of them talk in blogs or in interviews and like really dive deep into the company. Those discuss other benefits that exist that they don’t necessarily outline until you’re in orientation and then suddenly you come to find out, oh, we have a perk where if you go back to school, we give you X number of dollars to do that. But maybe you didn’t know that that was, you know, you had to be part of the company for two years. If you had known that going into it, you could have said, you know, I know you have this great opportunity and I’ve been looking to go back to school. I would love to be able to jump that two year mark and really dive in now so I can bring new skills to the table as soon as possible. There are opportunities and options here. You just have to know what’s available to you first.
Audrea Fink: 24:24
The company I work at has a pretty set vacation/sick time policy. If I were to think this isn’t enough for me, for example, how would you go about negotiating that?
Dayna Schmidt-Johnson: 24:37
You just have to ask. You can’t get something you don’t ask for and you have to ask for it tactfully. And you can’t just go in and say, you know what? This isn’t enough for me, I need more. You bring your value to the table. Listen, I’m doing XYZ. This is really important to me to have more vacation days so that I can really recharge and reset and come back to the table prepared to really go hard on this project. Something to that effect.
You really want to show the benefit is really for the company. Yeah, you benefit from the extra time off, but they’re going to get something out of it too. They’re going to get fresh eyes, they’re going to get, you know, a a more polished you. There are some times where things are set. Trying to find out as much as you can from an inside perspective is really important. If you know someone at the company, talk to them, ask these questions, find out.
Audrea Fink: 25:37
So I want to switch gears a little bit. For women who are in their current roles and they want to negotiate their salaries, is the strategy different for them? How do they go about asking for more money or a shift in the other pieces of their compensation package?
Dayna Schmidt-Johnson: 25:53
So it is very similar. You have to know your value. You have to outline your accomplishments using the language of business. Make it clear that you want more money early on. You don’t want to have this conversation at the time of your review because that’s usually where your given your offer, given the new pay raise or increase in salary, whatever it might be. A bonus if there is one for example, so you don’t want that moment to be the first time you bring up this new salary.
You want to have set the stage 30, 60, 90 days in advance because those budgets are being created for the end of the year. So you want to make it very clear that you’re going to be coming into your review saying you have blown the competition out of the water. You are just killing it in your role and you definitely deserve to be considered for a pay increase and bring the numbers to the table. This is what I’m earning now. This is where I’d like to be as a result of being a top performer.
And so you’re really outlining things well in advance of where you are now so that when you get to the review it’s a clear yes from your employer saying, you know what? I’ve heard you, you have definitely done just so much for the company in the last year. We’re so excited to offer you this and it may be less than what you were asking, but it’s going to be more. I’ve been in this position where I, I definitely made this negotiation and my peers are sitting around going, oh, I just got the 2% pay raise. I got 10. I asked for it. I had set the stage long beforehand and I wasn’t just waiting to be told what they were going to give me.
Julie Holton: 27:49
Okay, so what if this last review period wasn’t the best? You know, how, how does someone negotiate for an increase if it has been kind of a tough year. Maybe life got in the way, maybe there were some blunders on projects. How do you still negotiate and put your best foot forward when it wasn’t the best year?
Dayna Schmidt-Johnson: 28:10
So I think in that case what you’re really looking for is to establish some timelines with your manager. I recognize that this wasn’t a banner year for me, but I know how I’m going to turn this around. I know that in the next 30, 60, 90 days, here are some goals. Here are my next year goals and what I’m really looking to do and what I’m excited about. Also, hot tip, keep a goal or two for yourself and don’t tell them that this is where you’re going because then you can just like, bring this out of left field being completely awesome. They weren’t expecting it, but all along it’s something you wanted to do.
You’re really going to be setting the stage for the next year and you may not be able to negotiate a pay raise at that point, but you can say, can we reevaluate this in 60 days? Because I’m really excited about what I can bring to the table and I know that that’s going to require an investment from the company as well because I am investing hard in my role.
Audrea Fink: 29:14
So I candidly struggle with asking for more money when I feel like I am fairly compensated. I mean, I obviously want to make more money if nothing else, just to keep up with the cost of inflation and the cost of living. And I live in Seattle, which is a very expensive city. But I do feel like currently my compensation is fair and my benefits are fair. So I sometimes guilty asking for a little more money. I know I should do it and I definitely encourage other people to do it, but I struggle. What is an appropriate way to ask for more while still recognizing that I’m not necessarily underpaid?
Dayna Schmidt-Johnson: 29:58
Get rid of this whole idea that you’re not underpaid. We’re all underpaid, and I get really angry about it and it helps to fuel my passion for it because the reality is salaries haven’t kept pace with the economy and worker output for 40 years. Unless you’re in that top 1% of your company or in the globe, you’re really not earning what you could be and what you should be. And especially, I cannot reiterate this enough, as a top performer, when you kick butt at your job, you should be paid well for it. So what it actually sounds to me like is that this becomes a worthiness issue and this is such a women’s problem.
We way over estimate our blunders and we way underestimate our successes. And you know when you start doing that in your own head, you’re like, ugh, am I even worth having a higher salary? Am I worth asking for this? Stop undercutting yourself. That’s part of the system, we as women have been taught to keep quiet, accept what you’re given, don’t ask for more. Stop being that woman. Ask, ask, ask. You deserve it. When you’re putting things in the language of business, once you start to see those successes just compound, you’re going to be so proud of yourself. You’ll be like, I didn’t know I was doing such an awesome job. Of course I deserve more money. And you’re going to have the confidence then to go in and ask for it.
Audrea Fink: 31:34
Thank you Dayna. This has been so insightful. Before we go, we are collecting advice from successful women in our communities and sharing it in our Think Tank forum. So we have three rapid fire questions for you. Are you ready?
Dayna Schmidt-Johnson: 31:50
Let’s do it.
Audrea Fink: 31:50
Number one, is there a lesson that you’ve recently learned that you wished you would’ve learned earlier in your career?
Dayna Schmidt-Johnson: 31:56
Everyone needs support. You know, I have always kind of been this lone wolf in my career and kind of prided myself on that. Oh, I’m the only one in this department. Maybe like if me and my manager or I’m the only one who knows how to do XYZ. Like, let’s cut that out. We need each other’s help and we need help from others. And I just really wish I had spent more time gathering that support early on because it compounds over time in such a beautiful way.
Julie Holton: 32:29
What advice would you offer to your younger self, say, maybe 10 years ago?
Dayna Schmidt-Johnson: 32:34
You know, good management is really crucial to your success and if you have good management, it’s going to be a really hard road. So if management doesn’t see your value, find one that does.
Audrea Fink: 32:48
What do you think the most important skill for a woman to hone is in today’s professional setting?
Dayna Schmidt-Johnson: 32:55
I really think it’s an unapologetic belief in yourself. You know, we think of this as something inherent, you either have or you don’t. But it’s really a muscle that you can learn how to flex and work out regularly. Start by building your trust with yourself and make a plan and sticking to it, something small. This is a process and a lifelong skill and you can’t just go to the gym for a week and expect results. You can’t just like put trust in yourself once and expect it to be there forever. Work on it. Little things add up in a big, big way. You got to believe in you.
Audrea Fink: 33:28
Awesome, thanks Dayna. So can you share with our audience the best way to connect with you if they have additional questions or business interests or maybe they were interested in having you come give your speech to their organization?
Dayna Schmidt-Johnson: 33:40
Yes, and you can find me on my website. It’s www.daynaschmidtjohnson.com and Dayna is with a Y. D-A-Y-N-A. And then my email address is there too. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow me on Instagram at dayna.schmidt.johnson and on Youtube as Dope as Elle where I interview awesome women like yourselves to share their amazing journeys as well.
Julie Holton: 34:06
And we’ll put all of those links in with this podcast transcripts so you can see them. Dayna, thank you so much for joining us today. This has been a really needed conversation for us to have. So thank you so much for leading this for us. Listeners, before you go, be sure to subscribe to Think Tank of Three wherever you are listening right now, your favorite podcast platform of choice. Click on subscribe so that you can get all of our podcasts.
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