Other than salary, what can a job seeker negotiate?

Paul Levy; Author/Blogger; Former President and CEO, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Very often when people are negotiating their first job offer, there tends to be a focus on the money. I understand that. Farzana and I understand that really well, and it’s an important aspect of things. But if you think about that negotiation as the beginning of establishing a working relationship with the company or institution you’re joining — setting up that relationship — it’s more than the money.

It might, for example, be the question of with whom will you be working? What kind of assignments will you be getting? What are the opportunities for career advancements? What are the opportunities to work on cross-disciplinary task forces in the company so that you can get to know other people and other aspects of it? So don’t hesitate to bring those kinds of things up. And there, you might want to think about your underlying interests a lot. What are you hoping for in your career, in that job? Where would you like to be in three, four, or five years hence? But also think about the company’s interests. What are they doing where you might be able to be helpful to them? And you can offer things.

For example, let’s say you’re joining a company that’s about to open up a branch in Brazil, and let’s say you speak Portuguese really well. Even though you’re not being assigned to the Brazil operation, you could say to the person you’re talking with, “I noticed we are going to be opening up a branch in Brazil. It might be helpful for people to have some rudimentary knowledge of Portuguese; I’d be happy to start a Portuguese language club in the cafeteria a couple days a week for those people who are going to be working in that part of the company, just to practice some of the words and the vocabulary and the sentence structure. Would that be of interest?” And they’ll say, “Gee, that would be really helpful.”

Now think about what that does: You’ve offered something that’s of low cost to you and high value to the company, which is a great thing in itself. You’re going to get to know a bunch of people you otherwise wouldn’t get to know, and, who knows, one day they might say, “Gee, Sally speaks Portuguese really well. Maybe she should come with us to São Paulo on the next trip to help us with this,” even though it wasn’t part of your original job offer. So look for things like that.