By Paula Goodman
Many articles exist about negotiating salary and focus on how to secure a higher salary than the job seeker is currently making. Of course this is the desired outcome especially for someone who is trying to advance in his/her career. Within higher education, however, that outcome is not always attainable. At the most senior levels, salaries tend to be comparable to other sectors, but at the junior and mid-level that is not always the case. So when should you think about taking a position that actually pays LESS than you would hope? There are different instances when this could advisable.
You are truly, truly motivated to break into higher education and the other benefits make a salary reduction less painful. These could be concrete ones that are part of a benefits package or less tangible ones like work-life balance.
You are already working within higher education for a different university or inside the same university and the new job is more in line with your long range goals than your current one. The new position has different salary structure or constraints that are not flexible.
- You are not currently working, have conducted a long search, and feel good about the new opportunity in all regards other than the salary.
One thing you would need to keep in mind, however, is that too large a salary reduction will be extremely difficult ultimately to recover from. I would not overly stress opportunities for advancement in your discussions since that gives the new boss the impression you are using the currently open job as a stepping stone. But it is fine to ask about performance appraisals and how salary increases are implemented on an annual basis. Whereas large corporate employers might have more flexibility and when they really want a candidate might be able to accommodate, that is not common in academia given budgets and equity issues. So if you find yourself in a situation of accepting an offer less that you were originally seeking, you just need to think long and hard about your decision. Higher education is indeed a great sector to work within and it may just be worth it.
About the Author:
As Director of Recruitment in central Human Resources for Columbia University, Paula Goodman manages senior level searches on an ad hoc basis. She advises internal schools and departments on recruitment strategies for positions at various levels. She handles high priority referrals from internal and external stakeholders of importance to the University. Under the auspices of the Office of Work-Life, she provides career advisement for accompanying spouses/partners of potential faculty recruits. She also provides confidential career advisement for officers contemplating internal moves. Additionally, she was re-elected for a second term to the University Senate as the sole representative for non-faculty on the Morningside campus. She has both a Bachelor's and a Master's degree from the University of New Hampshire.