It’s incredible how many opportunities the Atlas Corps fellowship opens for you but it’s even more remarkable how it makes you realize of the many opportunities you always had access to but never quite used. One of my colleagues at my host organization made me look into various courses on Linkedin and I realized how an hour or two every other week could open my eyes to so much. I recently took a course on proven strategies for women at work and its section on negotiation resonated so much with me and helped me learn immensely. Here’s what I learnt from it!

Women earn almost 60% of undergraduate and Masters’ degree.  47% of US labor and 52% of professional jobs. Yet, they make up fewer than 25% of executive and senior level positions. Only 6% of the CEOs are women.

The numbers are even lesser for women of color and in industries like finance, law and technology, men hold even higher senior level positions. While there may be no ideal way to explain this gap in leadership, it has been noted that one of the reasons why women never reach the top is that they never negotiate for success.

Negotiate for opportunities

In today’s age, women need to negotiate for opportunities because that’s one of the most effective ways to take charge of one’s career. Its noted that all professionals can negotiate to create the opportunities they want, whether those opportunities are for new assignments or roles, flexibility or resources for the department. These opportunities won’t be handed down so understand that you won’t get them until you ask and negotiate for them.

Its also important to understand that negotiations don’t always work in your favor but to make the negotiation successful, you must always prepare. How do you prepare for negotiation? Have creative options to propose. Consider why your boss may say no and do the homework for that and set the stage well for your ask by delivering results that back you.

The biggest mistake people make when they negotiate is that they go into it with a yes or no question. Pose the question in a way where you offer solutions that can’t be classified as yes or no and seem like a middle ground.

Stop getting in your own way

We can sometimes be our own worst enemies. When it comes to big challenges and assignments, we sabotage ourselves and prematurely take ourselves out of the equation. Women tend to focus on skills they don’t have instead of highlighting the ones they do.

Asses the value that you bring to the role. Figure out your value proposition. Your value is what you have achieved – the sales you’ve done, the projects you’ve accomplished, the results you’ve gotten.

Make an inventory of your accomplishments – figure out who should know about your value and resilience and who should they hear about it from – from you directly or from a satisfied client or from someone else who might speak on your behalf.

It is also very important what your supervisor values (eg. sales, reach, results) – what matters do them and how do you express your value in a currency that resonates with them.

Address on your own shortcomings – what are your vulnerabilities and how can you avoid pitfalls in the future and turn shortcomings into strengths. Its also very important to understand your alternatives – what if you don’t get the opportunity and what you will do in that scenario. Will you leave if you don’t get the opportunity you want? Do you have a backup?

Be prepared for push back

It is very likely that you may be pushed back by your supervisor and its always ideal to be prepared for pushback. Being prepared also helps come up with a plan B, which can be rather helpful. Being prepared also means understanding that pushback is not necessarily a no. It can also be a question to check whether you really are ready for the new challenge. For instance, if your supervisor asks if you have enough experience for the challenge or if you have time to take up something new. This type of pushback is known as offensive move, which puts you on the defensive and they are not necessarily negative.

This pushback can also be in a very positive tone, for instance, you’re so good at what you’re doing, and the organization needs you to continue doing it. In a scenario like this, it’s important to use a correcting turn to open the conversation. An effective example of that would be to say, “I can see why you might think so, but let me review what I’ve accomplished lately”.

Another way to shift is to ask to spell out the expectations by asking questions like can you help me understand how much time you expect this project to take? Or if your boss has said he/she needs your help by continuing in your current role, you can use role reversal by asking how they would deal with the situation if they were in it. Always remember, turns can open conversations that are stuck.

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