Not to get all Carrie Bradshaw on you, but: when do we negotiate for what we know we're worth, and when should we play it safe and accept the value in experience alone?
I'm in a bind. I still haven't officially been offered the job I've been alluding to for the last two weeks, but I'm in the final running, and my last meeting with the guy is tomorrow. I have already come in for two interviews, one unpaid assist, and one very low-paid one, with the justification that it was a "trial-run rate". If I get the job, the hourly pay will fall somewhere around $3 an hour shy of what a typical babysitter around here makes. I have already established that I will need another job, which fortunately I already have at the portrait studio. Given that I'd be paying my own freelancing taxes (which are pretty high) and health care, it will be a stretch just to meet my base payments every month.
Like I've said before, the job comes with lots of perks, some of them with eventual monetary potential, like gigs and equipment use. It would be in many ways like an arts school education wrapped up in one exciting, chaotic, probably sometimes infuriating job. It will most decidedly rule my life for a while. If I get it.
I resent that I even have to think about the money. I resent that it's even less than I was making at the nonprofit, and I thought that was nothing. It's even less than I make at the portrait studio now. I resent that I am on a fence about asking for more. Money has got me down, and I'm kept awake by mental lists full of financial responsibility: what if I get really sick, how do I pay my rent, what if I want to buy stuff, how will I ever save? And then on a whole other plane: how to I get the most of of doing my taxes, how will I ever afford to buy a house if I want to, how do I get to the bottom of my student loans, how do I stay out of serious debt?
Georgia and Melissa prepped me last night about negotiating technique. They are two of the smartest people I know, and definitely some of the most successful at our age, and they think I have to go in there knowing I can still say no to the job - otherwise I have no leverage. They say I should express that I really can't live on what's being offered, that it's lower than average for similar jobs (which it is), and that if nothing else I should be promised an evaluation and salary review in a few months.
The thing is, though, I don't have any leverage. Even if this person decides that I'm the best he's seen so far for an assistant, I don't think realistically that that's enough incentive for him to try and lure me with more money. He got over a hundred replies to his posting within the first week or so. There's certainly another me out there waiting to prove her worth.
This is what they mean when they say "paying your dues." And I do resent it - but the alternative is to hold out and say no, and I just don't think I can without always wondering if I'd shot myself in the foot.
Also... I consider myself a pretty assertive person, someone who gets things done, who changes her situation if it's not what she likes (just ask my landlord, and for that matter landlords before him), but the first time I negotiated a salary, it did not go well. I wrote an extremely professional and rational letter, and was met with shock and the implication that I was out of my mind. So I took the job anyway, stayed for a year, did my best, and peaced out.
So. I don't know what's going to happen. Or what more, if anything, I'm going to ask for. But if anyone's gotten lazy and released their crossed fingers... just give it another day or two? Please?