“Winning” a job offer is no sweepstakes, but if we don’t feel fortunate when that call comes, we don’t have much respect for the academic market. Many of us have been dreaming about finding a permanent position for the better part of a decade. Our first impulse might be to accept on the spot before anyone has a chance to change their mind. But once we’ve heard the good news and have time to collect our wits, we face the question of how to move forward confidently and realistically to bargain the best arrangement possible for ourselves and our families.
This can be a real challenge for first-time academic job seekers who may not have experienced a contract negotiation firsthand. The endowed fellowships and funding packages we lived on in graduate school were predetermined and, in most cases, closed to debate. (I realized recently that I haven’t asked for a raise since I was a teenager.) Grad students jockey for better course assignments not bonuses.
So how do we move beyond the initial offer? One former professor advised me simply to make the dean quote a salary up front, then (regardless of the number) to sound heartbroken and say something like, “Well, that’s close, but not quite what I was expecting.” Another mentor pointed out that the best raise you’ll ever receive is the one you secure before starting the job. Practically though, how should prospective hires talk about salary? Should there be that knee-jerk request for more?
Beyond the salary itself, what else should we discuss in the process of contract negotiations? Office space, travel funding, and the allocation of graduate-student resources have all come up in previous On Hiring posts, but are there other potential topics new hires are missing? Perhaps more importantly, what attitude should we take into these discussions? How do we pair professional confidence and profound gratefulness?