Money & Careers

Asking for More on the Job

Phyllis L. Cohen has been a headhunter and Fortune 25 recruiter for more than 20 years. Her experiences left her with the burning desire to discover meaning in her work. How do we rediscover what’s already great about our job? How do we know when it’s time to move on? How do we make the change? We need to view our life’s work from a place of inspiration. This series of articles will help us get started.


Women crave abundance in all areas of our lives, and wanting more in our careers is no exception. In our 40s and 50s when we are in the late stage of our career trajectory, even though it’s likely we’ve hit the peak of our earning capabilities some of us feel ready for more. While we are taking care of aging parents or children who have just passed the threshold of adulthood, we may find ourselves contemplating more responsibility, more autonomy, or more money at work.

It’s been proven that having more doesn’t necessarily make us happier. That’s why we need to first be sure of what we want—we need to be selective about the parts of our careers that matter the most. When we unscramble the Rubik’s cube of our authentic career needs we can then put our energy into achieving them with a laser-like focus. But how do we ask for it?

Don’t undersell yourself when you deserve a bigger salary. Perhaps you’ve been on the job hunt for a while now. You might be so grateful to get an offer that you forgot your value. If you’re accustomed to asking for less, you may not know how to break the habit. Women are often hard-wired this way. Studies have proven that women negotiate less than men for higher salaries.

There’s some good news on the equal pay front: in several states it will soon become illegal for an employer to ask you about your most recent salary. So far, New York and Massachusetts will be onboard very soon, with an expectation that this could become a countrywide mandate.

When salary history is eliminated from the conversation employers have with a job candidate, the playing field is leveled. You may, for example, have been working in a non-profit arena for years, where base pay is much lower than in the private sector. Or perhaps you simply weren’t a good salary negotiator at the onset of your first job, costing you thousands over the span of your career. Since years of promotions, raises and job switches have been based on a percentage increase of that initial salary, this follows you from job to job like a dead albatross.

The new law aims to liberate women and minorities who may have been lowballed in the past. Now companies will be compelled to use proposed compensation ranges instead of a woman’s past salary to determine her job offer. It’s hard to say if the new law will be a panacea for equal pay, and criticism over the new ruling is already plentiful, but it’s a start.

In the meantime, do your due diligence long before you get an offer. Talk to recruiters and hiring managers from various companies to learn the appropriate salary range for your job level and experience. Rely less on online salary surveys from job-hunting organizations that are often bloated to stir the pot and promote their own agenda of getting you to make a job change.

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  • Mickey M. April 29, 2017 at 11:51 am

    A professional friend of mine accepted a job; voila, when she went in to sign all the paperwork, they had lowered their hourly pay offer. “We don’t require a Master’s degree.” was one of their excuses. They said the job description had changed. Ha! What could she do? Leave? Continue the job hunt (which is so depressing)? It was infuriating to me.What a low down trick. Here’s your job; here’s your lowered expectations. What a world.