by RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
In the mid-1990s, dietitian Pat Katepoo started a side business advising working mothers how to negotiate a flexible work arrangement at their current job. At the time, she was enjoying a professional part-time position for work-life balance, and wanted to show others how they could have it, too. She put the business online as WorkOptions.com, and eventually left her role as a RD to give the business her full attention. In 2015, she added Pay Raise Prep School for Women. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Pat on how retail dietitians can become more effective at negotiating the salary and benefits they want and deserve.
What’s holding most women back from asking for the salary they deserve?
Fear and self-doubt are the big ones. I see it at all career levels and in a variety of professions -- dietitians, 250K corporate attorneys, engineers, trade association execs. Women fear being perceived as pushy or greedy if they ask for more money. They fear getting turned down. Often, they question whether they deserve the higher salary and that keeps them from asking for what they deserve. The good news is that fear and doubt can be overcome with training and preparation.
What are the top mistakes made when negotiating salary?
Lack of preparation before the meeting is a big predictor of a poor negotiated outcome. The market value of the job is the reference point from which a salary or raise is negotiated, so it’s crucial to know. It's also essential to have a ready list of negotiable options, other than the salary itself, to use in the back-and-forth conversation toward a mutually-agreeable outcome. Flexible schedules, more paid time off, employer-paid tuition, signing bonus, performance bonus—these are just a few options that can be part of a total pay package. Rehearsing the meeting with a partner beforehand is a must as role-playing helps you anticipate and manage the emotional aspects of the pay raise negotiation. In turn, that gives you a greater sense of control during the actual meeting which boosts confidence to follow through on your pre-planned strategy.
How can retail dietitians master the salary negotiations process?
First, embrace it for what it is: a career development skill, and one worth investing in because it pays dividends throughout your entire career. Just like nutrition counseling or conducting a supermarket tour, learning to negotiate salary takes knowledge and training at the onset. Then it takes experience to get good at it. While you’re going through negotiation training, role-playing is the early substitute for experience.
How does the salary negotiation process in a new job offer compare with an existing job at a current employer?
In both cases, knowing the market value of the job position is critical to the process. From that point, build your case for the higher end of the range based on your experience and job achievements. Both scenarios have pay potential, but the new job offer usually has more.
Once the offer is extended, you’re in a strong negotiating position as the prospective employer’s prime candidate. That’s the time to start negotiating your ambitious salary and benefits goals, which can far surpass what might be possible in a current job. That's the advantage of moving to a new job.
Anything else you’d like to add?
As retail dietitians, you may not have a clear pay scale or career advancement path to follow. Yet therein lies an opportunity to create your own path within the organization, to demonstrate and communicate your value, and ask for the remuneration to match. As you become more proactive about your pay, you’ll see a measurable difference in your salary. I invite RDNs to take the free Pay Raise Strategy Starter Course as a simple proactive step toward higher pay.