Negotiation is a daunting concept for many, but if we aren’t compensated for our true value, how can we get others to uphold it? To break through the ceiling of the gender pay gap, we need to step up and remove the fear. In this episode Fiona McKay interviews Angela Ambrose on how to ask for what you are worth, prepare for negotiations, and manage the fear associated with the process.
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Read the Show Notes Here: Negotiating Your Worth, with Angela Ambrose
Welcome back everybody, this is season two of the Leading Ladies of podcast! I am so excited to have you back listening, and especially for today’s guest. Today we have an absolute firecracker of a woman joining us; we have Angela Ambrose, Vice President of Government Relations and Communications at GM Defense, a new startup inside of general motors. They are returning to Defense since a brief hiatus in 2003 and they’re up to some really exciting work. Angela is also the interim Vice President of business development so, as many women, she wears multiple hats. And her job history is pretty damn impressive, she has worked within industry, she’s worked in the intelligence community, she’s worked in the Department of Defense and on Capitol Hill. I am super impressed and super excited to have you here today Angela.
Thank you so much fiona, it’s wonderful to talk to you, but even more so to talk to the Leading Ladies of Defense.
I think what’s really awesome about today is that we’re going to talk to Leading Ladies of Defense, but women around the world, whatever industry they’re in, will really benefit because we’re going to be talking about negotiation and that is a great topic.
It’s one of my favorites I certainly love to support anyone that’s looking at how they can negotiate better or how they should be negotiating to make themselves the best value that they can bring to any agency, any government office, any role.
Well before we get started with negotiation I’m going to ask you one of my favorite Leading Ladies questions…what do you think about the glass ceiling, does it still exist?
I think unfortunately the glass ceiling does still exist, but I’m very hopeful that we are on a path to making that crack a little wider and ensuring that women are compensated the way that males are in any industry across the globe, but most importantly – and what I’m passionate about – is making sure that happens in all things Defense.
And what was the moment that you realized that you had broken, or at least made a few cracks in that glass ceiling?
I would say for me the first crack was when I was leaving Capitol Hill and I was going to the Defense Department and my only experience at that point in my professional career had been working on Capitol Hill. And for anyone who’s in the states who has a relationship with our government, specifically our legislative branch, that those salaries are not very coveted. And when I was departing to go still as a civilian over at the department of Defense I saw a thirty thousand dollar pay increase from a Friday to a Monday. I left work on a Friday and on a Monday I was making thirty thousand dollars more – and to me that was the largest crack that I could ever even fathom at that time in my career. And it really changed the game for me; thirty thousand dollars is in the grand scheme of someone that’s making millions is nothing, but in the grand scheme of someone who’s making certainly under six figures at the time it was life-changing altering. I could get a different apartment, I could probably pay for a different car payment, I didn’t have to feel like I was living in this month-to-month world. And so it was the biggest crack, the starting crack I would say, that I continued to push open throughout the rest of my career.
I love that. And so that helps us to transition nicely into today’s topic, which is negotiation. And so I guess my first question is what makes you so passionate about this topic?
I think that there’s a level of equality to me, when I’m thinking about negotiation. A topic that is near and dear to my heart is certainly your value proposition, and being an authentic person and bringing forth your best self to any role. And I think that women undervalue themselves more so than… we sometimes put the blame I will on other people, to say, ‘oh I’m not getting the salary, but my male competitor is,’ or, ‘I’m not getting that salary, but my peer who is a man is.’ And my first question is, ‘are you asking for it?’ I can tell you distinct points in my career where I took the bull by the horns and went to my leader and said I need to have a salary adjustment, I need to be paid according to those around me those in my field, those at my same pay grade, etc. And I really had to be an advocate for myself. I know my value proposition, I know what I bring to any organization that I’m working for, and when I depart an organization to take on a new role I certainly know what I’m bringing there. And so to me negotiation is that first step of what is this relationship going to be like. What is our culture going to be like when I come into your organization? Am I going to feel like an equal? Will there be equality? And to me that all starts at the position point of negotiation; it’s before you even walk into the door. And so I I’m passionate about doing it when you’re taking on a new role, but I’m also passionate about ensuring that you’re bringing your value forward and you’re advocating for yourself once you’re within a role. Because a lot of people spend their entire careers – as I work at General Motors – a lot of people spend their entire careers at GM. And these women, they need to advocate for themselves as they take on new, impressive roles throughout their career if they want to spend their life there. And I think there’s something very positive to be said for someone who wants to be in an organization for their lifespan of their working world. For me I tend to see the next opportunity and when that presents itself I want to move into that role. But you have to tell that story, whether you’re somewhere for a long time, or you’re going somewhere every few years, or if you need to take those steps up the ladder.
So how did you apply some of that when you took this job with a $30,000 pay rise?
So I think knowing your value. In some of these worlds you can look at certain websites and they might tell you ‘this is the kind of role,’ certainly in the government it’s a little easier – that’s the truth because your roles are public, your pay grades and your steps in order to make the next higher grade and the rules behind what the government can do for you, where you equate given education or experience or time in the military etc. But everything is negotiable, and the worst that can happen is they say no. I’ve told a lot of folks that have asked me over the course of my career for some help in negotiation that if you’re still going to accept the job the worst that likely will come back to you is, ‘we’re going to go with our original offer.’ It is very infrequent that if you ask for something they just pull the job or say you’re not the right candidate. I mean maybe if you’re a million dollars in a different direction, but if you’re talking about something in a similar path and they’re on the right trajectory, folks are going to come back to you and say, ‘I’m sorry I can’t get to there but our original offer stands. And so I recommend to people all the time that if at the end of the day you make a dollar more than they offered to you you’re going to feel like you were victorious in that conversation. Certainly you’re probably looking for more than that. But it’s not always about dollars and cents in your salary, it could be about a sign-on bonus, it could be about a one-time cash advance at the end of the year, whether it’s in stock, it could be about the percentage of your bonus, it could be about an agreed to cost of living adjustment at the end of the year. And it and it could be about paying for school, it could be paying off school some of your student loans, and it could be anything from leave time, whether it’s sick leave or paid time off. If you’re someone that has a family, you don’t want to start at a new role and have no time in the bank, if you are a person that loves to travel as I love to do, I certainly don’t want to go somewhere as an executive and have no time in the ban. So those are all different position points that you can have, at the end of the day as the employee. And well for the company as well, but as the employee that all equals your total compensation. The amount of time off you have, all of your benefits that lead into that, in addition to school and the like. But certainly your salary, the ability for increases in your salary and any bonus structure at all is a total compensation. And I think so often people look at dollars and cents and that comes to salary and or bonuses, and they don’t look at the full picture. And sometimes that value is actually much more valuable to you as the employee.
I was in a similar situation a few years ago where I was offered a job at a company and the base pay was slightly lower slightly lower than what I’d asked for, and so I went back and I tried to negotiate on vacation days and negotiate on bonus. And they actually gave me an extra share of RONA – which is Return On Net Assets – and so the actual increase that I ended up getting was actually greater than the differential in the base salary, so I totally agree with you about different ways to extract that value. But it was scary.
It’s conversation that’s scary and you just have to be patient. I think people don’t also understand that the person that you’re probably dealing with and talent acquisition there’s also likely a human resources element to that role. They might flow up, but there’s a hiring manager, and the hiring manager is at the end of the day the decision authority. The talent acquisition can tell you this, or they may say this is the range for that role with HR, but at the end of the day you’re negotiating with who’s going to be your boss. When you come back in and the person that you’re talking to during your negotiation has a day job, they’re probably talking to a lot of candidates for a lot of different roles. And so if they don’t get back to you in two minutes I think more women than men immediately send another note that says, ‘if that’s too much I will do this instead.’ You never want to negotiate with yourself, you have to negotiate with the company, you want to want to bring your best foot forward and see what they’re willing to pay. General Motors for instance – I certainly don’t want to speak on behalf of the company – but when I went through the process they said, ‘we want to make you a competitive offer, we want to come to you with what we think is fair market value and that is competitive across the board.’ But it didn’t change the fact that I’m an individual, and I take what they consider as fair market value and similar across the board, and I need to make sure that that fits with my life. And I wanted to make sure as I was leaving Accenture that I didn’t leave any money on the table. If I’m leaving in the middle of a year that means I’m missing out on half of a year’s bonus if I’m going to a new company. And I’m going in at halfway through the year that means I’m missing out on half of the bonus that I would be eligible for there, so in essence I really lost out on a decent amount of bonus, and so that needs to be either a payout from where you’re departing from, or a pay into where you’re going to. And all of those things are up in the air when you’re looking at what you need to make as your total compensation, where it makes sense for you to make some of these puts and takes. Because sometimes it’s more important for people to have dollars up front than it is to worry about the salary. Some people say salary is compounding, so if I make more in my salary and less than, say a sign-on bonus, or less off a percentage of bonus, when you compound it over the years you’re growing that at a faster rate. But say you’re young, you’re 25 and you think, ‘I’m only probably going to be at this company to get the experience for two to three years, but I know I don’t want to live in this town anymore, I’m going to move well,’ then it’s probably more important for you to have more money in the bank in the form of a sign-on bonus or something that that you can then take with you, or a long-term incentive that pays out at the end of that two years, so that you’ve made the dollars that you need in order to move on. Like I mentioned up at the top of this conversation, some people spend 20, 30, or beyond, years in one organization, or they may be coming from the military and transitioning in, and it’s a completely new world, a completely new environment, and you just have to know your worth. So if you’re moving internally in a company, knowing your worth, knowing your value, knowing what you’re bringing and negotiating. And when you’re taking some of these big jumps and moving, whether you’re at the beginning of your career, towards the end of your career, it’s talking about your value and what you bring forward. You’re not one of many you are one, you are the individual that they are hiring for the role, absolutely you’ve made it through the interview process you are valuable.
I liked the points that you made about people being at different points in their career. I think that employers need to start rethinking their packages because it’s not fair to expect that the current generation coming in wants the same sort of compensation packages that previous generations did. Because our youth have grown up seeing environments where there’s lots of layoffs, and we’ve got the gig economy. So I think that a lot of the upfront stuff is probably more important to them. I’ve worked at a few companies where people stayed and stayed and stayed because of the great retirement plans, particularly in the UK, but I don’t think people can rely on that anymore. And so I think companies need to get smarter about how they do it.
*Rest of show notes coming soon…
Angela is the Vice President of Government Relations and Communications for General Motors (GM) Defense LLC. She is responsible for executing external affairs, working with the Executive and Legislative Branches of government, and managing the development and implementation of strategic communications, media relations, and marketing. Angela has an extensive Defense background, having worked for Northrop Grumman, Accenture A&D, the Ministry of Defense, Office of the Director or National Intelligence, and the US House of Representatives.