Negotiations, whether they are part of the initial interview process when you are starting a job, or when they are part of a yearly review, can be a stressful and scary time. Oftentimes people will not ask for raises due to being ‘bullied’ into thinking they aren’t worth it, or they don’t want to seem greedy and get fired, or they just don’t have the confidence to ask for what they deserve.
coins with plants growing out of the top
KICK ASS VETS will cover some aspects of the negotiation process and tactics to get the best job offers that you can!
Why Negotiate?
arm wrestle over money
KICK ASS VETS recommends always negotiating some aspect of your contract.
You may think to yourself that negotiating is too much effort, or you might come across as greedy, or maybe you are happy with the salary you are offered. KICK ASS VETS recommends to always negotiate, no matter your scenario, as there are many different benefits of negotiations aside from a higher salary.
It’s not personal, it’s business. We often have an emotional response to a low salary offer, feeling that the clinic is ‘disrespecting’ or ‘undervaluing’ us. The reality is, they are financially undervaluing us, but no part of it is emotional. It is your managers JOB to pay you as little as possible to do the job that needs to be done. By the same token, it is YOUR job to display your financial value and get the highest salary possible. Take the emotion out of it!
When you negotiate with a clinic, whether it is for a certain schedule, hours, salary, vacation time, CE allowance, car allowance, etc., you display a level of confidence to both your employer, and more importantly to yourself! Studies have shown that both employer and employee come out of an interview, or pay review, with an enhanced satisfaction with the interaction if a negotiation has occurred. Negotiating will also display confidence to your employer which will translate to you being a more financially valuable employee.

Another important reason to negotiate is that employers and managers EXPECT you to! They will come in with an offer that is lower than they are willing to accept because they expect to negotiate and have to go up a bit. If you don’t negotiate, you are letting the clinics pay you less than they had allocated for your employment.

Of course, a higher salary is one of the main reasons to negotiate. On average you will get anywhere between a 3-5% increase in salary, or $1500-$5000 from a negotiation, just by asking! This is when looking at yearly reviews. However, if you have been drastically underpaid or are looking to get a higher starting salary from an arbitrary starting point, then the increase you can achieve may be much higher.
If you are planning on staying at a clinic long term, it is important to recognize that future salaries year-to-year are often given as a percentage of your current salary. Therefore, the higher your starting salary, the more your raises will be both as a starting platform, and as a percentage. A higher salary is also a good bargaining tool at different locations if you choose to change jobs.

Statistically your life-time learning is higher if you stay in one job vs. jumping job-to-job. This is obviously dependent on your clinic, and job titles.
How Much to Ask For
Knowing how much to ask for as a starting salary, or as yearly raise, can be difficult to determine. It will depend on your experience, location, the current market, the industry standard, and your ability to negotiate. KICK ASS VETS addresses evaluating your worth as a New Grad and as an Experienced Vet in previous blogs. Below are are few other factors to consider when thinking about how much to ‘demand’:

COST OF LIVING: It is important that your salary will cover your cost of living at minimum. Work out what your rent, debt repayments, food, car payments, etc. will cost you. This will give you the lowest salary you can accept and pay for life.

MARKET RESEARCH: Determine what individuals of your experience, skill level, location and amount of work are making. This will help you determine the ‘Industry Standard’ which you can use as a benchmark.

3. BE REALISTIC: You want to find the balance between advocating for yourself and not being ‘greedy’. Demanding too high of a salary has a negative impact on negotiations, so asking for unrealistically high values may work against you.

4. DETERMINE YOUR RANGE: It is important to have a range in mind when going into a negotiation. With this when you receive an offer, or are asked for your ‘demand’, you are not blind-sided and you know how to react or feel about the offer.
packed bags on a sidewalk
Having a ‘Reservation Price’ is very helpful. Offers below this value, you know to pack your bags and walk away.
RESERVATION PRICE: Below this value you will walk away. This is determined by the amount of money you need to pay for life, below which it is not worth it to take the job.
DREAM PRICE: This is the realistic salary that would make you jump for joy. The highest salary you could hope to get for that particular job.
TARGET PRICE: This is the ‘in-between’ value where your negotiation will likely end up. You will want to ensure that your target is at least equivalent to the ‘industry standards’ that you have determined with your market research. Given the current market you will likely want this target to be higher than the industry standard.
We recommend asking for your ‘Dream Price’, expecting to end up near the ‘Target Price’. Some studies show a range of ~$5000 will give you a better outcome, and other studies show a set value has better success. KICK ASS VETS recommends a range of values for initial salary negotiations but a set value for yearly reviews/negotiations, as you will have better idea of what specifically is fair and appropriate.

By having your Reservation Price and Dream Price determined, you can properly ‘gauge’ an offer, and know when to walk away from a clinic, and when to take an offer.
Negotiation Tips:
THE ANCHOR: The ‘Anchor’ refers to the first value that is put on the table in terms of negotiations. The value of this ‘anchor’ plays a large role in negotiating salaries, and is the biggest indicator of where the final salary will end up. If you are able to state your salary ‘demand’ first then take your opportunity to set the ‘anchor’ high.
anchor on a dock
The ‘anchor’ : The first value put on the table in a negotiation, and one of the most important factors of final negotiation outcome.
JUSTIFICATION PHRASE: When you are going into a negotiation it is important to have a ‘justification’ phrase prepared outlining your skills and attributes, and what you will bring (or continue to bring) to the clinic. This 1-2min phrase should be well prepared, concise and clear, and delivered with confidence! See Interview Guidelines blog for more details. The Justification Phrase is followed by your salary ‘demand’.
The most important aspect of your negotiation, whether it is a new job or a yearly raise, is your 'Justification Phrase'. Have a 1-2min long phrase prepared highlighting why you are amazing, what value you bring to the clinic, followed by your salary 'demand'.

Example- New Job: 'Due to my experience working at busy general practice clinics, as well as some experience at emergency centers, and a history of being involved with handling client complaints, making rosters, and mentoring more junior staff, I KNOW that I am a valuable asset to any team. I will bring not only a confident and experienced veterinarian to your team, but one that will help mentor junior vets and nurses making your clinic a better place to work. I also will help increase the level of patient care by ensuring the medicine performed is up-to-date, and am willing to evaluate and update any clinical protocols as needed. For these reasons, and others, I feel a starting salary of ______ is more than fair.'

Example- Yearly Raise: 'I have been working with this clinic for ___ years, and in that time I have been involved with teaching and training new staff, updating protocols, picking up extra shifts when the clinic has needed, making schedules, handling client complaints, all on top of working to an excellent level of patient care. I also have increased the amount of diagnostics performed by being able to effectively communicate with owners, and also by getting more of our clientele on pet insurance with my pet insurance initiative. For all of these reasons I feel that I am well due for a pay raise, and feel that ___ is fair given what I contribute to this business.'
ARGUMENTS FOR HIGHER SALARY: When creating your Justification Phrase you want to highlight any skills, experience, or duties that make you more valuable. As a new grad you will highlight experience working in clinics, or talking to clients. As an experienced vet you will highlight any emergency experience, managing, roster/schedule making, mentoring/teaching, protocol creating/revisiting, undesirable hours/locations, on-call, client complaint handling, high 'sales' history, etc.

BENEFITS/PERKS: Salary is only one part of a contract. You can increase the value of your ‘package’ by negotiating other terms including moving bonuses/expenses, signing bonuses, increased vacation time, membership fees (VIN, journals, etc.), CE, cell phone, car allowance, different rates for extra shifts, etc. Ensure you get any terms written into your contract and check there aren't any stipulations/hidden conditions (ex. Must be an employee for 2 years first, etc.)

EMAIL NEGOTIATIONS: Communication via email is arguably the worst way to negotiate, as individuals ‘hide’ behind the screen, and also written word comes off as more aggressive than intended. If you are in a situation where you are forced to negotiate via email, sharing personal situations/stories to personalize the interaction improves success of negotiations.

MONEY ISN’T EVERYTHING: Salary is linked to job satisfaction, but there are other factors that contribute as well. These include a good working environment, education, health (good work-life balance), mentorship, location, potential for long-term employment, potential for advancement, etc. Think about the entire picture when picking a job. KICK ASS VETS looks a Picking Your First Job , Red Flags and Green Flags , when thinking about employment.
scale with a clock on one side, and money on the other.
Work-Life Balance is important, as is health, working environment, etc. Money isn’t everything when it comes to picking a job.
THE YEARLY RAISE: You should be pushing to have a performance review yearly at a minimum. As a new graduate you should ask for a review at 6 months as well. This is an opportunity to determine what is working, what isn’t working, and to ask for a raise! Prepare for this meeting as you would for your initial interview. Salary raises of 10-20% are acceptable for your first few years as you drastically increase your speed, skills and confidence. After this you would be in the range of about 5% a year until you reach the ‘maximum income’, after which your raises should reflect inflation, 2-3% a year.

TAKE YOUR TIME: Often when an employee makes a salary or raise ‘demand’ the employer will reply, ‘Thank you, we will look into the budget and get back to you.’ However, when offered a salary in a negotiation or interview we often feel pressured to answer immediately. If you are unsure of your response, take some time to think on it. Simply reply, ‘Thank you for your offer, I will think on it and get back to you.’ You have every right to take some time to assess any contract or offer.

GENDER DIFFERENCES: Veterinary medicine, despite being female dominated, is not exempt from the gender salary gap. Females are paid less even when factors such as experience, skill and hours are taken into account. Females are less likely to ask for raises, and females are harder on other females when we ask each other for raises. Women need to take an active step to decrease this gap! The first step is ASKING FOR A RAISE! Until we start advocating for ourselves and asking for appropriate compensation, we can’t blame anyone but ourselves. The second step is to be fair to one another. As working women we should be supporting eachother, not in constant competition!
'Mind The Gap' subway sign
The first step to closing the gender salary gap starts with women actually advocating for themselves! So go ask for a raise, it starts with you!
I agree box to be checked
Contracts are a part of our day-to-day lives, especially now when we click the “I agree” box for Terms and Conditions on a daily basis without thinking twice. Although you should read any contract you sign, none may be more important than your job contract.

Job contracts shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all document, they should be tailored to each employee-job situation. So, read over your job contract and have it changed and edited to address any particular needs. Also, once you negotiate your specific terms and conditions, ensure that it is written in your contract, don’t just have faith in your employer to uphold the conditions.
Always read your contract, and always get any specific terms you have negotiated written into your contract. Always ensure any terms present are reasonable and fair, including termination terms, and non-compete terms. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst!
If you are preparing for a yearly review, an interview negotiation, trying to determine if an offer is 'fair', had a bad review you want to revisit, or have any other concerns you need to address, you can always sign up for KICK ASS Consulting where we will help you prepare and fine-tune your negotiation strategy!
Written by Dr. Ann Herbst BSc, DVM

Published October 16th, 2019

Advocate for yourself, you are the only one that will!

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