Master your negotiation skills with Vanessa Vanderhoek

26 October 2017

Jessica Abramovic

Jessica is the Communications and Events Coordinator at YWCA Canberra.

In this interview, we talk with Vanessa Vanderhoek, the She Leads Workshop facilitator for Negotiation Skills, to learn key aspects of mastering the art of negotiation, and discover what other practical advice we can expect to learn on the night.  

Vanessa Vanderhoek is the founder of Flexible Working Day, a Founding Director of Career Inside Track, a freelance coach for FlexCareers, and a volunteer Psychological First Aid Officer with the Australian Red Cross. Over the past 15 years, Vanessa has held senior executive roles in government and not-for-profit organisations, and held a 10-year role with one of the “Big 4” professional services firms.

Describe your company, Career Inside Track.

Career Inside Track is my business where I support individuals to get a competitive edge in their career, through career coaching. I work with them to put their best foot forward when applying for the next role in their career, negotiate salaries, and bust their imposter syndrome. I also deliver innovative leadership development and flexible work programs for organisations.

In June this year I launched Flexible Working Day, with the aim of making flexible work available for everybody. It is a point of frustration for me that organisations focus on flexible work for mothers, but not for all staff. If everyone has access to flexible work, including women without children, men, and fathers, then the stigma associated with flexible working, often called the part time penalty, can be reduced and more people will access flexible working arrangements.

What can participants expect to learn from the She leads Workshop: Negotiation Skills?

This is going to be very practical, hands on, self-discovery type workshop. I have designed it to assist you to identify your strengths and blind spots, and to develop strategies that you can implement and work through.

Attending workshops and seeking out career consultants is highly beneficial for anybody looking to increase their negotiation skills, as these platforms are based inherently in skills building. By taking the time to learn, hear successful and unsuccessful case studies, and ask questions and work through any issue you may have, you are far more likely to be successful in your negotiations.

Why do you feel that currently, women are less successful in negotiating than their male colleagues?

This is an interesting question, because while I am aware that women do struggle more than men, I have recently had male clients seeking advice too. I would say that for women the main issue that contributes to their issues in negotiations is gender stereotypes and societal attitudes towards women – after all, we have been raised to be ‘nice, polite and modest’ and not honestly put ourselves first.

Negotiations are, when you boil it down, about asking for what you want. Women have historically had issues with asking for what they want, talking about themselves, and discussing money. This is because from a very young age, we are taught to be modest, and are scolded for being confident,  speaking up, and  being assertive. When girls and women display personalities and behaviours that would likely see them succeed in negotiations, they are often called bossy, loud, and annoying.

Societal attitudes towards women also play a part in the issues women face when negotiating. Take for example the gender pay gap, which currently sits at 15.7 per cent as a national average. The gender pay gap is just one piece of a larger puzzle that shows that society does not treat women equally and does not place equal worth on the work completed by women. We saw just last week how the gender pay gap can affect negotiations, when Lisa Wilkinson resigned from Nine News over issues with her contract.

How can women build up the confidence to have negotiation conversations with their employers?

Essentially, it boils down to doing your homework and understanding the specific environment and boundaries within which you are negotiating. If you are aware of the limits that you can negotiate within, which can be quite limited, then you are more likely to feel confident about your negotiation.

You should also understand the two basic types of negotiations that can occur.

The first is a negotiation within your current organisation with your current employer. This type of negotiation will usually be more difficult if you are seeking a raise or promotion, but it will be easier if you are seeking flexible working arrangements. This is because your existing employer knows you, has a rapport with you, trusts you, and is aware of your existing abilities and commitment to your job. This knowledge will make it easier for them to agree to flexible working arrangements, but interestingly, the dynamic often makes it harder to request a raise or promotion.

The second type of negotiation, where you attempt to negotiate your salary or position at a new work place, is often easier. This is because negotiations come back to power, and when you have three people that have interviewed you and want to hire you, you hold a lot of power. In this situation, you should be confident in your ability to negotiate, but you should also be considered in your approach and await the right moment.

How can women be sure that what they are asking for is fair to both themselves and the organisation?

There are some tricks you can use to understand and quantify your value. One tip is to look up publicly available data on employment and salary figures, and place yourself within it. For example, you can look up salary reports published by recruitment companies, such as the Hays Salary Guide. These reports contain many different industries, the position levels within those organisations, and the pay scales for those levels.

By sourcing this data and quantifying your worth, you are able to match your skills within your organisation to the salary that the origination ordinarily offers. This ensures that what you are asking for is both fair to yourself, your skill level, and sits within what your organisation already considers fair.

However, this is only one piece of the puzzle, and I am looking forward to exploring this more deeply during the workshop.

What is one important thing that people often forget to do or say in negotiations?

The biggest thing people often forget in negotiations is that the focus should always be on gaining a win-win outcome. A good negotiation is one where both you and the organisation win, and if you forget this, the negotiation will often fail.

This is because negotiations immediately become difficult when emotions are at play. It is important to seek an equitable outcome for all parties involved. For this reason, do your homework and leave your emotions at the door.

How can women better back themselves?

We need to stop listening to the stories that we make up in our own mind. Often, I hear women saying to themselves that the negotiation won’t go well, that they are going to fail, and that they shouldn’t even try.

I believe women need to make up positive stories and positive alternatives in their minds that they can tell themselves. We need to talk positively to ourselves and we need invest in skills that will better us and increase our confidence.

If you are ready to increase your confidence and learn the skills required to broach a negotiation conversation and succeed in your request, book your ticket to this workshop today. Tickets are limited.

You can also download Vanessa’s FlexAbility Kit now, and discover what flexible working arrangements work best for you and your employer.

Finally, learn more about Vanessa by reading these articles:

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