When Your Dream Job Won’t Budge on Comp



Updated October 11, 2023
Land Your Dream Design Job

You’re reading an excerpt of Land Your Dream Design Job, a book by Dan Shilov. Filled with hard-won, personal insights, it is a comprehensive guide to landing a product design role in a startup, agency, or tech company, and covers the entire design interview process from beginning to end, for experienced and aspriring designers. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.

You’ve played your cards right, done your homework, and negotiated with multiple offers, but still the company won’t budge. Hey, at least you’ve tried and you’re still ahead of most folks who don’t even ask. You still have a couple of options.

Shift Amount of Salary versus Equity

If you’re negotiating with a startup, the company simply may not have the money to give you a higher salary, as everyone is already taking a pay cut. Potentially, this is an opportunity either to ask for an increase in equity if you think your compensation package isn’t in line or to better understand how subsequent rounds of raising money will affect your compensation.

Finally, as a method of last resort you can also scale down salary in favor of equity or go the reverse route and ask for more cash with a lower equity stake. In doing so, you need to understand how this will impact your future performance reviews. Are you only going to be compensated with raises in extra cash, or can extra equity come into play as well?

Focus on Growth

Regardless of where you are in your career, optimize for growth. Given the choice between a job that pays slightly more and one that helps you grow more—go for the latter. It’s easier to negotiate for a raise or a higher salary when you have the skills and the results to back it up.

So how can you negotiate for growth? Bring up the fact that you’re excited to learn and contribute on key projects. This could be access to key individuals (mentors, for example), specific projects, or teams that can be high impact. These things may cost little to nothing for the company, while giving you long-term potential for your career.

Final Words on Negotiation

When you’re joining a company, you’re not just getting paid—you’re also buying into their culture. Ideally, you’ll end up in a place that has good salary, good work, and good people. The day-to-day will be far more important to your long-term sense of achievement and success. If you’re always stressed about the commute, or if it feels like the co-workers don’t have your back, it will eventually translate to not just worse performance—it will ultimately lead to burnout, forcing you to look for another job.

important Negotiation is a critical skill for designers. It’s not just something you magically get better at during a few critical moments where it counts. We don’t get to practice it as often as we need. Aside from practicing, it helps to learn what to practice. If I had to recommend one book on negotiation, it would be Never Split the Difference. Written by an FBI hostage negotiator, the tactics are made applicable to many areas of life, “in the boardroom or at home.”

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