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Dear Jennifer,

Thanks for your question -- it's one that many people struggle with as they work to re-position their experience in order to do the work they are passionate about. The short answer to your question of whether you should be prepared to take a salary cut is "Perhaps, but not so fast".

We have spent more than a decade talking to women in business. Our research shows that women are especially susceptible to "getting in their own way" because they tend to concentrate on their weaknesses rather than their strengths when changing careers. The reasons are complicated but are related to the fact that often women are reluctant to "over promise" and "under-deliver". As a result, they often approach the negotiation process suspecting they will have to take less. This expectation then drives their thinking. "I haven't had any formal teaching experience", they reason, "so why should they want to pay me what an experienced teacher makes? Or, they worry that their skills are not exactly in alignment with the competencies for the new position.

So what steps can you take?

1. Inventory skills. Think broadly about skill sets and assets. Before you can feel more confident at the bargaining table, you have to know exactly what you bring to the table. Look specifically at the competencies for the position you want and map your skills to them. You may be pleasantly surprised at how many you have! Also be realistic about any gaps that exist and plan to close them -- you may want to take a course or, in your situation, get some teaching experience by doing workshops as a volunteer.

2. Gather information. To negotiate effectively you must believe that your argument is defensible. A solid informational foundation helps support that conviction. With the pertinent facts on hand you wonít be caught off stride when pointed questions come your way. You can supply concrete reasons why your proposal makes sense -- why, for example, the salary you're requesting is reasonable when compared with the market.

3. Develop options. Not only do you have to be clear about what you bring to the table; you constantly have to evaluate where you want to sit. Identify your options. Usually these fall within a range. Ask yourself how practical or doable each option is. Then think about the other personís options. This exercise gives you a good idea of how much leverage you have. You wonít be tempted to take the path of least resistance or to overplay your hand. Here's where you may want to consider proposing bonuses tied to project success. Be sure, however, that the criteria for "success" are clearly defined and that a solid timeline is agreed upon.

These three steps will enable you to answer your own question as you make this impending career move -- and, reevaluating them periodically will position you to proactively manage your talent for the future.

Best wishes,
Deborah M. Kolb, Carol Frohlinger and Judith Williams

To read more of these authorsí works, please turn to their four articles in the April/May, 2002 and February, 2003 editions of The Negotiator Magazine. Drs. Kolb and Williams have also recently published a new book entitled Everyday Negotiation: Navigating the Hidden Agendas in Bargaining that is reviewed in this monthís Readerís Review. You may also visit them at their firmís web site at

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