Job Hunting...A Bit Like Dating Really

I am mentoring the most adorable, clever intern this summer. And just today, we discussed how women are paid less than their male counterparts (oh yes, still, something like 20% isn't it) partly because we don't negotiate like they do.

She would like to stay here. Her boss would like her to stay here. Of course, I would love for her to stay here, she is very capable and has an astounding work ethic for a college junior.

But as HR sometimes does...they are dragging their feet, disorganized and not helpful. Sigh.

So she is being courted by other places, big and glamorous, financial institutions who know how to woo interns. These are the eligible bachelors of the recruitment scene, the ones with the expensive dinners and rare wines.

My suggestion to her - having just learned this skill myself - was to treat this like dating.

If her boss/boyfriend drags his feet proposing to her - whether it is his fault or not - then absolutely, as any sensible gal would, she needs to hedge her bets.

Unlike the boyfriend scenario - she should enlist the help of her boss in dealing with this situation. Along the lines of "you're my number one, but I really need a job so I'm forced to hedge my bets...". This, I am certain, will be a call to action for her manager, who is a clever and talented man in his own right.

I was reminded of the critical time in my dating relationship with my husband. He wasn't sure how serious I was, and he knew there was some competition (he didn't know how much). So I got a cryptic email about his volleyball game last weekend and a 23 year old and some phone number exchanging.

For a lesser man, I would have dated the next MD who showed up with flowers. But...this wasn't a lesser man so I got very very jealous, and my now husband realized that yes, despite all the other chaps floating around, I did indeed want to be with him. Obviously, that ended well. I don't recommend his tactics for everyone.

My intern showed what I think might be typical female concerns - it would certainly have been my reaction before I got here. Wouldn't her boss be like, fine, go work for them. Or oh, you don't want us then do you. Actually, based on what I've researched and based on what I've experienced (in the boyfriend volleyball incident and negotiating for this job)

He is likely to think, oh if we want this gal, we'd better do something. By admitting her dilemma and how much it upsets her, I suspect she will have an ally, someone fighting for her to stay. He will understand she isn't playing Jimmy against Joey trying to get ANYONE to propose to her - she's trying to make it work. In the end, the girl needs a job. She'd rather it came from him.

What I tried to convey to her is that negotiation builds respect. Doing it collaboratively, with honesty and transparency builds trust too.

Why shouldn't she negotiate? She has a stellar GPA from a very top-flite school and she's worked like a bumblebee for them all summer. She is a budding rock star. I would really like for us to get her instead of some other Fortune 500 shop. Just like she's not going to marry the first Romeo who turns up with a set of wheels. Just like she's didn't pick any school that would accept her.

I don't know why this is so hard for us women. We're people-pleasers maybe? Or we don't want all those labels associated with being tough or difficult.

But on the other side - honest negotiation, partnership building and collaboration to get to a result both sides love isn't difficult. Men do it all the time. We can do it, too.


Jennifer Z.

Blogging on juggling rural New York home life with Manhattan worklife here at 


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