General Assembly’s Salary Negotiation Panel

General Assembly’s Salary Negotiation Panel

I head down Illinois Street towards the bridge. Where is Google Maps leading me?

I have a feeling this is a speakeasy.

A woman in a black dress stops. I follow her inside After-Words Books. Through the bookstore is an open space for tonight’s event.

Most people are seated, but others grab a plate full of the usual spreads laid out on the table in the back. Though women form a line, there is little communication.

It’s harder to find a familiar face tonight.

Three groups: SheSays Chicago, United Women in Business, and General Assembly sponsored tonight’s event, which is why it seems bigger than the usual SheSays events I attend, and less familiar.

I go to the white board, where the panelists names are laid out and blank spaces follow. After the event, twenty-five lucky attendees get to sit down with a panelist of their choice for more tailored career and salary negotiation advice. My eyes meet a warm smile. It’s Dana Lopp, one of tonight’s panelists. I write my name next to her’s.

“I have a corporate background,” she informs me. She has worked for United Airlines and more recently works for Boeing in Human Resources.

“I have more of a background in small business and entrepreneurship,” I divulge. We decided that I should talk with Jim Conti, a recruiter for Sprout Social. It was a very good life choice.

The Panelists:

  • Molly Savage, Marketing Manager at Devbridge Group
  • Brittani Shaw, Sr. Director of Talent & Development at Spring Rewards
  • Trina Uzee, Creative Director at Allstate
  • Dana Lopp, Value Stream Leader – Talent Management & Organization Effectiveness at Boeing
  • Ann Hoeger, Freelance Strategist and CPG Executive
  • Jim Conti, Director of Talent at Sprout Social


Salary is hard to talk about. You feel greedy or ungrateful. There’s a lot of advice out there. Take it and then apply it if applicable. We are in different industries, working with different types of people with different budgets. Knowing where the company stands financially and the value they can offer—be that their company name on your resume or an open bar tab next door—will help you know if this is the company for you (a start-up is riskier than a Fortune 500 company) and if it will help you take your next career step.


Know Your Industry:

Each industry is different. Jim Conti, a recruiter advises, “Understand the industry and the role within that industry.”

Calculate the Costs:

Trina Uzee, who works at Allstate, calculated the cost of living to be 30 percent higher than Dallas when she accepted an offer in Chicago. To her surprise, “Housing was 100 percent more than Dallas.”

Conti suggests using the calculator on CNN Money when relocating.

“Don’t trust Glassdoor,” advised Conti, “Someone came from an interview and was angry and wrote a review on Glassdoor.”

When to Mention Salary:

“Recruiters need to know if you are in the ballpark,” Conti pleads, counter to career articles that instruct applicants not to discuss salary up front.


With recruiters, know two things. First, that there are two types, internal and third-party. Second, know that recruiters have insight that you don’t have. Use that to your advantage. But, also know that they don’t get paid unless you take the job. Proceed with caution.

Don’t Get Personal:

Uzee warns, “Don’t turn [negotiation] personal.”

She told a story of a young, single mom who worked from home. She was not receiving the same opportunities as other colleagues. When this employee, who worked from home, was asked to come into the office, she turned it around and said, “You have to pay for my daycare.”

When negotiating, framing is everything.

“She didn’t say her value.”

So, what do you do when you get the job offer?

“Don’t go to the number!” Uzee says, “Start with your excitement. Then, talk about the job. Make them feel great about the decision they made.”

Find the Value, Not the Number:

There is more to negotiation than salary.

One of the panelists, Uzee, works in a corporate setting. She was happy to report that she is 5 minutes away from the office. “No commute!” she smiles, “What did that save me on my life? And wear and tear on my soul?”

There’s more.

“I never work on a Friday,”  Uzee adds.

When it comes to stock options,  “Know your share in the pie,” Molly Savage, the moderator warns, “People throw numbers at you like 2,000 shares.”

Corporate is one scenario. Another is freelance.

Ann Hoeger, a freelance strategist, negotiates on everything. Don’t fixate on a number, rather dig deeper to find what other value your work can bring such as networking opportunities and additional skill-sets.

With freelance work in particular, weigh your options, But, she warns, “You have to be fine with walking away.”

Your Annual Review:

The best time to negotiate is when you are offered the job. It sets the bar.

“As you negotiate salary, assume you won’t get a raise 2 years from now,” says Brittani Shaw, who has a background in start-ups.

However, there are a few opportunities to negotiate during your time with the company. One of those times is during an annual review. Before your annual review, think about the work that you have done and how it will position you for a raise. But also, know if the right people are seeing your work.

“See what your perceived image is at the company,” Hoeger informs.

Remember that when you negotiate, you are making trade offs. You don’t have to accept an offer.

“Go bitch to your friends,” says Uzee. As for when you decide (or not decide) to leave an office, do so gracefully.

“It’s a small community. When you leave a place, be the most professional you can be.”

Negotiation Cheat Sheet:

  • Negotiate in person, not via email.
  • Go higher, not lower. You need a buffer.
  • You need the right person to see your work.
  • Negotiate on more than salary. Other things include: signing bonus, type of work, who you report to, commute (a work from home combination), training, closing costs, stock options, etc.)

Upcoming Events:

SheSays Chicago hosts free, monthly events. Join the Facebook group for updates about future events. This summer, SheSays Chicago launched “Who’s Your Mamma,” a mentoring program which will be meeting quarterly.

United Women in Business is partnering with Bright Pink to talk about health—ovarian health that is. Join them for a health educational workshop on Wednesday, September 16, 2015 between 6:00 – 7:00 pm. For more details and to RSVP, please see Eventbrite.

General Assembly offers coursework to help professionals gain skills through part-time courses and workshops. September courses include: Digital Marketing, Data Analytics, etc.

Salary Negotiation Panel & Workshop Chicago


Event Location: General Assembly (23 E. Illinois Street, Chicago, IL 60611)

Event Host: SheSays Chicago + General Assembly + United Women in Business

Event Date and Time: Tuesday, September 1, 2015 6:00-8:00 pm

Discovered Through: Invite

Bonus: 5 minutes of one-on-one coaching with Jim Conti (love him)

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