This is part 4 of our 5-part series in which we break down the various elements you may want to consider when entering a job offer negotiation. For all 24 elements, check out The Lifestyle Calculator, a tool that can be used by job candidates to weigh what it most important to them in a compensation package.
In our previous chapter, we dove into participation, covering key job offer topics related to equity, vesting, and buyouts. These are some of the most critical elements of a well crafted job offer. Make sure to give Chapter 3 a read so you’re well versed next time you enter a negotiation that touches on those topics.
In this chapter, we discuss topics of purpose – things related to career growth, development, and employee benefits. For those early in their careers, or those simply trying to make the most out of their next employment arrangement, these are must-read topics. You might learn that some companies offer perks and/or programs you never even knew existed.
As always, our goal in writing these posts is to empower you as the reader. At 10x Ascend, we hope to have a hand in making your next (or current) job offer negotiation better than your last.
Budget or Programs for Education/Professional Development
In any job, you should expect to experience at least some level of professional development. By nature, taking on responsibility at any company will teach you how to manage your time, meet deadlines, collaborate with coworkers, and more – all of which will serve to accelerate your professional growth.
But some companies (more often enterprises, as opposed to startups) take the concept of professional development to the next level. Whether it be through an organization-specific development program or a higher-education subsidy, some go the extra mile.
Here’s a list from Glassdoor featuring a handful of companies with some of the strongest professional development programs. For context as to what a “professional development” program entails, we can reference that of Goldman Sachs. As described on Glassdoor:
“High-performing undergraduate and graduate students in their final year of study—regardless of major—can apply to Goldman Sachs’ New Analyst Program, which takes in students with little professional experience and provides them with the resources, skills and network needed to achieve success in the world of finance.”
This is just one example of a company-specific program, but you get the idea. For a recent grad looking to begin a career in finance, this would be an invaluable experience. From the sound of it, the company essentially offers its own version of grad school.
If you’re looking to actually go to grad school, some companies offer support for that too. In keeping with the finance examples, look no further than Deloitte. The financial giant reimburses up to $10,000 annually for tuition costs of approved MBA programs (you must first be with the company for a couple years, though).
It might sound like a one-sided deal, but companies offering these programs are often just as invested as the employees themselves. After all, investments made in a company’s employees are investments in the company itself. Not to mention, some promotions and job titles require one to obtain certain graduate degrees. If you’re pegged as someone worthy of climbing the corporate ladder, you might actually be asked to go to school!
More commonly however, companies will have a budget for less-costly learning experiences. Maybe they’ll offer to put you through some classes for a specific skill or certificate. Or perhaps they’ll send you to an event or conference focusing on your area of expertise.
Bottom line, it’s worth it for companies to offer these professional development perks, if nothing else, for retention purposes. Plus, for most Fortune 500 companies, the cost is a drop in the bucket. Keep this in mind when negotiating your next job offers – are there opportunities to accelerate growth beyond typical day-to-day development?
Room for Growth
Opportunities for Promotions and/or More Responsibility
Just as with professional development programs, opportunities for growth are a worthwhile consideration before signing a job offer. The two are similar, however “room for growth” is particularly defined by your goals and aspirations.
Maybe “growth” to you means climbing the corporate ladder, making vertical progress towards a position with more responsibility and power (and subsequently, higher pay or more equity). Or maybe you’re a QA specialist, looking to transition into a software development role. “Growth” for you would be defined by horizontal progress into an entirely new vertical.
Every company is structured differently, so growth opportunities will of course vary on a case by case basis. You’ll likely find a more fluid structure at a startup, where employees wear lots of hats and can more swiftly rise through the ranks and jump from position to position.
On the other hand, climbing the ladder at a Facebook or Google is possible, but likely more difficult. A key benefit however is that in theory, there is a ton of “room” for growth since these companies are so big. At a startup, there’s only so much room, as the company itself hasn’t expanded to the same degree of a mature enterprise.
At a large company, you’ll likely be more bound to your field of expertise. If you’re a software engineer, you’ll probably remain a software engineer, but maybe you jump from Junior to Senior to Director over the course of some years.
Whatever the situation, you owe it to yourself to inquire about opportunities at the company. This should be a critical point in your talks and negotiations, as it will help you evaluate if your career aspirations align with what is possible at the company.
Vice President, Director, Manager, Associate, etc.
A lot has been written on whether or not job titles really matter. For many companies, they’re a necessary part of organizational structure. But for employees themselves, the importance of titles seemingly depends on personal opinion.
We’ve had many clients for whom title is totally unimportant, largely because they associate it with ego. While respectable, we actually do our best to convince them otherwise as titles can have a big impact beyond that one job, as we’ll explain.
We won’t bore you with a massive org chart on the various titles you find at most companies. It’s pretty simple – as you rise in prominence at a company, your title tends to follow suit.
As a dramatic example, maybe you start your career at a company as an Engineering Intern, and get promoted multiple times to Junior Engineer, Senior Engineer, Lead Engineer, VP Engineering, all the way to SVP Engineering, or CTO.
Each of those titles communicates a handful of things about your job and career – from how much you might be making, to how many people you should be managing, to how much equity you should be receiving. For many, titles are important for these reasons.
Keep in mind that an employer might try to box you into a certain title (or level) so they can make an offer on par with what is considered “within the band” for that position. Our recommendation is to always familiarize yourself with the responsibilities of the title being advertised. If your abilities exceed what is typical for that title, don’t let it go unnoticed. Job offers should be negotiated based around what you’re bringing to the table, not some arbitrary title.
Also keep in mind that titles have an implicit impact on future job opportunities. This is another reason why titles are sometimes a topic of negotiation. Whether or not it’s fair, future employers might screen your suitability by first looking at your positions held at previous jobs. This is similar to salary in that your next job might pick up where you left off at your previous role. If your resume displays you were a Junior SWE at your previous job, your next employer might box you into what would be the next step up – a Mid-Level SWE, for example.
To Whom You Report and Who Reports to You
Reporting structure is tied closely to the previous section, as your title likely determines who is above or below you in the organizational structure.
As with many of these sections, we can only offer so much general advice, as the structure of your company will be unique. For more tailored advice, feel free to reach out and let us know a little about your situation.
With that said, we recommend inquiring about both who you’ll be reporting to, and who will be reporting to you (if applicable). Armed with this information, you should be able to form a pretty good vision for your day-to-day work dynamic at the company. It will also give you a chance to familiarize yourself with your would-be team and/or coworkers.
If you’ve had a handful of jobs, you might know how you work most effectively as it relates to being managed or managing others. It’s totally fair game to ask questions regarding how much autonomy you will or will not have, as this could partly determine how successful you would be in the role.
And sometimes it’s even appropriate to specify the reporting structure in your deal. When you work at a fast growing company and you start out reporting to the CEO, but a year later you’re 3 levels away, that might not be the most desirable situation.
Perks Provided by the Company
Fringe benefits are typically defined as perks outside of your salary. This could be health insurance, sick pay, employee discounts, free meals, company vehicles, discounts to gyms, museums, coaching services, and more.
The tech industry in particular has seen somewhat of a fringe benefits revolution in the past decade. Unicorn startups and highly profitable enterprises are able to take care of their employees in ways we had never seen until recently.
Facebook is a classic example. In the words of a former Facebook employee in a Glassdoor review:
“Some perks at my (non Menlo Park) office: free dry-cleaning, $200 Lyft credit per month, wellness reimbursements ($240 for interns $720/yr for FTE), 3 meals a day at the cafeteria, and BFF benefit ($25 reimbursed per week for an activity you do with 3 other FB employees).”
Facebook, along with Apple and Google, also now offer oocyte cryopreservation (commonly known as “egg freezing”) as a benefit. As another Facebook review puts it, “Too many benefits to list, and sometimes too many to take advantage of!”
For these companies, negotiating said perks into your deal isn’t even necessary. They’re just part of the reward of landing yourself a position at one of the most competitive tech companies in the world.
Non-tech behemoths can still scrape together solid benefits packages too. We’ve just covered the extreme as far as companies that offer a lot. If you’re like most, you’d probably be happy with a more standard set of perks, like paid sick days, favorable vacation time, occasional free meals, wellness stipends, etc.
Chances are a company won’t create a custom set of benefits for just one employee. So you’d probably be wise to research a bit about the benefits situation at a given company before signing. Or ask directly to discover what kind of perks you’ll be receiving once aboard.
Permission to Do Projects Outside of the Company
Full time employment agreements often include a clause defining whether or not the employee has the contractual freedom to take on additional work with other companies.
There are levels to the severity of this agreement. Some place no restrictions on the employee. Others place restrictions, but only if the work is in a similar vertical. And most severely, some define that the employee must work exclusively for the company, and no one else.
If you’re keyed into the gig economy at all, you know how frequently people are hired as independent contractors to do low-commitment jobs. Some take advantage of this on weekends, or during off hours to pull together additional income.
If you’re someone who wants to take on outside projects, or at least keep your options open, this is an important distinction to make in your employment agreement. Signing into exclusivity for any contract requires a heightened level of attention and diligence. The last thing you want is to realize you’ve put unforeseen restrictions on yourself that, if broken, would jeopardize your standing at the company.
If you have existing outside projects or sit on any boards, it is advisable to get approval in writing that you can continue to do so as part of your employment package.
Conclusion on Purpose in Job Offer Negotiations
A common theme with much of our content is that a job offer or compensation package often goes much deeper than people realize. Whereas your salary might seem like the all important aspect of your offer, the truth is that is rarely the case.
When you consider that a company might pay your way through an MBA program, or offer a benefits package worth thousands of dollars in value, it becomes clear that there is always much more to the deal.
The ultimate negotiation craft is being able to identify pockets of value that add to the overall package being negotiated. We’ve spent more than two decades working on this craft, so we encourage you to reach out if you’d like to chat about your current or upcoming negotiation.