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Category: Earning

The Negotiator

The Negotiator

A recent study from Accenture found that the easiest way to get a raise or a promotion was to ask for one. Yup, 85% of those surveyed who said they had asked for a raise actually got something.

It reminded me of Nathan’s recent tutoring negotiation. He was recommended, by one of his old math teachers, to the mom of a seventh grader who needed help in algebra. Her first email to Nathan did not mention the fee she was willing to pay and Nathan came to me asking me whether he should state it in his response to her.

“What is your fee?” I asked him.

“I dunno,” he said. “What do you think?”

“Well, last summer you were paid $10 for one hour of tutoring per week. How did that work out?”

“That was fine. But he came to our house to be tutored. If they want me to drive to their house, then that takes time and gas money.”

He had obviously given this a little thought. Then he added, “Plus, I’ve had experience not only tutoring but working with kids of all ages during your summer math camps.”

“How does that affect how much you get paid?” I asked.

“I guess it shows that I’m qualified. I think I’m going to ask for $10 an hour if he comes here and $15 an hour if I have to drive there.”

He went on to ask if he should write all of that in the return email. So I offered a little direction.

“What about telling her that you are interested in tutoring her son but you’d like a little more information. Things like how many days per week and for how long and where the tutoring will be done. Before telling her your fee, let’s see, first, if she comes back with a number.”

This seemed reasonable to him so he drafted and sent her the email.

She was quick to respond. And she did offer her fee. $10/hour. She said it was what she discovered while doing research on tutors from another school. She also said that she’d like Nathan to do the tutoring once, maybe twice a week, at their house, and gave the address. It would take Nathan about 10 minutes to get there from our house.

“Now what?” he asked.

“That’s up to you. You need to respond with what you think is fair and reasonable.”

He had me read his return email before hitting the ‘send’ button:

“…I have also done tutoring in the past. My mom is a math teacher, and each summer I teach math camps with my mom (have been doing this for about 6 years). Additionally, I tutored one-on-one last summer. Last summer, I charged 10 dollars an hour, and lessons were held at my house. I would be willing to do the same deal, or, if you like, I could do lessons at your house, but I would charge 15 an hour, as I have to pay for gas and time spent driving.
Either way, let me know your thoughts and opinions.”

Her response back:
“I really like all of your math experience, sounds like you would be a good fit for what we are looking for. Depending on what part of town you live in, I am pretty sure I would prefer you coming to our house to help him.”

It has been three weeks since Nathan’s first tutoring session. He is scheduled for two times this week. “Time really flies by,” he said after coming home from his last session. “I love doing it.”

And I love that he felt confident to ask for what he wanted…and had the reasons to back it up. This may just be a little tutoring job, but it’s a big step in learning how to negotiate what you think you are worth. That’s a priceless lesson!

A Dose of Reality

A Dose of Reality

Nathan came down beaming into my office yesterday. He had been doing research for a project which requires him to think about his career goals. Nathan is lucky because he knows exactly what he wants to do when he “grows up”.

“I can make $61,000 starting off as a Foreign Service Officer,” he said. “And in 15 years, it will have raised to over $95,000!”

These numbers were different than the numbers he had shared with me the day before when he wasn’t as excited about the salary that came with his career choice.

“I just discovered that the numbers change depending on where you live. In Sacramento, the base salary is increased by 22%! And if I live in San Francisco, it’s 35%!”

Having been a full-time teacher for many years, I’m very aware of the salary step schedule. In a matter of seconds any teacher with their district’s schedule can determine exactly how much they would receive in salary depending on number of years and university credits. It’s simple really.

And this is very appealing to Nathan who thrives best when he knows. The discovery of this step schedule meant he could begin to plan out his future in more detail. A day earlier, when he was not aware of the adjustment for geographic location, he asked me a lot of questions about the kind of lifestyle one could live off of a beginning salary of $51,789.

“I guess I’ll have to drive a used G35,” he said. Nathan is very much into cars. John and I have no idea where this came from; we both see cars as a way to get from point A to point B the cheapest way possible. But the fact that he was willing to get the used version of his dream car showed he was trying to think realistically.

And after the discovery that he hadn’t adjusted the base salary for a starting FSO, he was ecstatic. “That’s pretty decent,” he said, beaming from ear to ear. “I’ll still have to drive a used car but this is a lot better.”

It’s hard to teach kids who mostly live in the here and now to think 10-20 years into their future. And most of them have idealistic ideas about what kind of salary they will actually be making when they first start out. Giving kids an idea of what people earn in different professions and comparing that to the cost of living for the kind of lifestyle they want, can be an enlightening experience, as it was for Nathan.

A touch of reality is always a good thing. But dreaming for a brand new G35 “completely blacked out, with an upgraded stereo system and bass, and an after-market body kit” should always be encouraged, too. Why can’t we have the things we want? Often, it’s a matter of figuring out how to get them. As Nathan takes his first job and continues down his career path, he’ll be presented with opportunities. How he handles those opportunities can impact his lifestyle. That, and being savvy with his money. Happily, he’s got that part handled. Bring on the career.

Job vs Career

Job vs Career

Nathan made an interesting comment recently at the dinner table.

“I love Sunday evenings. Not because there’s school the next day but because I get two days off from work.”

Nathan works at In and Out Burgers. It’s a great first job for a teenager. The hours are pretty accommodating to his school schedule and he gets to work with other kids his age. And then there’s the paycheck…and, apparently, the days off.

But this first job has taught Nathan that there’s a difference between a job and a career. Making French fries is not something he wants to turn into a career. It’s not very stimulating to him and although he likes the money, he has come to realize that his $10.25/hour is not going to get him that Infiniti G35 he really wants…with the souped up sound system…and after-market tail lights.

His comment made me think about my “job”. It’s a hodge-podge of stuff so it’s hard to describe succinctly what I do. I teach personal finance to kids, I create curriculum, I ghost write a lot about kids and money, I teach summer math camps, I train teachers, I speak at conferences, I even did a stint recently as a spokesperson where I traveled around the country. And everything I do, I love. That’s because I looked to my strengths and interests and turned those into something more than simply a job, they became my career.

Sure, there are days that I don’t want to “work”. And there are times I really look forward to the weekend. But mostly I can’t wait to get started in the morning. That’s what I want for my kids. To have them find their passions and figure out a way to turn those into a career in a way where their days off aren’t anticipated with longing.

But to get there, they’re going to have to experience a few more jobs. And those experiences will teach them a lot. They already have. Through their paper routes and fast food work, they have a greater appreciation for the value of a dollar and the hard work that cleaning tables, mopping floors, and poly-bagging newspapers requires. They’ve learned that those who go above-and-beyond get rewarded far more often than those who don’t. They’ve learned that treating customers and clients well can result in comments to the manager or tips in paychecks. And they’ve learned that filling orders and throwing papers is not a career. It’s a job.

I await in heavy anticipation to the careers both boys choose. My hope is that they follow their passions so that the weekends are just the days that come after Friday.

Gas Money Lessons

Gas Money Lessons

“Wish me luck,” Nathan said as he exited the room.

“For what?” John and I both asked.

“I’m about to call my manager and find out why I haven’t been put on the schedule.”

Nathan has been working at In and Out Burgers since the beginning of summer. During those non-school months he clocked a lot of hours. And he was happy. Gas money and then some. When school started, his schedule was reduced to two nights a week for about 3 hours each shift. Perfect for a high schooler still needing to focus on studies yet keep his tank full.

Then two weeks ago – nothing. Emails detailing his work schedule stopped coming. He simply was not being added to the schedule and this confused him. He loved his work and all those he worked with. He had established what he thought were good relationships not only with his working peers, but the managers, as well. So he was stumped.

As a parent, my first thought was that something must have happened. Perhaps he rang up the orders wrong…or maybe he was too slow to get the drive-through orders done…or he hadn’t mopped the floors carefully. No, he assured me, for the life of him, he couldn’t figure it out. And, honestly, I told him, if it was any of those things, a managers job is to tell his employees before they get removed from the schedule. But what concerned him the most was his lack of income. No income, no gas money. And although he has some money in savings, depleting it to fill up his car was not how he wanted to use it.

Since he didn’t ask me what he should do, I decided not to say anything. I figured if he wasn’t put on the next schedule he may be forced into action. In the meantime, he talked a lot about getting a job at Jamba Juice where his best friend works. Problem was…they weren’t hiring.

So that’s where we pick up this story. Nathan had decided that no gas money was worth taking the initiative to call his manager. Frankly, I was pleased. This would be good experience for him. But I wasn’t going to let him leave the room without making sure he had a game plan.

“Yup,” he said, “I know what I’m going to say. Very nicely I’m going to tell him that I haven’t been put on the schedule and that I’m confused about that. I’m going to ask if I’ve done anything wrong and if not then I’d like to know why my hours been reduced. And I want to let them know that I rely on this job because I have to pay for my own gas.”

And that is exactly what he did. Turns out, he had been inadvertently left off the schedule one week which made it easier to be left off in subsequent weeks. Mystery solved. And powerful lessons learned. First, if something doesn’t seem right, address it. Be open and respectful. Second, not having income is a pretty big deal. I’m glad that he’s now in a better position to empathize with those who have lost their jobs. Third, building up an emergency fund is important. Hopefully it will never have to be tapped into, but having it around is nice peace of mind.

Sure, it may just be gas money. But that gas money is teaching Nathan a lot of life lessons. I wonder if he’d learn more lessons if I made him pay for his insurance, too…