In 2014 I changed positions at the university. My new job is my dream, a role I’ve wanted for years. I love my department, colleagues, and my direct supervisor is absolutely awesome. So when the offer finally came through, you would assume that I just jumped at it. Nope. As a career professional, I felt a sense of duty to all of my clients to negotiate the offer. You’d think it would be easy for me, right? Ha! Like many women out there, just the thought of negotiating made me nauseous, and actually doing it was terribly hard. What if he’d rescinded the offer? Decided that I was greedy, or a b—–? Of course he didn’t, but the point isn’t what he actually thought but the wild paranoia that ran through my mind. Women don’t tend to negotiate on our own behalf. We negotiate for others, advocate for them, and place others’ best interests first, but when it comes to our own benefits packages we falter.

If you think negotiation doesn’t really matter in comparison to potentially losing an offer, think again. Stanford professor, Margaret A. Neale uses a great example to demonstrate the importance of negotiating salary. Imagine that you are offered $100K. You accept, but your colleague negotiates an offer of $107K. Who cares, right? You’re earning 6 figures! Wait for it… Compensation is compounded (like interest) so your starting balance matters. Your colleague retires after 35 years, but you would have to work an additional 8 years to retire with the same salary they had reached. Ouch!

And for my male readers, if you think you’re free and clear, forget it. Stats show that only 57% of men negotiate their first offer after university, so that leaves 43% of you in the same position.

Whether you’re negotiating a job offer or angling for a reassessment of your current role, you need to make a solid case to your employer. Remember that it’s not about what you want, or what you think you’re worth, but the value that you show to the person sitting across the table from you. Make sure that you have proof of your merit. That means keeping track of your actions and accomplishments throughout the year, and framing that within the bigger organizational picture. How does your work translate into value for them?

You may also want to negotiate things other than salary. Vacation, benefits, start date… There are many options to negotiate. Not sure where to start? Then head on over to Harvard and listen to negotiation master Deepak Malhotra. A fantastic resource for anyone negotiating an offer, and I should know. I used it myself.