Vital Corps: Fabulous Femme Interview

My friend Kara Martin Snyder of Vital Corps Wellness inspires me to live a passionate life spiked with joy. Kara is a health and lifestyle strategist who has a background in startups, finance and pilates. She’s also a gifted writer and inspired speaker who infects me with enthusiasm every time I have the privilege of crossing paths with her.

I’m honored to be featured on Kara’s Project Fabulous Femme. Here’s an quick excerpt:

what do you think modern women should give less of a shit about?

Setting our future selves up for success takes focus, so that means less brain space and resources spent holding ourselves to unattainable and outdated standards of femininity. I’d love to see modern women stop worrying that we’re not thin, quiet, pretty or likable enough.

When I say “modern women” I’m of course talking about myself. As a recovering people pleaser who loves to be liked, I’m all too familiar with the paralysis, fear and shame induced from trying to meet contradictory and unhealthy expectations put on modern women.

Just a few weeks ago, I caught myself standing in front of the mirror inspecting the cellulite and pinching the fat in my thighs and saying, “Ugh, I gotta do something about this.” For awhile I kept looking at other women on the streets and comparing my jiggly thighs to their thin and flawless ones, feeling undesirable. Which I know to be a load of horse garbage. My future self doesn’t give a shit to about that kind of stuff, and neither should I.

What’s your favorite non-negotiable act of self-care you do to decompress or recharge on the regular?

In the morning, the first thing I do is to pour myself a cup of tea, open my journal and jot down whatever I dreamt overnight, am feeling right now or still occupied with. I let the words sprawl out, unedited and unruly for about a page or two or three. Then, I write a list of things I’m grateful for and state an intention for that day. It helps me be grounded, positive and focused. Journaling in the morning is like a cup of joe for the soul.

Full interview here

Brags and Struggles of 2015. New Resolve for 2016.

One of my favorite things in 2015 is being a member of New York Toastmasters. I became a member a year ago and have since given ten prepared speeches and competed in two speech contests. In fact, several blog posts here were originally presented as speeches at New York Toastmasters meetings. I have a lot of devotion and a strong case of the warm and fuzzies for this club.

As the year draws to an end, I’m reminded of how exactly a year ago I got fired up for 2015 after hearing a Toastmaster speech by Danielle Mercurio. Danielle is a gifted speaker and life coach who calls herself an urban gypsy. She’s into New Age, astrology and kundalini yoga.

In December 2014, as part of a prepared speech for Toastmasters, Danielle shared with us an auspicious insight from numerology.

She said 2015 promised to be a year of great abundance. This is because, in numerology, 2015 — or 2, 0, 1, 5 — add up to year number 8. Turn 8 on its side and it’s the symbol for infinity. Year number 8 signifies “achievement, a year for making great strides in business, promotion, monetary compensation, and accumulation of possessions.”

As a hustler, negotiation coach and ambitious person, I really dug this. I even posted about it here.

And I’m very pleased and very proud to report that, YES, Danielle’s prediction came true. 2015 has indeed been a year of abundance and achievement for me.

Allow me to brag.

At my day job, the company’s revenues grew by more than 10 fold over a span of one year. Things got very busy and exciting. I did well for myself in terms of monetary compensation. I negotiated and got a bump in title as well.

With the extra money, I bought myself some nice clothes and a pair of really lovely Italian shoes. Mom got new furniture for her new apartment. As a wedding gift, my sister and brother-in-law got an expensive rice cooker (an essential appliance in a Korean kitchen). I bought my friends fifteen dollar cocktails. I felt like a hotshot.

It’s also been a great year for travel. In the spring, I achieved the dream of an Asian American nerd — I made it to Harvard. I attended a day long symposium for negotiation trainers hosted by Harvard’s Program on Negotiation. That was really fun.

In 2015, I led ten Negotiation Prowess workshops / webinars.

And I can’t leave out the pretty trophy sitting on my bookcase that I received for winning second place at Toastmasters district level humorous speech contest in the fall?

It’s been a year of great abundance and achievement.

BUT — are you ready for the plot twist?

What I learned is that having material abundance doesn’t shield you from its dark underbelly — scarcity.

Scarcity is the fear and shame of “not enough.” Scarcity is a daily struggle we all experience.

To paraphrase Lynne Twist, fundraiser and global activist, from her book “Soul of Money” —

For many of us, our first waking thought is, “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is, “I don’t have enough time”…

Before we even sit up in bed and our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something.

Then it continues at work, where everyday is a struggle against not having done enough, not knowing enough, not being liked enough, not whatever enough to meet the growing demands of our customers and employers.

Then at night, when we’re back in bed, our minds are “racing with a litany of things we didn’t get or didn’t get done that day.”

In this mindset — or hamster wheel — of scarcity, we often fall victim to the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee. The job of this Committee is to keep you feeling small and scared, regardless of how abundant your external circumstances are.

When you don’t feel good enough, you feel anxious and afraid to reach out and ask, to move forward. Scarcity breeds negotiation anxiety, handwringing and can get you stuck.

In 2015, I struggled with scarcity, just like this, every day.

I had to confront my own scarcity mentality just a few weeks ago while we were apartment hunting. My partner wanted to go really BIG as in space and as in rent, and my knee jerk reaction was, “No way we can afford that!” (when actually, yes, we could).

Underneath this was the irrational fear that somehow I’ve peaked professionally. That the great abundance of 2015 was as good as it gets. The gravy train is coming to a halt.

Brene Brown, expert on shame resilience and vulnerability, teaches that, to free yourself of the fear and shame of “not enough,” you have to reach out, connect and take courage in someone who accepts you as you are, with compassion, not judgment or shame.

This means showing up to engage while risking uncertainty and emotional exposure, knowing that we are enough.

This takes owning our stories, our successes, our achievements, our struggles with scarcity, our imperfections.

So I shared my fear with my partner. I told him about my hesitation. My partner looked me in the eye, reassured me, “Jamie, we’re in this together, and we will continue to move forward in our lives.”

He connected with me, showed me confidence and courage.

He showed me we don’t have to be afraid of greater abundance because of the fear in our heads.

We can be brave.

In just a matter of few days is our move-in date, my birthday, and the New Year.

Inspired by Danielle’s speech a year ago, I looked up 2016 or year number 9 in numerology and learned that it signifies personal transformation. It’s the year to fulfill or bring to completion personal dreams; it’s also the year to be more compassionate, tolerant and forgiving.

This is perfect because the antidote to scarcity is cultivating a sense of worthiness, the confidence in knowing that you are enough just as you are. To be this brave would take a transformation. To be this brave would require through compassion, courage and vulnerability.

So I’m making this my New Year’s Resolution – to cultivate bravery rooted in worthiness.

True abundance starts within us.

When we are brave, we can be abundant inside and out.

Be brave with me in 2016.

How to Negotiate like a Hostage Negotiator

How could you do this to me?

I slammed the door shut.

NO! I’m not coming out of this room!

I was sixteen years old, holding myself hostage in the bedroom, wailing and crying.

Mom brought her boyfriend home, unannounced, late at night, when I wasn’t ready to accept any of that.

It was a tough year. My parents separated. Mom, sisters and I moved to a new place. I had no friends, no money, no car. I felt powerless, trapped and hurt.

The wounds were still too raw.

So I resorted to stonewalling, barricading myself behind a locked door, wailing loud enough for my outrage to be heard.


At sixteen, I was an emotional hostage taker.

What I learned from this experience is you don’t need a gun to your head to feel like you’ve been taken hostage.

Every day, we can feel this way with difficult people, stressful events — we can even be hijacked by our own emotions.

To avoid or simply give into these difficult situations is not the answer.

To get what we want — fulfilling, successful lives — we must engage in a dialogue and negotiate, especially when the temptation is strong to slam the door shut on engagement and wail from behind closed doors.

How do actual hostage negotiators negotiate? How do they talk with the most dangerous adversaries and get them to keep their word?

I studied three veteran hostage negotiators:

They all teach three core skills the rest of us civilians and lay people can apply to our most worrisome negotiations:

    Open-ended questions

Self-control is the ability to manage your emotions and control the story we tell ourselves. The voice in our heads, or self-talk.

A great example comes from Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years. He was held hostage physically, but not psychologically. Instead of choosing to see himself as a victim of his circumstance, he chose to consider his imprisonment a period of training and preparation for the work he would do after his release. After his release, he became the first democratically elected president of South Africa.

Self-control is about owning the choice that you always have — even in the most extenuating circumstances — to think, feel and speak from a place of power.

Empathy is the ability to recognize the perspective, feelings and experiences of the other side and to verbalize that recognition.

In the book “The Art of Doing,” Gary Noesner tells a story of how an experienced negotiator defused a bank hostage situation by calmly and empathetically listening to the hostage taker’s owes. He was a police sheriff with marital problems. After listening to him, she said, “It sounds like you’re very frustrated and angry. What do you think your wife would say if you told her how you feel?”

She not only acknowledged his emotions — thus calming him down and saving many lives that way — she also followed up with an open-ended question: “What do you think…?”

Open-ended questions can have a transformative effect in a negotiation, as in this example. Think of it as an open invitation to the other side to share their motives and needs. It typically starts with the words “how, what, why.” It’s not a yes or no question.

The key is to ask without defensiveness, accusation or attack. Imagine doing this while a hostage taker is holding a knife to your throat — or while you’re held hostage metaphorically — a family member blackmails you emotionally, a boss humiliates you in front of your colleagues.

Asking open-ended questions while exercising self-control and empathizing with the “enemy” is not easy, but it’s a skill you can learn.

I teach this skill at my workshops — asking open-ended question to dig deeper for motives and interests but also to get past beyond pushback in a workplace negotiation.

I’ll never forget this story one attendee shared with me. She works as a real estate sales manager and found out she was making 20% less than her male colleague. She approached her boss and asked him, “What accounts for the difference in our pay?”

He replied, “Oh, that must have been a mistake. I’ll make sure to address that!”

Asking the right questions can help you get what you want.

Every day, we can be made to feel threatened, powerless and manipulated. But it doesn’t mean we have to give in blindly to the people who become our metaphorical hostage takers.

To defuse these difficult situations and negotiate like a hostage negotiator, we need to resist the temptation to shut the door on engagement and see ourselves as victims. We must own the power we already have to write our own stories and speak from a place of power. We can imagine ourselves in the shoes of the other side. And we can ask open-ended questions to dig deeper for motives and get past impasse.

What I learned from studying hostage negotiators is that the real work of negotiating effectively starts from within us.

Finally, as JFK once said, “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.

Kid in America

We are arriving fresh off the plane. We are coming to America.

It’s Christmas night, 1989. My mother, two sisters and I are on a Koreana Airlines 747 plane headed towards JFK airport.

I’m supposed to be strapped down for the landing, but at the behest of my anxious mother, I get out of my seat, scurry down the aisle and nudge the flight attendant…again.

“Excuse me but are we there yet?”

She tells me soon and “Would you please return to your seat and fasten your seat belt now?”

My ears feel clogged and uncomfortable like I’m under water. It’s my first time flying.

When I look out the window, the cityscape looks like a lit up Christmas tree.

Soon I’ll be a kid in America. The America I imagined as a seven-year old kid in South Korea is a cross between Mardi Gras and a Disney parade. I’m basically anticipating a big, opulent, Hollywood-style party in the streets and everywhere. I’ve watched a lot of movies. It is Christmas, after all. I’ve heard that Christmas is really big in America.

But when we land in JFK, there is no party, just my father waiting for us at the gate, looking more haggard than the last time we saw him, a year ago in Korea.

The streets are empty. A few snow flurries fall, but alas I encounter no Hollywood magic.

It’s winter of 1990 and I’m a kid in New York City.

The first few months in America, my family of five live in my father’s tiny studio on West 38th Street. It’s always dim and dusty in here. Outside is pre-Giuliani West Side, more known for violence, drugs and peep shows than trendy restaurants of West Side 20 years later.

The walk from my father’s tiny studio to my father’s even tinier store in Times Square is a hazardous one. We avoid it as much as possible. Naturally, I spend most of my time at home, absorbing American culture through TV.

The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show!
The Flintstones!
Followed by the Jetsons!
And who can forget: Pee Wee’s Playhouse!

I don’t speak English but I am transfixed. It’s exciting and addicting. There’s more action, danger and outrageous characters in these shows than the state-controlled children’s programming in Korea.

So I’m a kid in New York City and I’m hooked on TV.

Eventually — my parents turn their attention to New Jersey in search of safer neighborhoods and better schools.

In New Jersey, I learn new things about America that blow my mind. I learn about lawns, tree-lined streets and squirrels. The idea of coexisting with fluffy-tailed animals and the idea of rolling in the grass makes me feel this immense glee. So much so that I beg my parents that we move as soon as possible. So much so that I cry.

It’s spring, 1990 and I’m a kid in New Jersey. And it’s my first day at Slocum Skewes Elementary School. I join the second grade. Everything is new and different.

In America, you don’t call teacher “teacher” with a respectful tone as you do in Korea, but you call them by their last names. I have a hard time figuring out how to say my teacher’s name, Mrs. Rose, and she has a hard time with my given Korean name, Ji Eun.

In America, you don’t eat school lunch in the classroom like in Korea. In America, you line up in a single file then you are corralled to the gymnasium where there are these long, tall things called bleachers.

It’s here that I unpack the lunch my mother packed for me on my first day of American school.

I open the brown bag and find a carton of chocolate Yoohoo milk. There also is a small tupperware with fried dumplings inside. I’m eight so I don’t know quite how to describe this unique combination, but the girl next to me does, she says, “Ewww!”

I never liked Yoohoos.

Soon I learn that in America it’s okay to open your brown bag and chuck whatever you don’t want straight into the garbage. This feels weird to me. But I learn. And I adapt.

Over time, I learn English well enough to read and write and speak. I adapt to eating Korean food — fish stews, pickled cabbage and rice — and eating spaghetti and PB&J sandwiches at school. I learn there is so much more to America than Hollywood glamour. And as a grown kid in America, I learn to throw my own Christmas parties.

Over time, as a grown kid, I learn that my experiences of being a new kid in America is very American.

How to Negotiate Like a Pop Star

The crowd of 65,000 that went on forever, as far as I could see in each direction… Hyde Park.

A photo posted by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on

  • Make your position clear on a problem.
  • Be mindful of the relationship.
  • Be firm but respectful of the other side.
  • Frame the conversation for big picture thinking.
  • Flex your BATNA (Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement). Be prepared to walk away if the deal isn’t right.
  • Disagree respectfully. Generate new options kindly.
  • Accept concessions gracefully.
  • THEN STRIKE A POSE (see above for example)
  • The seven-time Grammy winner Taylor Swift, who wrote an open letter to Apple two weeks ago, expertly deploys these negotiation tactics in her letter.

    About half the world has covered this story, and in particular, I love The New Yorker’s byline:

    After asking Apple very, very nicely, Swift has found herself victorious in the only battle on planet Earth in which she might have been the underdog.

    What Taylor’s example shows us is that being nice can be a source of strength, not weakness in a negotiation.

    You don’t need multi-platinum albums or millions of Twitter followers to negotiate with deference, kindness and grit. You can be an underdog negotiating with a behemoth. You can be a girly girl who likes red lipstick, selfies and cat videos and still be fierce at negotiating.

    Which is to say negotiating isn’t just for the business suits haggling with another business suit “at a long table beneath a dangling light bulb.

    And more importantly, you do NOT need to be an asshole to be a skilled negotiator. What a relief!

    Let’s take a closer look at the Taylor script for negotiating like a superstar.

    I write this to explain why I’ll be holding back my album, 1989, from the new streaming service, Apple Music.

    1. She makes her position clear from the get-go and states her intention to explain it.

    I feel this deserves an explanation because Apple has been and will continue to be one of my best partners in selling music and creating ways for me to connect with my fans. I respect the company and the truly ingenious minds that have created a legacy based on innovation and pushing the right boundaries.

    2. She is firm on her decision, but she is also respectful and deferential to Apple without being confrontational or bitter. She is mindful of the ongoing relationship she will have to maintain with the $750 billion company.

    I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.

    3. Here she presents the problem and frames it as if Apple is a person, the genius partner who’d been “progressive and generous”, but suddenly went and did something completely out of character. This is smart, because it reinforces the perception of Apple as a hip and awesome company. This also makes the problem feel relatable and solvable. Apple can get back to being the hip and awesome company by changing its policy.

    This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows.

    4. She spells out her alternative to the Apple Music deal, or her BATNA — playing live shows. She doesn’t need Apple Music.

    This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt…

    These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child. These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much. We simply do not respect this particular call.

    5. Here she broadens the perspective and paints a bigger picture, one that’s beyond the Swift empire. She speaks on behalf of other artists, musicians and producers. Apple has its legacy and public perception to manage, just as Taylor Swift her her legacy and public perception to manage. Just as Apple doesn’t want to be perceived as greedy and unhip, Taylor Swift doesn’t want to be perceived as a “spoiled, petulant child.”

    Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing. I say this with love, reverence, and admiration for everything else Apple has done. I hope that soon I can join them in the progression towards a streaming model that seems fair to those who create this music. I think this could be the platform that gets it right.

    But I say to Apple with all due respect, it’s not too late to change this policy and change the minds of those in the music industry who will be deeply and gravely affected by this. We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.

    6. What I really like about the last paragraph is that she generates a new option for Apple “with love and admiration.” By suggesting that Apple change its policy, she builds what Harvard’s Program on Negotiation calls the “golden bridge” or a way for the other side to concede without losing face.

    Taylor Swift is powerful. She could have started an Apple boycott. She could have started an anti-Apple campaign fueled by indignation and snark. She could have gone dark. Instead, she stuck with love and respect and in the end found herself victorious.

    Owning Space like a Stallion

    Two weeks ago, I had the great privilege of attending Amy Cuddy’s presentation at Harvard’s Training Negotiation Symposium. The presentation was titled “Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges.”

    It was an expanded version of her TED talk on the positive impact of power posing. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out here.

    The ultimate example of a high power pose is the victory pose of athletes winning first place.

    by Yohei Kamiyama (Agence SHOT) ©

    by Yohei Kamiyama (Agence SHOT) ©

    Back straight, head slightly titled back, arms open wide in a V — the whole body expanded and taking up space. Researcher Jessica Tracy has found that all winning athletes do this, across genders, cultures and even abilities. Congenitally blind athletes, who have never seen the pose, take the pose at the moment of victory. This proves that nonverbal expression of power (and powerlessness) is innate and universal.

    In the TED talk, Cuddy whittles down the wealth of research on nonverbal expressions into one simple actionable advice: Before a high stakes interaction, such as job interview, salary negotiation or big presentation, take two minutes privately to stand in power pose.

    The iconic Wonder Woman pose, with feet apart, arms wide and hands planted on hips, is a good pose for this.

    The iconic Wonder Woman pose, with feet apart, arms wide and hands planted on hips, is a good pose for this.

    Doing this increases testosterone, the hormone associated with higher risk tolerance, assertion and confidence, by twenty percent. It decreases the stress hormone cortisol by twenty five percent.

    The net effect is that you become more confident and calm, and thereby more present. The more present you are in a conversation without fear, the more competent and believable you are perceived. Cuddy’s suggestion is a small tweak that can result in big, positive outcomes for stressful interactions like interviews and negotiations.

    At the heart of Cuddy’s message is that the body shapes the mind. Not only do nonverbal expressions convey a message to the other side, they also shape how we see and feel about ourselves.

    At this presentation, Cuddy shared numerous stories, pictures and testimonials from various people in all walks of life who benefitted from power posing. There was one testimonial with an unexpected twist that I found especially moving.

    It was from a horse trainer with a horse named Draumur (Icelandic for dream). She made a 2 minute video dedicated to Amy Cuddy:

    Now picture this: a conference room full of negotiation trainers and experts, mostly grey-haired professors and executives dressed in tweed, khaki and wool, learning from the example of Draumur the horse.

    An important aspect of learning to negotiate is learning to manage ourselves and overcoming internal barriers, which even animals learn to do with consistent effort and positive action.

    I found this video compelling and emotional resonant. So much so that I had to pinch myself to keep tears from welling up in my eyes. I didn’t want to lose face in the company of Larry Susskind and Mike Wheeler.

    The Training Negotiation Symposium was a wonderful event chock full of great insights into the latest negotiation pedagogy. And yet the most impactful, actionable takeaway for me was that I could pay better attention to my body language and posture. If I don’t pay attention, my natural inclination is to cave into myself. (Hunched shoulders and looking down is a classic low power pose. Low power poses have the inverse effect of high power poses, resulting in lower testosterone and higher cortisol, resulting in less confidence and more anxiety.)

    Draumur’s story really drove home for me that I had agency in how I hold my body, how I perceive myself and thereby how others perceive me. Taking confident strides and owning my space not only signal competence to those around me, it also helps me become more confident, calm and present.

    Owning space like a stallion is a step forward towards owning our negotiation prowess.

    I practice taking confident strides with upright posture and chin up when I walk to work. What I’ve noticed, aside from ornate decorations on tops of buildings, is that so many people inadvertently trap themselves in low power poses because they are addicted to smartphones. We all know we shouldn’t, but so many of us walk and text.

    Smartphones are really bad for our postures. The tendency is to look down while losing ourselves in the tiny screen, tapping or swiping for some sort of digitized validation or distractions in the form of likes, retweets or emails. Bad posture can lead to low power poses that lead to being perceived as less competent and less believable.

    So here’s a simple, actionable negotiation advice. Next time you have to negotiate for yourself, put your smartphone away. Take two minutes to power pose, chin up. Own your space and be present. Engage your best self in the conversation.

    Ask and Embrace No.

    Amanda Palmer – busker bride, rock star, rabble rouser and author of “The Art of Asking” – took the words right out of my mouth.

    Watch her TED talk.
    “When you connect with people, people want to help you.”

    From the book:

    We ask each other, daily, for little things. A quarter for the parking meter. An empty chair in a cafe. A lighter. A lift across town. And we must all, at one point or another, ask for the more difficult things: A promotion. An introduction to a friend. An introduction to a book. A loan. An STD test. A kidney.

    If I learned anything from the surprising resonance of my TED talk, it was this:

    Everybody struggles with asking.

    From what I’ve seen, it isn’t so much the act of asking that paralyzes us – it’s what lies beneath; the fear of being vulnerable, the fear of rejection, the fear of looking needy or weak. The fear of being seen as a burdensome member of the community instead of a productive one.

    It points, fundamentally, to our separation from one another.

    American culture in particular has instilled in us the bizarre notion that to ask for help amounts to an admission of failure. But some of the most powerful, successful, admired people in the world seem, to me, to have something in common: they ask constantly, creatively, compassionately, and gracefully.

    And to be sure: when you ask, there’s always the possibility of a no on the other side of the request. If we don’t allow for that no, we’re not actually asking, we’re either begging or demanding. But it is the fear of the no that keeps so many of our mouths sewn tightly shut.

    Often it is our own sense that we are undeserving of help that has immobilized us. Whether it’s in the arts, at work, or in our relationships, we often resist asking not only because we’re afraid of rejection but also because we don’t even think we deserve what we’re asking for. We have to truly believe in the validity of what we’re asking for — which can be incredibly hard work and requires a tight-rope walk above the doom-valley of arrogance and entitlement. And even after finding that balance, how we ask, and how we receive the answer — allowing, even embracing, the no — is just as important as finding that feeling of valid-ness.

    Q&A: I’ve never negotiated for myself. How do I even begin with a recruiter?


    Hi Jamie,

    I’ve had a tough time negotiating my salary throughout my career and still do. In the beginning, I didn’t even know it was possible to negotiate your own salary!

    I began my career as a Receptionist with a salary that I later realized was lower than it should’ve been. This then hurt my next salary within the same organization as a Specialist which I (again!) later realized was lower than it should’ve and could’ve been. Due to budgetary cuts, they had to lay off their entire Support Team which unfortunately I was on. I then focused on completing my Masters Degree, graduated with honors, and took some time off. I started to brainstorm my next career move and have recently been making more connections that will allow me to become the successful professional I always visualized.

    Just recently, I got the opportunity to talk with a recruiter which considered me for a second interview in person. He asked me what my desired salary was and this time I did my research and gave him a fair number. He said it was within the company’s range which I was glad to hear as we spoke over the phone. Now the question do I secure this negotiation when I’m meeting with them in person?

    I’m pretty nervous about it since it’s my first “second interview”, it’s the exact job I want with the salary that I need, I’m not sure if I have enough experience, and have a very difficult time being assertive and getting what I want when negotiating, especially when I’m under pressure mentally and financially.

    What are your thoughts and recommendations?


    Seeking a Better Opportunity

    Dear Seeking,

    You’ve taken the initiative to get an advanced degree, network, and look for a better paying job — I want to commend you for that. Knowing what you want and visualizing success are crucial steps before asking with confidence. And you’ve taken two big steps forward.

    Here’s my advice to you. I wouldn’t worry too much about the face-to-face conversation with your recruiter. Instead, focus on getting a better understanding of this recruiter. In other words, use the opportunity to interview the recruiter and see if he is a good fit for your needs. You are interviewing the recruiter, just as the recruiter is interviewing you.

    You have more power in this relationship than you realize, because the recruiter needs qualified candidates like you for him to make a commission. Generally, the hiring company pays the recruiter a percentage of your salary once you’ve been successfully hired.

    The second interview is meant for you and the recruiter to check each other out. Most likely than not, this meeting won’t be the right time or place for you to secure a specific pay level for this job opportunity.

    The recruiting process usually looks like this:

    – either you or recruiter makes first contact about a potential job
    – you and recruiter meet to discuss your resume and fit for that job
    – recruiter discusses your candidacy with the company
    – the recruiter passes along your resume / credentials / cover letter to the company
    – the company decides whether to meet with you or pass
    – if the company wants to meet with you, then recruiter arranges for an interview between you and the company
    – there may be several rounds of interviews between you and company, all the while both you and the company report back to the recruiter about how the interview(s) went
    – if there is a fit, company makes an offer through the recruiter
    – if and when you have an offer in writing, then you may want to negotiate the salary and ask for more

    So the recruiter acts as an intermediary throughout the interview and negotiation process. I’ve met some recruiters who were supportive of my salary requirements and willing to negotiate on my behalf. A high salary is in their interest as well, since they can take home a bigger cut once you’re hired.

    Then there are recruiters who won’t be as supportive — who won’t go to bat for you. They are more incentivized to get someone hired fast and cheap so they can make a quick buck.

    At the upcoming interview you may want to ask questions about the recruiter’s past experience working with candidates. Ask open-ended, diagnostic questions to learn about their working style, past successes, etc. An open-ended diagnostic question starts with who / what / when / how / why / where / when.

    So some sample questions you can ask could be,
    “Can you tell me more about how this process works and what your role will be?”
    “What are the compensation policies of this company? What other perks and benefits are on the table that can be negotiated?”
    “Have you worked with candidates who were looking to make a market rate adjustment for pay? If so, how successful were they? What was your role in the salary negotiation?”

    As mentioned, you have power in this relationship and you can grow your bargaining power by cultivating BATNA (or Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreements). Basically what this means is: other options, recruiters, job opportunities or offers that you can pursue. If you have other options, you can also use them as a bargaining chip to negotiate for a better compensation package.

    It’s wonderful that this opportunity seems to be a great fit with great pay, but don’t settle there. This is a sign that there are an abundance of other opportunities out there for you that may be an even better fit with way better pay for you. So keep your chin up and continue tapping into your network, researching and proactively cultivating other options.

    Having these options under your belt will give you the confidence you need to be able to walk away if the fit isn’t right.

    I would advise that you clearly delineate how your contributions resulted in positive outcomes for the employer. And make them specific with numbers, facts, and figures, i.e. 24% lift in patient satisfaction or retention, etc.

    During the job interview, you’ll likely be asked to expand on these credentials or experiences. In other words, you’ll be asked to tell the story of your work.

    How did your contributions create positive impact on the organization’s bottom line? What were the challenges and barriers? How did you overcome or resolve the problems and what were the outcomes? Did your work help the company make more money or save money, time and/or resources?

    People want to hear your stories. You can use those stories to your advantage by showing them how you’re a great candidate who can do amazing things for a future employer.

    This email has gotten long, so here’s the TLDR; version
    – you have more power in this relationship than you realize
    – screen / interview the recruiter at your upcoming face-to-face meeting
    – salary negotiations will come later during the process, if and when the company decides to make an offer (and get it in writing)
    – cultivate other options, or BATNA to grow your bargaining power
    – prepare stories to show how your contributions at work benefitted the employer


    No more chicken dance. Get the guts to negotiate.

    Negotiation looks like this: Let’s sit. Let’s talk and listen. Let’s see if we can figure this out together. There will be give and take. Together we can find a win for you and a win for me.

    It’s not a fight or manipulation. It’s just a conversation…or a dance.

    When you dance with a negotiation partner, it takes all of you — your guts, eyes and heart.

    1. The guts — the conviction and confidence that you can effect change by asking for it. To ask is to be vulnerable. They can say no, and you have to be okay with it and open to diagnosing that no. So get gutsy. Take courage.

    2. The eyes seeing the vision of shared success. You see it for yourself clearly before you paint it in the mind of your negotiation partner. Paint your future potential with brushstrokes (or business results, benchmark reports, testimonials or maybe a literal picture) that resonate with their dreams and desires.

    3. The heart, container of human emotions, plays a part too. A calm and confident negotiator puts the other side at ease. She makes them feel respected and heard. She allays fears that sit at the root of their objections. Yet, all the same, she’s ready to walk away if the deal isn’t right.

    She’s fully present and aware of her own agency in this negotiation. This makes her a formidable negotiator.
    Ready to own your negotiation prowess?

    Build your asking muscle. Learn to negotiate.

    If in-person training is your style, there are two events I’d love to share with you:
    Get the Guts to Negotiate with Lady Boss on the evening of Tuesday, April 21 at Etsy HQ in Brooklyn

    The Art of the Ask with Vital Voice Training, a special half-day workshop on speaking up with authority, connecting authentically and asking fearlessly.

    If work is ubiquitous, then what is a workspace?

    What is a workspace and what makes it ideal?

    For the self-motivated, the workspace is an environment where you find yourself with access to a smart device and high speed internet while you have the drive, focus and creativity to make sh!t happen. Think airports, coffee shops, bathroom stalls and couches. Home and away. Wherever you go, there you are in your portable workspace, planning your work and working your plan.

    If workspace can be just about anywhere, then perhaps it is more a headspace than physical location bound by four walls and a door dedicated for work. Work occupies a chunk of mind space. If you’re in your head a bit, as I am, you may find yourself thinking through an email reply or a solution for a project while in transit, in the shower, and even in bed. This can be stressful.

    For the sake of sanity and productivity, you may need to clear room for restful headspace through planned social recreation, vacation and/or meditation. The ideal workspace is an uncluttered headspace, aware and present.

    During the workday I work as director of operations at a mobile marketing startup in Midtown. In my free time, I pitch, plan and produce Negotiation Prowess workshops. My work travels with me.

    The only criteria for a workshop venue is that people can mock negotiate, or talk to each other. I’ve held workshops at a poolside cabana in Miami for Bullish Conference, classrooms on Barnard campus, corporate offices and most recently at the Mission of Malta to the UN.


    Mutual win negotiation principles for ambitious women, under the auspices of mustachioed European royalty.


    Mock negotiation pairs well with white wine. Negotiating style denotes class, refinement, and leadership potential.

    That said, I really enjoy writing proposals and articles from home, where I work either sitting at the dining table or standing by the kitchen island. There’s ample sunlight, endless refills of tea and pretty things of my choice.


    Have MacBook Air, will work. Have flowers, will smile.


    The wise owl safeguards my books on personal development, feminism, and money.


    Natural sunlight energizes the mind and stimulates optimism and confidence.

    When I have my own office for Negotiation Prowess, I will work at a big wooden desk large enough to hold dinner settings for six. The space will be decorated in bold, vibrant colors. There will be fresh cut flowers. I will rely on outsourced cleaning and organization service to keep the space uncluttered and welcoming. There will, of course, be a door with a lock that delineates workspace from non-workspace. That would be ideal.

    So in conclusion, work is ubiquitous. At least for now, home space doubles as workspace, and the perk of working everywhere and at anytime carries with it the responsibility to safeguard headspace. With that, I’m off to sit in silence basking in the sunlight.