Empowered communication in the job offer process

Hosted by Rita Zhang, this Thursday’s Money Moves event was the first of three workshops aimed towards the financial empowerment of California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) students. The event was held at the Cooperative Learning Center (CLC) in the Otter Student Union (OSU) and over Zoom.

Basic Needs, an organization on campus dedicated to removing food insecurity, opens with an overview of their services. They offer a food pantry filled every two weeks with groceries, hygiene products, and personal protective equipment, such as masks and hand sanitizer. 

These supplies are completely free to any CSUMB student. Supplies can be picked up from room 125 of the old student center on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. or on Fridays from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. If these times don’t work for you, reach out to Sabrina Lee at [email protected].

Basic Needs also provides Fresh Access, a $20 monthly stipend for fresh fruits and vegetables at the Pacific Grove farmers market and emergency funds up to $1,000 that can be reapplied every semester. Two of their other programs are Feed Each Otter, which offers vouchers good for free hot meals at the Dining Commons, and CalFresh that gives accepted students $250 per month for groceries.  

If any of these services sound like something that could help you, do not hesitate to apply on the Basic Needs website or email Sabrina Lee directly. 

Rita Zhang took the stage, introducing herself as a first-generation college student and a former CSUMB employee. 

Zhang is dedicated to teaching students negotiation skills because she was never formally taught as a student, and she believes “justice means economic stability for all via universal basic needs.” She asks any graduating student to prepare for interviews with the mindset they are going to receive job offers, and through the excitement, asking for what you need and deserve is key.

She acknowledges this is a skill that could be anxiety-inducing for people of color and women who are taught to be grateful and just say yes, but she counters that gratefulness and self-advocacy can both be present in negotiation. “They’re not mutually exclusive just because you’re asking for something different or more.”

Her main secret is practice, practice, practice! She stresses, “remember, I have to ask for something when I get this offer,” and advises to always ask for a little more, even when satisfied. 

Not sure what to ask for? Here’s a list to help brainstorm. Remember these are all suggestions. Whatever you ask for will depend on the job and your personal situation. 

Students practiced in pairs, with one playing the employer and one playing the interviewee through a few different scenarios, both focusing on transitional language, concrete evidence and the specific outcome desired. 

“I have both hired people, and have been the successful candidate, right? It’s much more helpful if you’re specific on exactly what you want,” said Zhang.

That specificity comes from research. Know the estimated salary in your field, find out what bonuses similar companies offer their employees. This helps keep your asks reasonable and increases the chances of a better offer. 

Zhang closed out the hour with the strongest advice she has offered yet. 

“The best way to prepare is just to ask other people working in that industry, because their industry knowledge is going to be super useful. Don’t be afraid to hit up your circles and be like, hey, does anyone know someone that works in this type of job, so that I can get some insight on what this offer is.” Using connections ensures you don’t get low-balled.

The next Money Moves workshops will center on retirement, loans and debt, and any student who attends both of them will be entered in a raffle to win a free 1-hour financial session with Zhang.

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