In this week’s segment of This Week in Hearing, host Ashley Hughes, AuD, chats with Kaila Howard, AuD, and Riley DeBacker, AuD, PhD – two recent Audiology graduates – about the importance of collaborative negotiations throughout one’s career in hearing healthcare.
During this episode, the three discuss:
- Their own personal experiences while negotiating during their first job interviews upon graduating
- Advice for other hearing professionals about the proper ways to negotiate
- Specific tactics about how to justify one’s asks
- Tips of what to do and what not to do while negotiating
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Full Episode Transcript
Ashley Hughes 0:10
Hi, and thanks for joining us for another episode of this week in hearing. I’m Ashley Hughes, an audiologist with inner acoustics and I’m based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’m honored to be part of this weekend hearing and I will be serving as today’s moderator. I’m very excited for today’s topic. This is often thought of to be a taboo subject to talk about, but I don’t think that it should be. We’ll be discussing negotiations and specifically collaborative negotiations within the hearing healthcare field. So I’m thrilled to introduce you to our two panelists today, Dr. Kaila Howard and Dr. Riley DeBacker. Because I’d like to share a little information about our panelists with you. Kaila Howard graduated with her Doctorate of Audiology from Louisiana State University Health Science Center in May 2021. Congratulations Kaila and her bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders from Murray State University in May 2015. Her primary areas of interest are cochlear implants and vestibular assessments. She recently accepted a position at Ephraim McDowell ENT in Danville, Kentucky, where she’ll be working with a team of three ENTs and another audiologist to develop a CI program. Dr. Riley DeBacker earned his a AuD and PhD and is a research audiologist at the National Center for rehabilitative auditory research, or NCRAR at the VA Portland Medical Center, and is also a recent graduate of the Ohio State University. Congratulations Riley. His research focuses on translational models of ototoxicity Riley is the current subcommittee Chair of the International ototoxicity monitoring guidelines working group and a past president of the Student Academy of Audiology. Outside of work, Riley and his husband enjoy playing board games and spending time with their two cats, named Judi Dench and Star Mageddon. So like I said, Today, we’re going to talk about collaborative negotiations, but specifically those experiences of these two hearing healthcare professionals. So without further ado, we’re just going to go ahead and jump in. I know that you two both graduated recently, and both accepted positions recently. And so before we jump into how those negotiations went, can you guys just let us know how you felt about negotiations prior to this experience,
Kaila Howard 2:09
I wasn’t very thrilled with the idea. I didn’t know where to start, I felt super overwhelmed. I think a lot of that feeling just came from lack of preparedness, not really understanding my worth, because I don’t really I’m not really sure that that’s taught very well in school, how to negotiate yourself how to sell yourself in an interview to somebody who doesn’t even really know what an audiologist is. So I was I was pretty scared to actually starting the process. But once I understood how to position myself and how to explain what I do, it seemed to come much more naturally.
Riley DeBacker 2:41
Awesome. And also that my experiences are probably pretty similar to Kaila’s, I had to chuckle because for years, I’ve always encouraged my friends that they’re graduating to negotiate their starting salaries, we’ve, I’ve talked to a lot of folks about how important that is been talked to about how important that is. And then when it came time for me to do it, I feel like it was so easy to talk myself into, oh, well, there’s this one specific thing about this job that I’m applying for, that is going to make me seem like a jerk if I try and negotiate or it’s going to create this weird workplace environment if I do it. And so I almost talked myself out of it. And fortunately, I had some really good mentors to remind me that all of the advice I’d gotten for years was not wrong. And that I should do it after all, and it worked out well. So I think it was one of those things that despite all the things I knew it still when it came time to do, it was a scarier thing. But I think I anticipated deck there.
Ashley Hughes 3:37
It definitely can be scary, intimidating the first time that you’re doing it. But I do think it’s great that both of you negotiated your first salaries, which you know, we all know how important that is. Can you kind of tell us about your experiences with your negotiation in either one of you can kind of kick it off? Sure.
Kaila Howard 3:53
I’ll take this one. So my negotiating kind of it was different. The actual job description had nothing to go on. I actually heard about this through my supervisor, the position was posted and it just said seeking audiologist, so I didn’t really know what they wanted. So I used a lot of networking. I just asked her what do you know about the practice? What do you know about what they’re wanting before even going into my interview? So once I actually got there, it was very straightforward. They showed me the benefits. They gave me a contract within a week. But I really took the time to ask my manager, what are you looking for? What are you hoping that I can bring to the table? What do you need from a second audiologist for your practice? And I took that into account for negotiating at a later time because I wanted to make sure that I lined up with their vision. So then whenever I actually got the contract I requested three days talk it over. I know some people say a week but they were really wanting an answer. So I just asked for three days. And I went line by line on the contract and anything that I really didn’t feel confident about or anything that just seemed weird or off. I wrote out to the side had question marks. I had I had mentors that I had kind of accumulated all the people that I met on my Facebook groups that professionals that I really looked up to, I just asked them like, Is this normal? Is this something that you’ve seen before? Can you speak on this, I’ve never heard of this. And at the end, I actually didn’t feel confident with the contract. And I turned it down. Because I just told myself, maybe this isn’t my pumpkin, I’ll find another job. And HR actually called me within 30 minutes. And they just asked why. And so this, I think, speaks to my inexperience. And I just told him that we needed to renegotiate the contract that it didn’t seem like it lined up with what I knew about the profession. In particular, I negotiated administrative time because they wanted me to build a CI program. So that means I need time in my schedule to be able to look things up write reports, I negotiated for higher pay, I also negotiated for the independence to pick and choose my own instruments. And I also asked for the ability to say no to a student until I felt ready, because sometimes it was actually in the contract that they can say you will take a student whenever we say you’ll take a student. And so a lot of that, that I found out after the fact that was just kind of like a standard contract that they have everybody sign and they said we can fix the majority of that, but we need to negotiate the pay a little bit because they didn’t understand why I’d asked for more. And so I had to educate them on what an audiologist was ahead to educate them on how you know, my time is divied differently, and whereas a co worker might get a bulk of her pay from selling hearing aids, I wouldn’t have that time because they’re asking me to build a CI program and eventually vestibular program. So once we were done explaining everything, and everything just kind of lined up, actually got exactly what I asked for
Ashley Hughes 6:52
I think he said a lot of really important things in that kind of short description of your negotiation. First of all, this might sound weird, but good for you for turning it down. You know, like maybe you’d approach it differently next time, maybe not. But that definitely shows that you know, you’re worth I love that you said you asked questions beforehand, because without asking questions, you really can’t negotiate because you don’t know what they’re looking for. I love the things that you said you negotiate it, because I think a lot of times when we think about negotiations, we think about salary, but there’s so much more to negotiation, it’s really important to do what you need that works for the practice. And so in that case, like you said, administrative time, that’s all part of negotiating. And because you ask them questions, you were able to educate them and then come to an agreement together. So
I really appreciate you sharing that story.
Riley DeBacker 7:38
Something I want to tag in really quickly before I jumped into answer the question myself, I appreciate that both Ashley and Kaila sound like very our typical kind of Type A audiologists I feel like our field attracts a lot of people that are very detail oriented and very interested in delving into the specifics. And I want to set a stark contrast, because I would not to find myself that way at all. I feel like it’s very easy to listen to the incredible amount of work that you did that obviously super paid off and become intimidated by that, especially if you’re not someone that feels prepared to go line by line in a contract. And so my experience that I’ll describe in just a second was pretty different in that it didn’t involve that level of detail. And so I just want him to kind of kick off with that point where there’s lots of different styles that work for different folks. And I feel like I would have failed at the really great some of those really great tips that you just threw out because I might have talked myself out of some of those things. But with that said, My experience was a little bit different. And I think that I do need to throw a big caveat on to mine that I did not apply for a fully clinical position. So my title is research audiologist. But I am starting out primarily as a researcher, and I will not for this first year of my contract have any clinical time. And so that certainly makes things look a little bit different and can change things up a bit. But when I was kind of going through the biggest impediment I feel like I ran into when I was negotiating the job I’ve taken is with the VA. And that means that a lot of things are very fixed about federal contracting and about federal job offers. In fact, it takes a really long time to even get a job offer with the VA because you have to work out a lot of specifics and they don’t offer it right away. And so I think something I was worried about when I was applying to my job was okay, I got this job offer and I can’t change anything about it because they just offered me GS-11 step one, and the benefits come with it and everything’s kind of fixed. And so again, like I was talking about I sort of talked myself out of this where I was like, well, they gave me the offer they’re going to give me and it’s a good offer, so I should just take it and move on but luckily enough for Me, a friend of mine took a job in the same city right before I did. And her offer was a lot more generous than mine was actually. And that kind of made me contextualize things a little bit and say, Well, she’s getting a lot of things that will not be included, like relocation costs. I’m currently located in Ohio, I will be moving to Portland, this weekend. And so that’s a really long move and a very expensive move. And so using sort of that alone, and some of the other perks that often will come with private employment, like paying for your memberships, and some other things that aren’t explicitly tied to my contracted the VA, I was able to negotiate up my base salary about $6,000, for my first year just to cover some of those expenses. And the nice thing in my mind about negotiating that base up, it means that my later raises will be bumped up just a little bit and some of those things. So what I did was I moved up two steps on the federal pay scale, rather than taking kind of the entry level position. And so that was I think the biggest thing that stood out to me about the experience was even when it feels very fixed in place, where I kind of got an offer that felt like there wasn’t wiggle room, it was actually really straightforward for me to email back and saying, Hey, I really appreciate this offer. But this is a lot to take on without any of these other supports, is there any way that I could bump up a few steps, and there are review processes, it was certainly involved some bureaucratic steps, but my boss was willing to do that, because they really wanted me to come and join the team there. And it meant that it was possible. And so that, I think would be the biggest takeaway I had from my first experience was just that there’s more wiggle room than you think sometimes even if you don’t go line by line, on contract.
Ashley Hughes 11:48
Sure. Congratulations to both of you. And Riley, you just said that, you know, it showed you that they really wanted you there. And that’s really the jobs that we’re all looking for. And it’s different for each of us. But you know, it’s a big commitment to accepting a job when you want to know that they appreciate and value you and being able to have those candid conversations, regardless of the outcome really is a step that’s necessary, I would say, for you to feel valued at a practice or at a hospital or wherever you you know, want to work. So haven’t going to talk about your experiences with your negotiation. Is there anything that you would have done differently?
Riley DeBacker 12:21
There are some things that kind of when I look back at it, because I felt like I was approaching it from such a place where I felt like any ask was a big ask, I wonder in retrospect, if I could have changed my ask a little bit. So there were some things where I just decided not to ask about because I felt like asking for more money was enough on its own, and that changing anything else would be too much. And given how smoothly the process went, I wonder if I miss estimated that I’m very happy with what I want. And so I don’t want to portray at all that I feel like I should have asked for more so that I would have had to haggle things back down. It’s just I think when I set things up, I inflated my ask so much in my head that I under asked for what I might have otherwise. And if I were going to do it again, the only thing I do differently is probably ask for what I felt like I should be asking for rather than cutting myself down before I started negotiating. totally fair,
Kaila Howard 13:22
I think if I was gonna do everything all over again, I was told in the middle of the interview process that Fridays are half days, I should have asked for clarification and Fridays, were always half days. And if they will always be half days. Turns out that was just a COVID thing. And they are going to full days on Fridays yet again. So if I could go back and do it over again, I would have tried harder to negotiate a flexible schedule, where maybe one day I work 10 hours or two days, I work 10 hours and then have a half day off that way. I’m not using so much my PTO time if I need to go to a doctor, or if something comes up and I just need to have that half day to run errands. That’s something that I think is coming. I mean, it’s already happening all over Europe. And I think a four day workweek is coming. That is something that I’m probably going to ask for in two years when I renegotiate. But that’s something that I didn’t think to ask for because I just assumed based on what they told me and there was a very vague clause that my hours are based on the hospital and it wasn’t like in contract black and white what that meant. So if I could go back and do that over again, I work life balance is pretty important. And I wish I would have ironed that out a little bit more
Ashley Hughes 14:33
completely agree. I love that you guys have both kind of already thought about what you might do differently next time. And it doesn’t mean that anybody did anything wrong this time but a negotiation isn’t like a one and done thing. And Kaila you hit on that already said in two years when I renegotiate, I’ll probably ask for that. And so you know, if you feel like you could have asked for something else you always can. And the great thing is that they’re going to value you even more than they’re going to see all the work that you’ve done and the CI program. They You’ve started and all the grants that Riley is going to bring in. So kind of a flip that around what felt good about how your negotiation went? Or did it feel collaborative to you? And if so, how do you think you made it a collaborative
Riley DeBacker 15:15
process, something that really stood out to me about my process was my boss’s reaction when I asked, it was something that when I was going to the interview process, it was very obvious that the community or the the workplace environment that I was moving into is very collaborative. And everyone during my interview process was really friendly with each other, it was obvious that that was either very effectively marketed or genuine. And so that was something I was a little bit worried about when I went into the process was Oh, like, I’m not going to be viewed as a team player. And something that I really appreciated my boss’s initial reaction, when I asked to bump up a few steps, and the pay grade was just absolutely thank you for advocating for yourself and what you need, we’re going to do everything we can to make this happen. And so that was something that made me feel really good, because I was so nervous that the way I was going to be perceived in the workplace was that I was asking for something unfair. And instead, it was something that just kind of further confirmed like this is a good place to work. And these are people that want the best for me, as I’m getting started, something that came up was that they wanted to give me everything I needed to be successful. And I really appreciated that language from my boss, just to both because it assuaged any fears I had, and also just kind of confirmed the good vibes that I had about the place where I was going to be going.
Ashley Hughes 16:41
Riley, I kind of want to touch on one of the things you say said, and just flip it around a little bit. And I’m sure we’ll get to this in a few minutes to but I see and hear you that it could make people feel like things are unfair. But at the same time when each of us negotiates our salary, we’re negotiating the salary for our entire profession, because people are determining our offers based on averages and things like that. And so really, I would argue that what you’re doing is a favor to everybody. And same with you, Kaila, it’s good for us as individuals and for our profession and the future of our profession.
Riley DeBacker 17:14
And something I’ll just stress that I said already was that I knew that intellectually, but I did have a lot of trouble applying it to myself. And so that’s that’s the only thing that I, I feel like if I were going to kind of go back to my previous self and re articulate over and over again, it’s that advice we know intellectually does apply to our unique situations, because every situation is unique. And we’ve been telling people this over and over. So listen,
Ashley Hughes 17:40
it’s so hard because there’s like the emotional reaction and then the rational reaction and they don’t always match up. Yeah,
Kaila Howard 17:46
I actually want to touch on something that he said his boss and where he’s walking into seems very supportive. They’re very encouraging and like advocate for yourself. That’s great. My the reaction that I got from HR wasn’t, it wasn’t necessarily a negative thing. But they were actually just surprised that I asked for more. So but something that felt really good for me, I think was just the knowledge behind it. Understanding the market understanding if I went 30 minutes north to like a bigger city, what would my starting pay be? They’re understanding what the average pay is for my state, and then advocating for myself because they’re not asking for average, they’re asking for me to build a program, and then in another year, build another program. So you build CI, then build vestibular. Okay, well, this year we’re working on CI. So when I asked for the amount, I actually asked for 15, $15,000, more or $1500 more? No, I asked for $15,000 more than what they offered. And I asked high because I thought that they were going to come down, and then it would be towards the mid range of what my state was. But when we finally got to the point where they were asking why I had to explain to them well, your pay and what you offered was for an average audiologist and you’re asking me to go above average and add on all of these responsibilities, pick out the equipment, figure out the protocol, write the reports, figure out the templates to help you with the billing. So those things are not an average typically audiologist, sometimes practices hire people to come in and set it up for you. They hire people to come in and show you the protocol. So I felt like I advocated for myself quite a lot. And I felt like it was a really big ask and I’m going to be honest, I was preparing myself to just completely get the offer taken away from me and not even get the job. So those are like big fears that I had, but it felt really really good to know the numbers and know where my revenue is coming from to understand the billing behind the tests that I do behind everything and to know Okay, I know that in an average day if I see this many patients, I could potentially bring this much in to the office. If I do that over so many days, then that’s this much revenue, etc. I had really great mentors that taught me how to do that on a very base level. So when you look at it in the grand scheme of things, I didn’t really ask for too much, I don’t think whenever I looked at the numbers, so that felt really good. And just knowing the numbers and in a collaborative sense, being able to explain those numbers and explain the rationale and say, This is what I can do for your office. This is what I can bring in, I have areas of expertise and understanding what is profitable, the billing, what is not profitable, what can actually be an incredible drain on the program. And so that back and forth, I felt like that was where me and where I in the manager had really was able to collaborate and come to an understanding of my value and what I can bring value to the, to the program.
Ashley Hughes 20:53
I love that I love that you said that now kind of you better understand your worth, which is important, just in general, but for us to each understand our worth, but also, they can’t if we don’t if we can’t properly understand and articulate why we’re worth it. How can we expect somebody who doesn’t know us to understand that, but I love that that’s what that’s what you got out of it, and hopefully the next person that they hire, or that you hire, perhaps when you’re growing the audiology department there, when they negotiate, hopefully, they won’t have the same experience, because now you kind of set that expectation that people come in and they do negotiate. So I just kind of want to wrap up with one more question. How did your perspective change on negotiating throughout this process? And we’re just going to make this a two in one question. Do you have any tactics or things that you learn that you’d like other people to to know when they’re starting their negotiation process? Can you repeat that? Yeah, of course. So how did your perspective on negotiating change from your experiences with your first negotiation? And then kind of tacked on to that? What did you learn? Are there any tactics that you’d want to share with people approaching their first or second negotiation, just people negotiating,
Kaila Howard 21:59
so I’ll take this one first. So my, the way I looked at it, and how I kind of perceived negotiating is, when I first started my job search, I was very much like, I need this job, this I have to make this work, I have to negotiate and make it perfect. And I think like after the third job that I turned down, I realized that it’s okay, that it isn’t a good fit. Sometimes you just can’t make the wrong shoe size, fit your foot. And that’s okay. So I mean, like, after a couple of negotiations, getting my getting my feet wet, I’m still I was still kind of a newbie, but I felt more confident and walking away from something that wasn’t good, or something that you couldn’t find a collaborative middle ground, just, it’s okay, if it doesn’t work. And maybe you aren’t what they need necessarily, and maybe they aren’t what you need. But in terms of tactics, I would recommend that everybody finds a really great mentor, find people that are open and willing to talk about their salary, because that is something I think is super taboo. You know, there are laws in place where you are allowed to talk about your salary with coworkers, you might not be allowed to talk about it in the workplace, consult a lawyer. And that’s not my area. But there are, I believe it’s the National Labor reaction or Relations Act containing a provision Section seven, feel free to look that up, guys. But I think the biggest boost that I got was knowing what an average salary was. And then just adding tax for the exceptional services that you can provide and why they’re ultimately looking at hiring you what makes you exceptional, and then just add tax. I love that.
Ashley Hughes 23:40
How did your perspective on negotiating changed throughout the process? And what tactics do you recommend for people as they’re approaching their negotiations?
Riley DeBacker 23:48
So I feel like I’ve already talked a good little bit about both things, I might change a little bit. So definitely give those pieces as advice for kind of moving forward or trying this again. But when I think sort of about how my perspective has changed, I think what Tyler said is so important, finding good mentors and having people from a wide net, I would suppose so I got some great mentorship, like locally at Ohio State that I really appreciated. But I also got mentorship from folks I had met in other contexts. And something I really keep in mind is that mentors in that context do not have to be people that are in a different career stage than you are. So I certainly consulted folks at other career stages. But there were peers of mine that I was able to say Hey, what did like what job offers Did you get like what worked well for you? You just negotiated a bit. Were there things that you felt like gained a lot of traction and kind of collecting those pieces of advice and finding what worked best for me was really impactful. Something else that I really appreciated was kind of getting to take The lead on how I negotiated so I did most of my negotiating by email, actually, which I liked, because there were the nice paper trail to it. And also, I liked because I didn’t have to respond right away to anything. So I guess when I think about kind of tips for how I’d move forward, there are lots of really great resources, some advice is going to contradict other advice. And so find things that work for you that you’re going to be able to do authentically and organically, because not every tip is good for every person in every situation. But something I really appreciated that Kaila said was kind of adding tax for what you’re adding, the services you’re being asked to provide probably aren’t average, in a lot of contexts, the things that you are going to bring to a position on top of what they are asking as a baseline might add to your value in those particular places. And especially if you want to stay somewhere for a while your salary is going to be determined down the line by what you do now. So don’t underweight yourself, and set yourself up for being discontent in a place you’d really like to be five or 10 years down the line. Because you weren’t assertive enough at this point, I feel like is the biggest way I’d kind of wrap a bow on what I’ve learned over the last couple months here
Kaila Howard 26:18
actually want to piggyback off of something that Riley just said, For those that are some people, they’re looking for the perfect job. And so they’re willing to move anywhere. But the vast majority of people that I’ve spoken to, they are looking for one job, hometown, they want to be close to family. So they have like a very set geographical area, I wasn’t really, I did not have a set geographical area. So I was just looking anywhere. So it made it easier to walk away. So I think maybe that adds a lot of pressure on people whenever they’re negotiating, because they want to make sure that they get their perfect geographical location. So I would just really recommend that even though you really want the spot, know what is more important, like priority list, negotiating is already hard enough. But don’t give yourself any added pressure. A great kind of
Riley DeBacker 27:08
all I was gonna add on to that is just to even if you have boundaries in place that are locking you into things, remember that those aren’t obvious to everyone around you. So if even if you say you have family in an area, that doesn’t mean for sure that you want to move there, I don’t have any family in Portland, and I’m going across the country for this job. So I think it’s even though you might have factors that make you more willing to compromise on things, that doesn’t mean your potential employer knows that. And so don’t be afraid to negotiate even when those things are true. Because often, from what I’ve heard, and from what people tell me over and over again, the worst thing they’re gonna say is no, we’re sticking with what what we offered you the first time.
Ashley Hughes 27:50
Exactly, exactly. Trying to negotiate doesn’t mean that if they don’t move, you don’t accept the job. That’s your decision to make after you attempt to negotiate with them. So congratulations to both of you and your first jobs after graduating and your first successful negotiation. That’s a huge accomplishment. And again, we really appreciate both of you share your experiences with us and kind of imparting your wisdom on our listeners. You know, I know all of us really believe that the more we talk about negotiating and our salaries, the less taboo the topic will be. And the more we’ll all learn and the more will all hopefully make. So I’m confident that some of our listeners have learned from both of you and your experiences and I really appreciate you being open and vulnerable with you know, a large group of people to our listeners. Remember kind of the key points that I picked up from doctors Kaila Howard and Riley DeBacker are you’re not average, be confident and know what you’re worth. So thanks to everybody for tuning in, and we hope you can join us again next week.
Transcribed by otter .ai
About the Panel
Ashley Hughes, Au.D. earned her doctorate of audiology from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2014. She works as an audiologist with Interacoustics US, in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Prior to joining Interacoustics, Dr. Hughes first worked clinically and then as a research audiologist for a hearing aid manufacturer. She has served as an invited speaker at state and national conferences and is an author on multiple published articles and posters. She is highly involved in the American Academy of Audiology, along with her state audiology organization, the Minnesota Academy of Audiology.
Kaila Howard, AuD graduated with her Doctorate of Audiology from Louisiana State University Health Science Center in May of 2021 and her Bachelors degree in Communication Disorders from Murray State University in May of 2015. Her primary areas of interest are cochlear implants and vestibular assessment. Dr. Howard’s externship focused on rural healthcare, vestibular assessment, cochlear implant evaluation, and follow up treatment. She recently accepted a position at Ephraim McDowell ENT in Danville, Kentucky where she will be working with a team of three ENTs and an additional audiologist to develop a cochlear implant program.
Riley DeBacker, AuD, PhD is a research audiologist at the National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research (NCRAR) at the VA Portland Medical Center and a recent graduate of The Ohio State University. His research focuses on translational models of ototoxicity. Riley is a current sub-committee chair of the International Ototoxicity Monitoring Guidelines Working Group and a past-president of the Student Academy of Audiology. Outside of work, Riley and his husband enjoy playing board games and spending time with their two cats, Dame Judi Dench and Stormageddon.
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