The Top 10 Mistakes I’ve Made When Negotiating

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Tracy Bingaman

I'm Tracy 

I'm a PA who burned out, big time, and now I teach PAs to negotiate effectively because every PA deserves a paycheck they are proud of and to feel valued at work. I love leopard print, skiing, and my morning routine. My mission? To help PAs stop feeling overworked, underpaid and overwhelmed and start feeling valued and earning what they deserve.

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PAs graduate with a huge hole in their knowledge base: negotiating. We don’t learn enough about the strategies, tactics and business of medicine because we are too busy learning the actual clinical medicine.

I’m sharing 10 of the top mistakes that I’ve made when negotiating for my PA salary and compensation package in the past. Yep, the expert makes mistakes, too. Press play to hear some of the things that have slipped me up in negotiations and job transitions in the past.

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Why Mistakes Happen

I deeply believe that actions are some of the most important things we can do in our lives and our careers. I hear PAs go back-and-forth about taking action so much that they feel stuck and make no decision and no moves at all.

When we take action, we might make mistakes. We could fail. We could make a misstep and end up having to make another move or another change. 

Sometimes these are the steps that we learn the most from. To prove that we can learn from and survive these mistakes, I’m going to talk about the biggest mistakes that I made when I was negotiating during my career as a PA.

These things don’t make me a failure. They make me a human. These mistakes have helped to shape the way that I coach clients and will inform my next negotiation approach. 

Mistakes are part of moves. They are a part of life.

I’m not here to show you the highlight reel of negotiations and pretend like I get it 100% exactly right each and every time. I do NOT have it all together. 

I’d rather be an open book, pull back the curtain and tell you, that even though I have all the strategies and tips for you, I am out here bumping along using trial and error, too. 

I hope this might help you to learn from my experience, too. 

Here are the 10 mistakes I’ve made when negotiating in the past. 

1. Not Asking Clarifying Questions

Whether it was because I didn’t want to seem like a troublemaker from the get go or due to the fact that I wanted to seem more experienced, from my very first job on, I didn’t ask enough questions.

I would look at the contract agreement or the offer and ask the questions inside of my mind, but not enough to dare to reach out to clarify them.

Is this ALL paid time off in one bucket or is there different, specific days for sick, vacation and CME time?

Does the 403b match start immediately? When is the match vested? 

Honestly, not asking these questions might have actually made me seem less knowledgeable or interested in these positions – the exact opposite of what I was trying to accomplish. 

Going with the flow, not asking those questions, might make you less memorable and interested to your future or potential employer. 

You want that organization to choose you BECAUSE of your level of interest, your attention to detail, and your desire to clarify those things. 

2. Underestimating My Value

I had no idea how much actual objective value that I would add to practices and organizations when I started seeing patients and billing for those patient visits. 

Because I underestimated my value, I accepted the first offer at my first position without asking for more money. 

Due to the fact that I didn’t realize how much I’d be billing in visits and first assist fees, I anchored low when an employer asked me how much I wanted to be making. 

I got in the habit of, because I was so darn excited to work, nodding along, accepting what was offered to me without pushing for more. 

Let me be the one to remind you that you will make wayyy more than your salary and compensation package in billing in your practice. 

3. Feeling Guilty About My Employers Bottom Line

This one is SO important… and hard to summarize and explain in this quick little section of this episode (blog post). I remember feeling badly about how much I was earning, like my salary might single handedly weigh down the budget line-item for providers at an employer.

It kept me from asking for more, insisting that I earn more when I did more work because I was too worried about the departments bottom line. 

These concerns about a budget that I wasn’t responsible for kept me from being my own best advocate. It made me feel guilty because if I was earning more, maybe others in my group wouldn’t be earning as much as I would.

This guilt had me playing small and smothering my earning potential with guilt. It had me earning less when I was ready and able to be earning more.

All because of the narratives, the guilt, the stories in my own head about something that wasn’t my business or any of my responsibilities. 

4. Not Asking For Advice

This one is tricky because it’s salary and contract we are discussing here. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t have an employment lawyer review many of the contracts that I was offered.

They were from big organizations, which had led me to trust them, their validity and think that they weren’t negotiable.

Everything is negotiable. And I do mean everything.

Just because it’s written down doesn’t mean that it’s set in stone. It also doesn’t mean that you have to agree to it.

Each time that I have invested in outside help – from a coach, advice from a mentor, or engaged a good local employment lawyer to review my agreement – I have been more likely to ask questions and get a better deal. 

I would be happy to walk through your next negotiation alongside you. Book your PA-specific negotiation consultation here.

5. Waiting Too Long

There have been several times in my career when I have waited too long to leave my employer. When you wait too long, you are in a rush to leave. When you are in a rush to leave you are in a hurry to find a new position.

This hurrying doesn’t breed strategic and calm decision making. It puts pressure on you to find a new job and reach an agreement. 

When you feel so desperate to get the heck out of a toxic situation or a position that has burned you out that you cannot imagine doing for 30, 60 or 90 more days, you are less likely to land in a situation that you’ll thrive in. 

Making decisions in a rush isn’t great. As they say, stressed work isn’t your best work and finding work while you are stressed is no different. 

Start looking sooner. Be on the lookout for the early signs that you are unhappy, as this will give you more time and the luxury of being more deliberate in your decisions going forward. 

6. Not Having Good Data

I am pretty embarrassed to admit that, now as the data loving queen who wants all people to understand where they fall relative to the mean and median salaries in their specialty and area of the country… I was grossly unprepared from a data standpoint during prior negotiations.

Whether it’s from other PAs in your area, the AAPA salary report, extrapolation on know numbers or investing in the MGMA data, having a base of numbers to negotiate from is important. 

7. Sharing My Desires All At Once

One time I sat down to negotiate with one of my physicians I shared my request – in it’s entirety. Essentially I filled out an equivalent to the PA Pay One Sheet and then, instead of reserving it and using it to make moves and strategies in my negotiation… I just handed it over. 

The PA Pay One Sheet is a downloadable sheet where you lay out your desires, questions and strategies. It is, trust me, not as effective without the conversation. 

Yes, the conversations are nerve-wracking but they do need to happen.

8. Avoiding The Conversations

When you avoid something you give it power. Avoiding the conversations that lead to negotiations is an understandable impulse.

However, it’s ineffective. Avoiding things make it harder and harder to get your nerve up. It makes it harder to walk into the room with confidence. 

There have been times in the pat where there was something that I wanted so badly, but I dreaded the conversation and sometimes never executed at all.

That’s planning procrastination for you. I was making a great plan, a perfect plan, to bring to the table. Turns out it doesn’t matter if the plan is perfect if you never present it to anyone.

Avoid this perfection mindset and do it, messy and afraid, but do it nonetheless. 

9. Not Accepting Feedback Graciously

One time when I was preparing to leave one of my general surgery positions I put together a business case to present to a local private general surgery partnership.

It was something that I poured over, prepping the numbers and document with the goal of showing the general surgeons what a great investment and addition to their practice an experienced PA like myself would be.

I asked Dan to look over the document. He came back with notes upon notes – questions and clarifications – and I was immediately on the defensive. How *dare* he give me constructive criticism when what I asked for had been praise! 

10. Not Investing Time in Learning How to Negotiate

Up until this year, when I realized how much PAs have to learn about negotiating, I hadn’t invested in honing these skills.

When you think about it, all conversations are a negotiation: whether you are trying to get a toddler to bed or a patient on board with the plan of workup and treatment for a specific disease process. 

Understanding how to negotiate was a big hole in my experience until recently. Investing in this skills have served me well, and my hope is to continue to relay those skills to you, my friend.

To book a negotiation consultation call with Tracy, click here.

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I'm Tracy Bingaman

It's so nice to meet you... I’m a PA Mom life coach, self-care promoter, curly haired achiever, mom and dog mom, and a margarita drinking badass.

I burned out working as a PA... BIG TIME. I quit my job, doubled my hourly income earned, work half as much and learned to build a life around the things that I value instead of a schedule set by someone else and now I get to share all that I've learned with you. 

oh hey!

Now I teach PAs to do the same.

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