Don’t Take the Billionaire Bonus
A couple years ago I was working at a luxury fashion brand and received a LinkedIn message from the head of staff for a certain businessman seeking a personal stylist/wardrobe manager and would I be willing to come in for an interview. I might have passed on this had I not recognized his name, he was a client at my previous high end retail job. He is a billionaire and he is notorious. Not in the sexy Christian Grey or Mr. Big way. There was never any direct contact with him, his assistant would request items for consignment and his driver would pick up and return whatever he did/did not want (return policies be damned). Typical billionaire stuff. He was also notorious for other things, like being exacting and having a temper. Nonetheless, I was intrigued. I’m tough and if I did well it could become an opportunity for me to focus on one client and a good experience for a next move. This could be a big deal.
What I learned:
Be prepared to meet with an exacting tough billionaire. Listen, even though you work in luxury and live in NYC, there are always new impressive things you aren’t fully prepared for! Here’s what “Be prepared” means in this case:
Know your value and show your value. Remember this because when you interview with the Head of Staff in the bonkers gorgeous art filled townhouse office, you won’t be thrown off, you’re ready. Being sought after made it easier to mentally chill out. A mentality I’d suggest adopting in all interviews– show desire for the job but don’t sweat them! Tell of all the ways you are excellent and wonderful in your work. You belong there. Demonstrate you value and be a delight. However, don’t let that stop you from preparing a bunch of probing exacting questions to show them you’re an expert who knows what is required in this job and they need you. Once you are valuable and they like you there’s a better chance you can later negotiate your role and salary.
Be ready to negotiate. Even though this is the first interview, the minute you walk in be ready to be asked about money. Before you show up to the interview, start with calculating your worth how much you are worth. Find out how much someone in this new role is worth, what they get paid, how many hours per week, role expectation. Understand the definitions of the role. What they are asking you to do versus what will be done. Ready to negotiate means you have researched the role and the salary and you have negotiation tactics.
Write things down. You’ll need it when the Director of Creative comes in to “bad cop” interview you and asks blank faced and repeatedly for your range, you give no number and repeat yourself “I consider my salary fully negotiable based on the requirements of the position and the other benefits available." Write this down in your notes beforehand so you can stare at it if need be. That way when they start at $30K less than what you are making and $40K below the position should pay you can hit them with “That’s a place to start.” BUT...
Even when you are called in again to meet the billionaire business man and he loves your style and is excited about you. Don’t accept what seems good or be pressured into what you don’t want. Ask when they needed to know by and then give yourself time to evaluate. Even when they call hours later with $20K added to the first salary offer and a $20K signing bonus? Sounds right, no? NO! Bonuses are nice but they are not salary. Base salary is queen. A bonus this year does not roll over to the next year, which means you have cut your salary. But before I got back to them by end of day, the Head of Staff called an hour later, another candidate accepted their initial offer. That was that.
This is a negotiation success story. By asking for what I wanted, I avoided what I didn’t want. Which would be to leave a solid job for the promise of a better job that locked me into a contract to a boss who doesn’t value my work and yells at me daily. (The candidate who accepted the initial offer left the position two months later. Cough! Cough!)
A key to getting what you want also means not taking what is wrong for you.