When new chiropractors kick-start their career by working in a practice, they’re eager, hungry and ready to learn from a mentor who knows the ropes. On the surface, this path can offer training on the job and get you prepared to build your own practice someday. But just because you want someone to “take you under their wing,” doesn’t mean you should feel like you have no say in what you get in return.
Yet it oftentimes does.
Why? Because it’s easy to go into defeating thoughts that take away any chance you have to negotiate. Ask yourself, if you’re an associate or want to be, have any of these thoughts run through your mind:
“What say do I have?”
“I have no idea how to negotiate.”
“I have no experience, so I’ll just take the best offer I can find.”
“All I want is a job that’ll pay the bills, and I’ll figure out the rest later.”
This is a confidence gut check. It’s an opportunity to reframe your mind on how you go into a job offer and give yourself the personal power on negotiating and knowing how to do it.
Let’s set the stage here. Our profession gets a bad rap on “eating its young” when it comes to associateships. Sadly, that’s because chiropractors feel overworked, underpaid and taken advantage of by the practice. But that end result doesn’t come fully from the boss. The employee (a.k.a. the associate) also needs to set standards before day one so you go into that job with a contract that works for you …
And not one that was just created for anyone who will sign it.
Having come out of a job that nearly drove me to leave the profession all together, I know that feeling all too well. In hindsight, had I known even one tip on how to negotiate, I would have put myself in a level playing field and perhaps even the wisdom to walk away from that job before getting hired and find something better.
So I want to share with you the tools that I would’ve told my younger self back when I graduated. Negotiating is all about the approach and implementing key strategies to create a contract that actually works in your favor.
Step 1: Go Shopping
Typically the first question that runs through your mind is, “How do I even know what to ask for?” And if you’re right out of school, it’s hard to know the baseline for what’s a standard contract. So the first step here is to do your research. Go on chiropractic job boards and read the offers. Identify what the opportunities are in your location or comparable areas if you don’t know where you want to practice yet. Look at the incentives and compensation to determine what works for you and what doesn’t. Create a list of what you’ve see in offers that appeals to you so you can bring that knowledge to the table on interview day.
Step 2: Know Your Conditions
After you’ve done your market research, you’ll want to create your own job offer. Design an ideal contract that matches what you want. This is a concept known as ‘conditions of satisfaction,’ which is all about developing standards for yourself.
And this is vital because chiropractors typically go into a job offer with no preparation or strong identity on what that ideal offer looks like. You don’t want to go into this process blind, because it will make you feel like you have no say in the game, and you will come across that way when a contract is presented to you.
So think about the standards you want to create for your job contract. This relates to three key areas: compensation, benefits and vacation. For compensation, know what the standard of living is in your area and what you need to make to match it. Also think about the structure. Do you want bonuses or incentives as you grow your patient base? What benefits do you want to receive in addition to your income? How much time off do you want to have? More importantly, how much time off do you want to give your work-life balance?
What exactly will cause you to be satisfied with your job offer? Be honest and specific. And then know those conditions before the interview, during the interview and especially when you negotiate the offer.
Step 3: Don’t Accept the First Offer
Any job offer that you get will be in the practice owner’s favor. It’s not necessarily because an employer is trying to take advantage of you. It’s because that employer is looking to bring a doctor into their practice and ultimately wants a new hire to be a good fit for them. This is no different than listing a house for a higher price, because the status quo is that the price will get negotiated down. That’s just smart business sense.
So don’t accept the first offer thinking that the employer won’t budge or that you have no voice in the matter. This is how any business contract works. There’s an offer. Then a counter offer. Then an agreement.
Use the conditions you’ve set to let the employer know what you want and what will make the job and offer a good fit for you. State what you need in order to move forward so both of you can have a dialogue and come to a mutual agreement. This sets such a stronger dynamic then just signing on the dotted line and hoping for the best.
The big takeaway here is this:
Don’t be willing to just take any offer just to get the job now, because you could spend years stuck in a contract that ultimately stunts your future growth. And you are worth way more than to just settle for some job when you’ve spent time, money, effort, and passion to become a chiropractor. So know that not only can you negotiate, but you should. And when you do, you’ll be able to see red flags, figure out the best fit and attract a job that matches what you want.
Jen Faber, D.C.
’06 Davenport campus graduate
After breaking away from burnout and frustration early in her career, Jen Faber, D.C., is now on a mission to coach freedom-seeking chiropractors on how build a practice they love through her individual coaching and online training programs. She is the creator of the House Call Practice Program and the Unleashed Coaching Program to empower chiropractors with the guidance, tools, and strategies to build a successful practice. Visit her online at www.drjenfaber.com.