ATLANTA — You might think the interview and hiring process qualifies as the best, if not only, time to negotiate the terms of your employment. But in reality, many college athletics administrators find themselves so caught up in the excitement of receiv­ing a job offer that they fail to take advantage of this key opportunity to negotiate and advocate for their best interests, according to Julie Roe Lach, Esq., deputy commissioner of the Horizon League and managing principal of CCHA Collegiate Sports Consulting.

Regardless of whether you did engage in negotia­tion before you were hired, you still can take advan­tage of two other opportune times for negotiating or renegotiating the terms of your employment, said Lach, who spoke at the annual convention for Women Leaders in College Sports. That means you should plan to negotiate every time you encounter the three key phases of your employment, from entering to extending and eventually exiting your job, she said. Lach explained how you can make these negotiation opportunities work for you at each phase of your employment:

Phase 1: Start of a new job. “How you negotiate phase one can really affect how you leave,” Lach said.

So, before you give in to that feeling that just because you’ve been offered a new job, you should jump at the chance to accept it at face value, make sure to lay the important groundwork.

Whether your job offer includes an agreement or a contract, make sure you first take the follow­ing steps:

A. Call a full timeout to obtain expert advice about the offer. Don’t let the cost stop you, Lach said. “Spend the money; it’s worth it. You’re worth it. It’s getting advice on the front end to help you on the back end,” she said.

Also gather data about comparable jobs, such as applicable salary comparisons offered by WINAD (http: // wint hropintelligence. com/ tour-winad/).

Find out what other benefits the school might offer and think about what you might want to request, such as professional development (e.g., convention travel or executive coaching) and flexible scheduling (whether that’s a later start time to accommodate dropping your children off to day care or school, or working from home on some days).

B.Negotiate the terms, asking for what you want (i.e., salary, benefits, professional development, scheduling). Even if you don’t receive all of your requests, you won’t know until you ask.

C. Pay attention to the termination clause. Employment contracts typically state that the school can let you go “with cause,” which usually means for committing fraud or other crimes.2.Negotiate the terms, asking for what you want (i.e., salary, benefits, professional development, scheduling). Even if you don’t receive all of your requests, you won’t know until you ask.

But some contracts might also list another cause for termination as “moral turpitude,” which is an “ambiguous, vague term” that you want removed from your contract, Lach said.

Instead, the employer could list any particular lifestyle choices or “those behaviors that they con­sider deal breakers” that the school could let you go for, she suggested.

On the other end of the spectrum, contracts might allow termination “without cause.”

But pay careful attention to the fine print about how long past your termination you would receive pay and benefits, Lach advised.

Some contracts might state that pay and ben­efits would end in 30 days, but in many cases the “reasonable norm” is 12 months, according to Lach, so you would want to have that time pe­riod extended in your contract accordingly, she recommended.

Phase 2: Advancement or extension of employ­ment. Whether you’re being offered a promotion or an extension or a renewal of your contract, you need to again take a step back and call another timeout, Lach said.

Promotions present you with yet another oppor­tunity to assess your overall job situation, including your compensation package, and to renegotiate the terms of your employment.

This could be a good time to state that you want to have a contract, if you don’t already have one, and to negotiate that as part of your promotion. Take time to consider what’s most important to you, whether it’s a different type of benefit (such as tuition assistance) that you didn’t want or need before, an increase in salary, or a contract — and ask for it.

Phase 3: Exit from the job. You should expect all jobs to come to an end, and plan in advance accord­ingly. So whether the school decides to terminate you or you choose to leave to take another job or to retire, you can still play a key role in negotiating a smooth exit that considers your best interests, Lach said.  

You can take proactive steps to prepare for termi­nation by knowing your environment, she said. Take note of any tension or leadership changes, such as a new athletics director, president, or board, and how that might impact your employment.

If you’re told that the school has decided to make a change and let you go, don’t be caught off guard by on-the-spot requests to sign confidentiality waivers and/or agreements not to sue.

Call a timeout to consult with an attorney to deter­mine if you’re going to sign any of the paperwork and how you’re going to handle the exit.

Also, seek advice from PR/communications experts on how you’re going to message this to oth­ers, including the student-athletes on your teams, to colleagues you encounter at conventions, and potential future employers.

If the exit environment reaches a high enough level of publicity or controversy, you might need to also hire a crisis communications firm.

If you’re concerned that having legal counsel will make you seem adversarial, remember that if you’re being terminated, the situation is probably already adversarial and you need to protect your own interests. 

Either way, learn to become comfortable with your 10-second elevator speech, which should have only the first three seconds devoted to describing the exit.

Here’s an example: “I left XYZ school. It was a tough transition. But now I’m really excited and looking forward to what’s next.”

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