Negotiating a start-up package can be an intimidating part of finding a new job. Drs. Betsy Herold and Natasha Halasa helped demystify the process during a panel at the 18th Annual St. Jude/PIDS Pediatric Infectious Disease Research Conference (Watch the video on Facebook @PIDSociety). They advised framing your start-up package request as the plan for the next 3-5 years of your career, including your goals and what you need to meet those goals.

The first step is to identify what you need to succeed, such as protected time; salary; office, laboratory, or clinical space; funds for personnel, reagents and laboratory supplies; access to or funds to purchase equipment; Continuing Medical Education funds; support for additional degrees or training; and access to students, mentors, and collaborators/consultants such as technical writers, biostatisticians, and data analysts. Other considerations might include your academic rank when you join the institution and the divisions or departments to which you are appointed. Each of these considerations will be tailored to your particular goals in basic science, clinical research, educational activities, or any of the many paths available to Pediatric Infectious Disease faculty. Consulting with your mentors, peers, and others who have recently joined the division can help you to generate your list of needs. Audience members also advised considering the papers or grants you are planning to write in the next 5 years when you are making your plan, as well as the promotion and tenure guidelines of the institution. Thera are also benchmarks for the time and funds required to be successful in many fields.

The next step is to identify the things on your list that are “deal-breakers,” which are the things that you must have in order to succeed in the position, personally or professionally. Consider the alternatives to some items on your ideal business plan, such as access to internal funding programs or to core facilities instead of purchasing equipment individually. This will help you decide how to respond to your offer, which may not match your request.

Other considerations include:

  • Know what you bring to the table as a candidate; this informs your position of strength as a negotiator. It may be worthwhile to explore options within or beyond fellowship to strengthen your position.
  • Your business plan does not necessarily change if you are staying at the same institution or moving to a new institution, but your position of strength may be different.
  • Similarly, geographic limitations that impact your job search may not change your planned request, but it may affect your position of strength and particularly your “deal-breakers.”
  • Consider having a lawyer review your offer and contract to have a clear understanding of the terms of your agreement.
  • Consider renegotiating when the scope of your 3-5 year plan changes or when your position of strength changes, such as when you receive new grants, are tasked with developing new programs or projects, or get promoted.

A well-considered and defined plan for success helps your stakeholders, such as your Division Chief or Chair, advocate for your needs and negotiate on your behalf. Engaging with colleagues within the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society can be a valuable source of information and advice as you’re building your plan.