Inside: Q&A with entrepreneur and negotiation and investing pro, Kim Tran of Your Work Inspires.
Get ready for a real treat, friends!
Today’s guest is Kim Tran, Founder of Your Work Inspires, who is working to close the wage and wealth gap for women. Her journey to get to this place will be super inspiring for all the career switchers out there, and the negotiation and investing tips she shares? My goodness, chef’s kiss!
Without further ado, get ready to make more money (and make that money work for you) with Kim!
Meet Kim Tran
Becca: For those who don’t know you yet, can you tell us about yourself?
Kim: My name is Kim Tran, Founder of Your Work Inspires, and former aspiring lawyer-turned-global tech marketer.
I started off my career in media litigation and First Amendment Law prior to joining one of the firm’s clients, Discovery, Inc (aka the Discovery Channel), where I began pivoting into brand strategy and marketing full-time while I finished up my MA in Strategic Communications.
Since then, I’ve mostly specialized in marketing for highly-regulated industries, such as legal, edtech, financial services, and most recently, Internet infrastructure. I’ve done some fun things in my career so far, from launching ad campaigns in Capital One Cafes across the country, to growing and marketing the .com domain name in Latin America.
Currently, I’m focused on building my business, Your Work Inspires, full-time, and just wrapped up some consulting work for the .org and .ngo domain names.
How to Close the Wage and Wealth Gap
Becca: Let’s talk Your Work Inspires. Pardon the pun but what inspired you to start this company and what does your company offer to clients?
(OK, first off, I love puns (and bad mom/dad jokes); so much so that it’s even on my LinkedIn profile as part of my areas of specialty, haha!)
My mission with Your Work Inspires is to close the wage gap and wealth gap for women, especially women of color–regardless of job title or industry. I accomplish that through a mix of things, from 1:1 individual coaching to private group workshops, as well as corporate consulting and speaking on an array of career and business topics for diverse audiences from Duke University and American University, to General Assembly and Booz Allen Hamilton.
I focus on negotiations as a niche because aside from systemic structures that continue to perpetuate gender and racial pay inequities, I believe that speaking up and advocating for ourselves is an act of healing and self-care–not just at the individual level, but collectively as well. It is also something tangible within our immediate control and influence until companies and corporations get on board and enact sustainable support and change.
Women, on average, make about $0.82 to every $1 that a white man makes; over the course of a lifetime and career, that could translate to anywhere between $600,000 to more than a $1 million in LOST wages, LOST dreams, LOST goals.
The gap widens even more drastically as we talk about other intersectional communities–disabled women, women of color, working mothers. Since 2020, women have been disproportionately displaced from the workforce due to the pandemic, just as some of us were beginning to make financial gains since the last financial recession.
It’s devastating. It’s infuriating. It is why I do what I do.
Where to Start with Negotiation
Becca: What’s one big thing you wish women knew that would help them negotiate effectively?
As I pivoted and grew in my own career, I began to coach and mentor other women through theirs, as well, especially other women of color like myself.
The one big theme that I often hear from clients and students as to why they didn’t or don’t negotiate isn’t necessarily money-related; it’s psychologically oriented instead. There is a fear that they’ll lose out on an opportunity, fear that they’ll be perceived as too pushy or too aggressive, even fear that they’ll upset someone, or even get laughed at.
The sad fact is, their fears are absolutely valid and aren’t without basis. Research has shown time and time again that there is the very real reality that when women do negotiate, we experience more bias and prejudice than our male counterparts. So it’s critical to highlight that the issue is not singularly due to a lack of skill or even lack of motivation on our part, but also a lack of deep-seated systemic prejudice at play as well.
The other big theme is simply that often, women don’t know they could negotiate “that”, whatever that is. Many of us have been conditioned since childhood to simply be grateful for what we’ve been given, rather than push back and challenge. I want more women to know that nearly everything is negotiable, and negotiation doesn’t just involve negotiating for more money.
In my trainings and workshops, I reframe negotiations as a conversation of discovery and exploration. You’re co-creating value and problem solving with the other party. From this perspective, the whole process feels much less daunting. It feels less heavy. And more often than not, it leads to better outcomes that some women didn’t even think was possible for them. Like one of my clients, S, who landed an additional 10% in commission rates that didn’t even exist in her original contract to begin with until she repositioned herself during her counter conversations.
It’s basic math. The more money we make, the more we can save and invest as well. Not just for ourselves, but for our families and communities too.
How to Start Investing
Becca: How about investing? This is a big topic but if you could impart one key piece of wisdom what would it be?
Kim: Start small! As a daughter of Vietnamese immigrants and refugees, I was taught to make money to hoard money, rather than make my money work for me. I was cautioned against “gambling” my money away on stocks and investments.
My first foray into investing was through my then-company’s discounted employee stock purchasing plan. I still own the stocks today and it has grown about 63%+ overall since then, even years after I left the company. I want more women to experience that kind of passive growth and the magic of compound interest.
In addition, I maxed out my employer’s 401(k) match every paycheck, and then began putting aside $25/month post-taxes to start. Then I gradually increased from there as my income grew. It’s the same philosophy I follow now for my 5-year old daughter, whose own portfolio has reached multiple 5-figures at this point. (By contrast, I had 5-figures’ worth of student loan debt at 25.) Change starts with us.
Finding Her Career Sweet Spot
Becca: How did you find your career sweet spot as a business owner? (The intersection of your passions, strengths, and value you add to others)
Kim: Whew, this is a great question!
I’ve always been multi-passionate, often having side hustles and hobbies along with my corporate gigs. Agnostic of function or industry, my guiding light has always been whether or not I’ll be able to learn in my next venture or role. One of my biggest fears in life is to stay stuck and stagnant, so my career compass has always been to go where I can grow–and if it means leaving a company every 1-2 years to fulfill that need, then so be it.
Some people have pegged me as having a “non-traditional background” and a “job hopper”. I call myself a chaos pilot and a job optimizer. I’ve found that I’m incredibly comfortable with change, which has actually translated well into my entrepreneurial pursuit–so as long as I can keep learning (and the learning is fun), I find that everything else has tended to find itself and fall into place.
Now as a business owner, I get to apply my creativity in truly expansive and experimental ways that I haven’t been able to do as freely in previous corporate settings, which has been refreshing and addicting, in a way. Honestly, this is probably why I haven’t been in a rush to get back into corporate full-time just yet. We’ll see what comes next!
Read More: How to Find Your Career Sweet Spot
Shout Out Those Accomplishments!
Becca: What has been your proudest moment in your career?
Kim: One of my proudest moments was probably turning down a job offer that paid about $15,000 more in base salary, and using it as leverage to negotiate $27,000 more in restricted stock units instead with a separate job offer that was closer to home. I saved thousands of dollars and hours in commuting time and tolls with that one move. This meant less stress and more energy for myself and my family at the time.
Recently, a former coworker who had been following my work reached out and told me that Your Work Inspires inspired her to negotiate a retention package for herself. In just a few conversations, she negotiated an increase of 20%+ plus a bonus for herself, and this move propelled her to a six-figure earner status for the first time–I was so insanely proud of her!
And Real Talk About the Hard Stuff
Becca: What has been your biggest challenge in your career?
Kim: I tend to push myself to the brink of burnout. Part of it is cultural, where I come from a family that glorified the narrative that you must struggle to succeed–so I am very aware of this part of myself. Part of it is also my own insecurities and imposter syndrome at work (pun intended!) in my own head.
Read More: How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome
Last year, when COVID hit, I began having so much anxiety that I would lose my job. And yet, when I actually did lose my job earlier this year, I felt such an immense sense of relief and lightness.
I had been thinking of downshifting my career for a while, especially because I have also been going through a contentious transition in my personal life throughout the pandemic. It was exhausting and draining, but I kept holding off on making a decision because I didn’t want to be judged or seen as less capable. I was also very afraid of how that “step back” in my career would look like, and having to explain that gap to future employers.
Managing Working Mom Life
Becca: Can you talk a bit about how you manage your time as a working mother and business owner? Don’t worry, I’m not asking “how you do it all?” It’s more, what tips, tricks, and strategies have you picked up to make things even a little bit easier?
Kim: Asking for help is something I actively remind myself to do every single day. Knowing my limits and being very clear about my boundaries and bandwidth have also been key to managing my sanity and wellbeing.
As a single working mom, I have hired support to help me manage my personal and professional life and pay for convenience. This includes everything from delivery and takeout to gathering whom I call my A-Team, from my money coach to my virtual assistant. Because I have the privilege to do so, I hire and distribute that income to other women as well.
Last but not least, having a strong circle of badass women across all stages of life have been incredibly life-saving for me.Access 15 Game-Changing Working Mom Hacks to Make Life Easier and More Fun
Wise Words from Kim Tran
Becca: Last question! Any piece of parental wisdom you’d like to drop on us?
Kim: I think “progress, not perfection” has been the ONE piece of advice that has kept me going, even more so during the past year throughout the pandemic as a recovering perfectionist.
I now give myself permission to be gentle with myself, and to rest whenever I need to, rather than “pushing through” some imaginary lofty goal or deadline I’ve set for myself. We do so much for others! It’s time we prioritize ourselves, as well.
See why I’m a little bit obsessed with this interview? Real talk, inspiration, motivation, support, humor, all the things!