by Sarah Wilkinson, Class of ’17
Salary negotiation can be tricky, especially if you are just starting out and have no idea how much money you should be making with the skills you have in the industry you’re in. If you’re curious about what to expect when it comes to your hourly wage or salary, check out the NACE Salary Calculator Center for an estimate based on your specific situation.
The entire compensation package – what you’ll be getting in exchange for your time and efforts – represents much more than just salary. A few tips:
Go to the source—reach out and talk to someone who works in the industry you are targeting (in person, or via online message boards) and ask them about salary expectations. Consider conducting an informational interview, but be wary: some people are very uncomfortable talking about money. Be upfront about your intentions before the interview.
Worth is subjective—your “worth,” or how much you can expect to make, can vary depending on each employer. You may make more money if an employer is facing shortages of people with your skills.
Remember that companies count benefits as part of your compensation. This could include standard things like health insurance, 401(k), and vacation time or other perks such as car allowances, health club memberships, laptops, flexible schedules, or the option to telecommute.
Entry-Level Salary Negotiation
Even in the best of economic times, salary negotiation is a risky proposition for most new college graduates pursuing entry-level positions. “You can negotiate if you have something extra special to negotiate with,” says Terese Corey Blanck, director of recruitment and placement for Corporate Interns, an internship and entry-level placement firm. But a college degree and a couple of internships aren’t enough, Corey Blanck emphasizes. “If you’re bringing some special experience or expertise to the table, then give [negotiation] a try,” she says.
To be clear, you don’t have to negotiate. An employer will likely offer you a set amount of money and then it’s up to you whether or not you think you deserve more. And if you do, you must have a salary negotiation conversation.
Use Your Head – “You’ve got to have a rationale for why you believe you should be paid more,” says Sheila Curran, Fannie Mitchell Executive Director of the career center at Duke University and coauthor of Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads. Have your facts all lined up and practice your pitch.
Do Your Homework – If the employer you’re dealing with appears to be open to some negotiation when it comes to your salary and/or other benefits (e.g., bonuses, relocation allowance, tuition reimbursement), feel free to take a shot at it. Some will be very closed to the idea and others won’t be. Know in advance, though, that you’ll need to have completed some pretty extensive research ahead of time to make a compelling case for yourself. It’s also important to pursue your negotiation activities respectfully, employing thoughtful, strategic questions and not overbearing “show me the money” types of demands. “You can’t go in with an attitude of ‘I’m entitled,’” says Corey Blanck, “But, rather, ‘I have this specific experience and expertise — is this something that’s worthwhile to you and, if so, are you open to negotiating a higher starting salary?’” You may not get what you want. But at least you won’t lose what you already have.