Preparing for Salary Negotiation
March 7th, 2014 | Comment
WFU Expert Contributor – Dr. Paige Meltzer, Director of the Women’s Center
Negotiating for your starting salary can be intimidating. Few students graduating college have had experience advocating for their financial security. Many students might think it’s enough to get a good job offer in an uncertain economy. Others worry that negotiating for a starting salary can seem pushy or harm the developing relationship between them and their prospective employers.
But if you don’t negotiate for a fair and reasonable compensation package, you could be leaving money on the table. And that money compounds over the course of a working lifetime, costing you in future earnings. That compound loss disproportionately impacts women, who negotiate less than men, and contributes to the gender wage gap between women’s and men’s earnings.
It’s up to you to be your own advocate.
Being your own advocate starts when you’re looking for a job, not after you’ve gotten an offer. The key to successful salary negotiation is preparation.
1. Be well-informed and realistic about your skills, experiences, industry, and cost of living in your desired place of employment. Visit a website such as salary.com, which lets you explore different positions within different industries and provides you with salary ranges and compensation packages for those positions in your desired city. Not only will you find realistic numbers for your chosen field, you will be better positioned to speak to the specific skills and experiences that make you a competitive candidate worth a particular salary.
2. Know your bottom line. If you don’t know the lowest offer you could accept, you’re setting yourself up to accept an offer that cannot work for you in the long run. Build a realistic budget that takes into account more than your fixed costs such as rent, food, and transportation. Consider the cost of student loans, utilities, and entertainment – as well as holiday travel, a gym membership, and a savings plan. Know what you need to bring home every month after taxes to feel comfortable with the financial choices you make.
3. Negotiation does not start until you have an offer in hand. During the application and interview process, you may be prompted in various ways to share your salary expectations. Resist naming a figure. Politely deflect the question with sincere responses such as “I’ll consider any fair offer” or “I’m open to discussing any reasonable package.” Avoid writing a figure in automated application pages; use asterisks or N/A if possible. When pressed, refer to the industry range you learned during your research.
4. Know your value-add and practice talking about it. Visit the OPCD for a mock interview or ask your roommate to role-play the job offer with you. Remember that, according to your prospective employer, your salary is not about how much you need to live on, but about what you bring to the organization. It’s up to you to be able to identify and communicate your skills and experiences that will concretely contribute to the health and growth of the organization.
Once you’ve gotten an offer, take your time to evaluate it. Consider the salary offer separately from the benefits package – and then consider them together as a complete package to assess what trade-offs there might be between the two. Your prospective employer has shown you with an employment offer that she values you. Remain respectful, firm, and reasonable as you advocate for yourself and you will start your new professional relationship on solid ground.
To learn more and practice negotiating, register for $tart $mart Salary Negotiation Workshop on April 9, 5 pm in OPCD. Dinner will be provided. Brought to you by The Women’s Center and OPCD, developed by The Wage Project and AAUW. Register for the session.
Category: Professional Development