How to Negotiate Salary for Your First Job

Two young men shaking hands on a deal

Things are falling into place, and after months of researching your options, polishing your resume and sitting through awkward interviews, you think you may have found your dream job.

You’ve already gone for a follow-up interview and the position is as good as yours. The only obstacle to cross before joining the ranks of the officially employed is salary negotiation.

If you’ve done your homework well, you’ll know the job you’re considering pays in the ballpark of your financial needs; however, the exact salary package you’ll be starting with depends on how the negotiations play out.

Here’s where things can get sticky. You may have your salary requirements and wish list in mind, but the company representative in charge of hiring has much more experience negotiating salary than you do. It’s also easy to feel intimidated when you’re new to the workforce and desperate to find a good job.

You may not have the upper hand here, but you can still come out ahead.

Here are some tips to help you negotiate like a pro:

Choose the right time to negotiate

Only bring up your salary requirements when you have an actual offer in hand. Don’t jump the gun and assume you’re being offered the job because you’ve had a follow-up interview and you’re getting positive vibes from the company. Talking salary before officially being offered the position can jeopardize your chances of landing the job.

Do your homework

Before you walk into that room, make sure you know the average going rate for the position in question. You can find this information through a quick online search of sites like Glassdoor.com and Salary.com or by asking friends who work in similar positions.

Once you have this number, hold it up against your income requirements and ask for a starting salary slightly above your needs. You don’t want to walk away with less than you deserve, but you don’t want to overreach and come off sounding too greedy, either.

Research the company

Another crucial preparatory step for opening up the salary negotiations is to find out all you can about the company and its top challenges. Talk about ways you can help solve the company’s most pressing problems and you’ll prove you will be an employee worth hiring—at almost any price.

Understand the offer

If the company representative gives you a salary quote that is less than you expected, ask how they’ve reached this number. It’s possible that some of your skills and/or work experience were not considered when the offer was made. For example, you may have already mastered the entry-level skills for this kind of work during an internship for a similar position. This gives you an advantage, as you won’t need to waste the company’s time and resources on basic training. Consequently, you deserve to start at a higher salary point. A simple question like this can save lots of aggravation on both sides of the desk.

Consider the full scope of the offer

When considering a position, don’t forget that job offers are about more than just salary. Look at the entire package, including all benefits, time off, retirement account contributions, etc. Sometimes, a job may have so many advantageous things attached it’s worth accepting a lower starting salary than you anticipated, as long as your paycheck will still cover your budget.

Similarly, if this job offers tremendous room for growth and the ability to acquire a specific skill set plus valuable experience, it may be worthwhile to accept it as a stepping stone for a more lucrative position in the future.

Role-play in advance

When negotiating salary, it is important to find the sweet spot between insecurity and arrogance. It can be super helpful to practice negotiating in advance by role-playing with a friend.

Remember not to sell yourself short. You’ve worked hard to acquire the skills and experience you have today and deserve to earn your true worth. Best of luck with your new job!

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