Whether your degree already rests in the palms of your hands or you can practically see the end of your last college semester, you have likely begun your job search. From stocking your professional wardrobe to rehearsing interview questions until you mumble answers in your sleep, the stress seems endless. Not to mention, once you get offered a job, how do you ensure the sweetest deal possible? Negotiating your salary ranks just as important as landing a job itself.
“Negotiating your first salary with an employer is arguably the most important as it sets the tone for how you value yourself and the contribution you can make,” said jennifer mcdermott, consumer advocate for finder.com. You just spent at least four years grinding away to get your degree. Make sure to let your confidence shine through in negotiations and value yourself enough to ask for the starting salary you deserve.
1. Be conversational, not confrontational
If Mr. Potential employer gives you a salary offer you don’t agree with, open a casual conversation. Kindly ask him to walk you through the process with which he came up with that amount so you can understand how the company looks at you as a candidate. “always realize it doesn’t hurt to ask, but ask in a thoughtful way,” said karen demmler, a career coach in the temple university career center. This way, the company explains to you what skills they value when coming up with a number and you can see their point of view. After hearing their side, explain your position. Tell them why the offer might not work for your financial situation. Keep things light: the company has invested a lot of time and effort into selecting you for the position. They don’t want to start over from scratch with someone else.
2. Know your target range
The job market already teems with competition. Don’t sell yourself short. Instead, do your research and come up with a target salary range. The bottom of your range should be the salary you can afford to make, the middle should be what you feel comfortable making and the high end should be the amount you’d immediately accept. When a company asks your ideal salary, place the middle of your salary range at the bottom of your requested range. “it’s a lot easier to accept a salary than negotiate one, but you have to be practiced and prepared to get the number that you want,” demmler said. For example, if you major in public relations and would feel comfortable with a $55,000 salary, let your company know you envision making between $55,000 and $60,000 per year. That way, you won’t settle for less than you deserve.
When formulating your salary range, also take into account how much it will cost to live comfortably in the city you’ll call your new stomping ground. The price for making yourself at home in new york city will differ greatly from how much you’ll shell out in des moines, iowa.
3. Put a price on the overall experience
Just because you just graduated college and want to get your career rolling doesn’t mean you should accept an offer with a decent salary that will make you miserable in other respects. City life versus rural life, proximity to loved ones and where you envisioned starting your life when you were six-years-old all play into whether you should accept a job offer. Building a happy life doesn’t mean solely considering salary and benefits.
Maybe you’ve always envisioned yourself living in portland, oregon, but haven’t yet sprung out of philadelphia. Or maybe you just want to live a little closer to your brother and your new niece. “there’s nothing wrong with incorporating those [aspects], but you just have to make sure you’re giving [them] the right weight,” demmler said. Solicit advise from your friendly college career center staff before accepting an offer. They can help you lay out whether a position across the country merits a move by looking at the pros and cons in an unbiased way.
4. Don’t push
The key to successful negotiation lies in not letting fear stop you from asking for what you want, but you also need to make sure you don’t cross the line. “you cannot negotiate everything. It would leave a sour taste in the mouth of your new employer,” said gordon college finance professor alexander lowry. Rank the items you care most about and start with the highest item you can get the most from.
Once you’ve negotiated your top items, stop asking. No need to wring your future company dry before your first day. “you don’t want to be fearful of negotiation, but once you get that sign to stop you should take heed,” demmler said. Doing this will also help you come off as someone with great flexibility—a quality that will shine through as an asset to your new boss. If your negotiated offer still doesn’t make you squeal with delight, table the discussion by asking politely if you can discuss a performance-based bonus down the road (just make sure it ends up in writing).
5. Consider the long term
Most of the time, you won’t get your dream salary and benefits package fresh out of college. But accepting a position with a company might present you with other valuable opportunities for career advancement. Maybe the company chasing after you has a great reputation in your industry and offers tons of potential for career advancement. Or maybe what a potential company lacks in salary they make up for in a matching 401k plan and ample hands-on experience.
Instead of basing an offer solely on the salary, consider where you’d like to go long term in your field. Accepting a slightly lower offer with comprehensive health care, mentoring and internal promotion might just prove your best move. “be creative when you negotiate. People always go right for the salary raise, but it’s short-term thinking,” said founder and ceo of eminei consulting dr. Elizabeth minei.