5 Tips for Negotiating Your First Salary

Posted: April 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

This post is a follow-up to a post I wrote last week entitled, “5 Interviewing Tips from an Interviewing Failure.” I had written that post with very little expectation, and received tons of positive feedback, with a link to my blog even appearing on NYTimes.com! Naturally, I figure that if people are interested in hearing how to successfully land a job they want, they must therefore also be interested in the next logical step – negotiating an offer of employment.

In this economy, the negotiating power between an employee and a company can sometimes appear one-sided. With so many quality workers unemployed, we assume that a company can underpay, and undervalue someone who they are making an offer to. Unfortunately, in some cases, this proves an accurate assumption. Especially for new people entering the workforce who have little to no experience in negotiating and not much leverage to stand on when facing a large corporation.  (And thousands of other new graduates with similar backgrounds and GPA). Let’s assume you have an offer from a great company in front of you. Well friends, below are my 5 tips for negotiating that offer. I hope you find them useful!

1.) NEVER Give the First Number – This is a controversial one. And it’s an important one. Perhaps you have been filling out an application and been asked the question – “What are your salary expectations?” Some people argue that if it is a ‘mandatory’ question, you should fill it out with a range that you expect to be paid. Personally, I disagree vehemently. (Remember, these are just my tips, doesn’t mean that it won’t work for some of you) When faced with this predicament, I always will put either, “N/A” or “Negotiable.” Why you ask? Because you never know what your value is to a specific company. Let’s say for example, I put $60,000 as my answer to that question. Well, maybe the company would have been willing to pay me $80,000, but once they see my estimate you can guess what they will offer me. Again, maybe they’re only willing to pay me $30,000, but I don’t want to be the one who starts that process. I know a person who left a job interview having told an employer that they wanted to be paid 70% less than what she was actually offered. If the employer hadn’t been so reasonable on their own (and they likely had set salary guidelines for each position) she could have shorted herself by quite a bit of cash.

2.) Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate! – Some people, especially in this economy, are so happy to have just gotten offered a job that they will take it without a second thought. Others are afraid that if they attempt to negotiate, the company will say, “Well if you aren’t excited to work here then we don’t want you,” and rescind the offer. Of course, the ladder option is a possibility, but it’s a minute one. And personally, I don’t want to work for an organization that doesn’t respect my right to try. As I said previously, you never know what they may be willing to pay, so it doesn’t hurt to ask. Negotiating is a strong business skill, and if you can negotiate for yourself it will demonstrate to the employer that you are a better businessperson, and one that they will want to keep around.

3.) Think Long-Term – Yes, you are negotiating for your first position. But your first position could be the catalyst for your career path long-term, so don’t necessarily focus on what is going to do it for you in the immediate future. This tip assumes that you are hashing through multiple positions. Consider potential growth, training you will receive, and responsibility you will be given in addition to the ‘Bottom Line.’

4.) Money Isn’t Everything – Which brings us to our next tip. Although salary is a key component to any job offer, it isn’t the only thing. Vacation, benefits, and stock options also come into play, among a slew of other variables. And sometimes, those are negotiable as well. Maybe a company won’t be able to up your salary by 15%, but they could give you an additional week of vacation time. Might be enough to sway your opinion.

5.) Follow Your Gut – This last tip is the least scientific, but it might be the most important in some cases. Sometimes the money won’t line up, the vacation is minimal, but the opportunity is just right. Especially if you are young, take some risks. Namely because it’s the only time in your life when you can really afford to do so. Have no regrets, and follow your dreams!

That’s all I have for you folks, if you’ve gotten this far, it likely means you have received an offer of employment with a great company. Congratulations! And if you haven’t, refer back to my earlier post on interviewing; I could use the web traffic 🙂

Follow me on Twitter: @billconnolly

  1. mike tesler says:

    I think Bill is the rare student who not only listened to what I said in class….a year later he still remembers …

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