So many college graduates are just grateful to get that first job offer that they miss one critical factor: You can negotiate your salary — even for your very first job!
Most employers actually expect to negotiate a salary offer, so they never give you their very best offer at first. That means it’s your job to know what you — and this position — are worth and to ask for more money if their offer doesn’t match that.
You may not think it’s a big deal — how much more are they really going to offer? — but when you consider that a salary is given to you every single year and that any raise you get is on top of that, if you even negotiate $5,000 more in your salary, that’s $5,000 every year. That’s $10,000 if you stay for two years and $20,000 if you stay for four years. And, any raise you get starts from $5,000 higher.
And these numbers are just in the first few years. In a study at the Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2010, researchers concluded that neglecting to negotiate just $5,000 more could mean the loss of more than $600,000 over the course of a career.
You could actually buy a really nice house for $600,000. Now, when you put it that way, why wouldn’t you ask for more money?
Some recent grads might say — well, what will they think if I ask for more money? Could it jeopardize the offer if I ask for more?
The answer is absolutely not. No one is going to take away an offer just because you asked for more. (Remember, they assume you will ask for more.) And, if anything, they will think: Here is a person who knows their worth. And they’re not afraid to ask for it.
I don’t know about you, but that is the kind of person I want on my team. Because if I hire them, they are going to be willing to ask for more for our team and our company. So, when you put it that way, again, why wouldn’t you ask for more? You’re actually likely to impress, not offend, the hiring manager by asking for more.
1. Do your research
Now, just because it’s OK to ask for more money doesn’t mean just walk in there and say, “I want a million dollars!” You have to do your research — know the typical pay range for this position.
“Do plenty of research on the current job market,” said Joseph DiNiso, a senior computer engineering student at Virginia Tech who will be working at Microsoft as a software engineer after graduation.
Students should go into a salary negotiation “prepared with a desired salary,” DiNiso said, based on the starting salary in your field. And, although “salaries will vary greatly, this number will give you a ballpark estimate of what you should be making and help you determine your salary goals.”
So, what you need to know is not only the typical starting salary for this type of job but the salary range. Don’t just settle for the bottom entry-point.
The team at Handshake, a job network for college students, suggests checking on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website and searching for your specific job title to gauge a typical pay range, which will vary by location. (Jobs in New York City, for example, typically pay more than those in more suburban or rural areas just because the cost of living is higher.)
David Paykin, who has amassed over 1.7 million followers on TikTok and has huge followings on other social media, has helped many college students, recent graduates and young professionals in their job search. He suggests doing research across several sites including PayScale, SalaryList, Salary.com, Levels.fyi, Indeed, Glassdoor and other sites to really get a sense of the salary range.
2. Confidence is key
One of the most important things when it comes to applying for jobs and negotiating a salary is to have confidence. Believe in your experience, skills and abilities. Confidence is something many of us struggle with, but it has no place at the negotiating table. If you don’t stand up and say – hey, I’m worth it! Who will?
And, what’s more, think about that hiring manager on the other side of the table. Do they want to hire someone who is unsure of themselves?
No. They want someone on their team who knows what they’re doing and is confident in the job they are doing. So, if you struggle with confidence, that is totally understandable, but check it at the door when you’re negotiating for your career.
Rachel Castellino, senior statistics and data science student at California Polytechnic State University (San Luis Obispo) and incoming data scientist at Meta said one good way to build confidence is by “talking to people who are higher up in industry and to people who have a similar background as you; for me it was women of color, to get advice about how to negotiate.”
3. Be patient
It’s hard with your first job offer to not just jump up and down with excitement. But you have to be patient and let the interview and negotiation process occur at a pace that is comfortable for the hiring manager. Remember that you are asking them to give you money (a lot of it) every single year and you actually have no idea what they have on their plate right now besides negotiating with you so stay cool. Speak slowly. Ask thoughtful questions and answer thoughtfully and thoroughly.
And you should wait for the hiring manager to bring up compensation. Don’t expect this to happen on the first — or maybe even the second — meeting. But, whenever it is, you have to be ready for it.