Negotiating a salary and benefits is challenging even for the most experienced job seeker. But it can be especially tricky for new grads just entering the workforce, whether they’re graduating from high school, trade school or college. How can they enter negotiations in a way that will help them get the best salary and benefits without offending a prospective employer?
If the answer could be summed up in two words, those words would be, “have confidence!”
“Often the biggest challenge young people face in negotiating salary is confidence. They worry that negotiating might lead to either losing the opportunity or to being poorly thought of within the firm,” says Aliza Knox, author of “Don’t Quit Your Day Job: The 6 Mindshifts You Need to Rise and Thrive at Work.”
The truth is that, at least in most cases, neither of those things is likely to happen, especially in today’s tight job market, Knox says.
“By the time a company gets to making you an offer, they’ve decided they want you and have also expended a fair amount of time and energy in the hiring process, which they are loath to redo,” she explains. “They are unlikely to retract an offer just because you’ve countered with a reasonable request for a higher salary, although they may say no. For example, some companies set all new grad starting salaries at the same level to ensure pay equity and they will not budge on that.”
Attorney and career coach Kelli Lanski, author of “First Job Essentials: The Young Professional’s Guide to Getting a Job and Getting Your Career Off to a Great Start,” suggests taking three steps to negotiate professionally:
“Explain your counter-offer succinctly and thank them for their consideration, and support your request based on your research and market expectations, not on what you feel you need because you rented a pricey apartment or have a dog with expensive taste,” Lanski says.
“And be reasonable! If you get an offer for a salary of $40,000 and were hoping for double or triple that, it may be time to walk away. A huge mismatch in salary expectations is often an indicator that this is not the right role for you, and you should respectfully decline.”
Knox also stresses the importance of entering any negotiation being clear about what you want but understanding that most negotiations end in a compromise.
“You may not get what you want, but usually, once the company has decided they want you, your request won’t affect getting the job,” she says. “And once you’ve started and are performing, no one even thinks about the initial negotiation again.”
Asking for a better starting package sometimes even impresses the prospective employer, as Knox notes in this example:
“A young woman I know graduated from college in May 2019 and took an unpaid, remote internship at a startup in San Francisco. After three months, the company offered her a full-time position,” Knox recalls. “She was excited and wanted the role, but she also secured an offer of the same salary from a similar company in North Carolina, where the cost of living is significantly lower. Although she was afraid to ask for more money, she decided to negotiate for what she wanted.”
“Instead of being offended, the head of HR praised her for asking, saying she was delighted that the young woman had advocated for herself because so few young women do. And long story short, she ended up getting a higher salary than the original offer,” Knox continues. “The lesson is that if a company wants to hire you, they’ve determined that you have value. In exchange for that value, you should be able to ask for what you want, within reason. This may include additional vacation time, flexible hours, remote work or a higher salary.”
– Kathleen Furore is a Chicago-based writer and editor who has covered personal finance and other business-related topics for a variety of trade and consumer publications. You can email her your career questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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