The Best Resources to Prep for Negotiating Your First Salary

Knowing your worth matters. 

Companies are constantly looking to trim the cost of acquiring new talent. That works especially well when hiring young professionals for entry-level positions, because recent college graduates are often reluctant to negotiate. In other words, you can’t just trust an employer to offer you a fair wage — you need to demand it. 

That can be tricky if you don’t know how much to ask for, because demanding too much is a surefire way to have your application thrown out. It’s important to learn what someone in your position can reasonably expect to earn, so you can negotiate from a place of knowledge and confidence.

Those numbers are never set in stone, but there are plenty of resources available to give you an accurate estimate. Read ahead for some of the best options, and why negotiating is a crucial part of accepting any job offer.

Why negotiating matters

Learning how to negotiate your salary is as important as learning how to answer tough questions during a job interview. Every extra dollar you receive by negotiating is a dollar you can save, invest, or use to pay down debt.

Plus, negotiating a higher starting salary will impact your earnings in later years. Let’s say you negotiate from a $35,000 starting salary to $40,000. After a year of working, you get a 3% cost-of-living increase which bumps your salary to $41,200. The following year, you get another 3% increase to $42,436. If you hadn’t negotiated, your salary after two raises would only be $37,132.

Negotiating can also help bridge the wage gap, which is crucial for women and minorities. If you’re worried about being paid less than your white or male counterparts, asking for more money is one way to counteract that.

Find salary information

There are several sites you can use to find salary information, and most of them are free. To get a comprehensive range, look up the job position on a few different sites and average them to get a more accurate figure.

Payscale

This site shows the average salaries for hundreds of professions. Type in your job and Payscale will show the range of salaries. To get the most accurate information, include the location, years of experience, relevant skills, and other details. 

Glassdoor

Glassdoor has a special “offer analyzer” feature that lets you input an offer and information about the company to see how it compares to others in the field.

You can also use the general salary calculator to see what annual incomes are like for jobs in a specific city.  

Salary.com

Salary.com lets you input an occupation to see the range of salaries for the position. You can see a general span of incomes or filter by location, education level, and years of experience for a more precise answer.

81 cents

If you’re a woman working in a high-end field, a site like 81 cents can help you negotiate the salary you deserve. Their reports are custom to your specific job and cost $195. If you had trouble finding information about your profession on the free salary sites listed above, you may consider using 81 cents.

Talk to people in the industry

Not sure if the salary you’re being offered is acceptable? Talk to professionals in the industry about what they think. Asking an opinion from a real person is a good way to complement your internet research.

If you don’t know anyone in the field, you can also contact a recruiter and ask them for their opinion. Search for recruiters that specialize in your industry and call a few. 

If you have a good relationship with a former professor, you can ask them to reach out to their network. They may be able to connect you with someone who can help.

Negotiate the perks

If the company won’t budge on the salary, you can still try to negotiate benefits and perks like paid time off (PTO) and work-from-home flexibility. These benefits don’t cost the company directly the way that a salary increase does, so they may be more willing to be flexible in these areas. 

For example, if they offer two weeks of PTO, ask them for an extra week. Some companies also allow employees to take unpaid time off for vacations. If travel is important to you, a benefit like this could have as much value as a significantly higher salary.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, more companies are letting employees work from home. If this isn’t directly mentioned during the interview, ask how often you’re allowed to work from home.

If you would have to move for the job, try to negotiate for relocation reimbursement. This is a one-time fee that you can use to cover the cost of a moving van and any other related expenses.

One other possibility is to ask for a review in six months with the possibility of a raise. If you’re set on trying to negotiate for a higher salary, this option might be your only way to make it happen.

Learn from the experts

Negotiating is a skill, and it literally pays to practice. Ask your college advisor if there are any seminars or practice sessions where you can learn how to negotiate. You can also search locally for any workshops offered by professional organizations.

There are also free videos you can watch about negotiating. Gen Z financial expert Tori Dunlap of Her First $100K has helped women negotiate thousands in salary increases and offers a free negotiation webinar available here

Once you’ve taken a class or seminar, try practicing with a friend or someone you trust. Ask them if you seem confident or nervous. Remember, if you don’t seem confident that you’re worth more, you won’t get more.  

Anyone can negotiate

You might think negotiating is only for those in high-powered professions, but anyone can push for a higher salary or better benefits. From teachers to those working at a nonprofit, anyone can — and should — feel confident asking for what they deserve.

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