How to Negotiate Your First Salary

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Negotiating your first salary can be tricky, as you can’t benchmark from your current or previous compensation.  However, you can, and should negotiate your first offer. Be realistic about what an appropriate compensation package is, but don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve.

Keep these tips in mind when negotiating your first salary.

Do Your Research

“Research available data regarding your major, and the position. There are plenty of sources of salary data for entry level positions. Use these numbers to keep your offer in perspective: The National Association of Colleges and Employers can give you some very good reference points

Research the company. Glassdoor and Vault are popular posting sites for employees to share information about individual companies, and may give you an idea about how they treat entry level employees relative to the rest of your industry.”

-Vinnie Dicks, CEO, Career Gaudium

Know Your Value

“Be ready with a list of your accomplishment, academic or otherwise, all the reasons why you’re worth the figure you want. Don’t just tell me about your amazing potential. Give me the reasons why that potential should be obvious. (This is much more important than why you NEED that amount, which is what most people stress.).

Be ready to discuss how you’ll be able to advance the interests of not just of the company, but of your boss, the one who may well recommend (or not recommend) the salary figure. “

Barry Maher, Consultant, Author, Speaker 

Be Strategic

“Don’t mention money too early – Let the employer bring up the subject first. If you ask about salary too early in the process, it will seem as though this is your primary interest. Focus on getting the offer first! Some interviewers bring the topic up early to use it as a screening tool. In that case, you can respond with an honest answer about what you’re currently earning and what your hopes are, but you should also stress how important it is to you to find a rewarding job.”

-Frank Gentile, Director, Professional Staffing Group

Negotiate the Whole Package

“Don’t focus only salary, an area for which an employer may be constrained; there may be other areas that can have a lot of value that might be added to the negotiation. Examples include tuition reimbursement, moving expenses, flextime, severance pay, other benefits. Pay a lot of attention to benefits; these can be quite valuable. A great health plan may offset some disappointment in a salary offer. Don’t negotiate each item at a time; negotiate a whole package. Tradeoffs can work to your advantage.”

-Ed Wertheim, Associate Professor, Management and Organizational Development at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University

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