How to Negotiate Your First Real Adult Salary

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Unfortunately, all fun and care-free college days will eventually come to an end. If you’re a senior, then the beginning of adulting will close in on you soon. You make sure you cover all your bases to get the job offer of your dreams. But when you get the offer, should you simply accept the salary without thinking twice? Of course not, this is your life, so be bold and negotiate for an extra zero on the end (too ambitious?) Grab a pen and paper to take notes on some of these helpful tips from the experts.

Get Comfortable With the Process

You may think that new graduates don’t have much leeway for initial salaries, but that’s not always the case. Companies want to see that their new workers know how to handle themselves. You can prove this by demonstrating your flawless communication skills when negotiating for a higher starting salary. Jodie Charlop, Executive Career Coach for Potential Matters, explained that college graduates need to get over their fear of the negotiation process, because it comes back to haunt you.

“Negotiating effectively is not only critical for career growth and advancement – it’s a must have skill to become a leader,” Charlop said. “You have to negotiate for support, resources, budgets, customers – everything we do practically day-to-day in almost any job has some form of negotiation woven into the task.”

Don’t Throw Out the First Number

Employers may ask you outright what you’re looking to see in the bank. Turn the conversation back on them and ask about the salary range. This forces them to give numbers and allows you to stay clear of pressure. Throwing out numbers that are too high could make you seem like you don’t have a clue. Selling yourself short with low numbers limits how much the company may be willing to pay you.

Katherine Kammer, President and Founder of Kammer and Associates, specializes in organizational consulting, career management and corporate placement. Her advice to college graduates is to stay cautious when the conversation turns to direct salary amounts.

“Rule number one is to never give a number answer to questions like, ‘What salary are you looking for?’” Kammer said. “The chance that the number you say is what they’re looking for is zilch. If you give too low of a number then the conversation stops there. They’ve got you.”

Be Gracious for Any Number

Regardless of the initial salary offer they give, always express interest, even if it barely covers your rent. As a new prospect, you never want to come off as ungrateful or just plain rude.

“The second [most important thing] is about emotion and approach — being positive and respectful,” Charlop said.  “Many people who are unskilled see negotiation as an adversarial point – like taking a hard stand. Seek to understand their world and the parameters they are working within.”

Take Time to Think

It’s okay not to immediately scream, “I’ll take it!” Don’t rush into anything if you aren’t sure. Politely ask if you can review the offer in writing instead. Or ask to take some time to consider the offer. In most cases, they’ll respect that you took it seriously.

“You can say things like, ‘I’m so appreciative of the offer and I’m thrilled about the possibility of working with you,’” Charlop said. “‘But like all good business decisions, may I ask for a reasonable time to review? What is your time frame for acceptance?’ Typically that can range from a few days to a week.”

Do Your Research

We’ve gone through years of school, so we know better than to walk into any negotiation blind (like when you persuade professors to round up that 89.8). Go ahead and look up the typical salary range for your job position and compare it to the one you were offered.

“It’s important to do your research,” certified career coach Hallie Crawford said. “See what the going rate in your industry is for your area so you know how much you should be making. Indeed.com and glassdoor.com have good salary research.”

Time to Work It 

After spending your weekend reviewing the package and researching salary ranges, go back to discuss whether you want to join the company or not. Explain that you’re thrilled to actually have a job offer, but you’d like to know if there’s any wiggle room in the salary. It’s a simple yes or no for the employers to answer. If they say yes, start explaining why you deserve a fatter check. Sell yourself in the best way.

“If they do the research, they can start at any level,” Kammer said. “They are young, excited, beautiful youth with great computer skills and can sell that in negotiating.”

If your employer denied the salary increase, then don’t get discouraged. It’s still up to you whether or not that tiny office is worth it. If you do accept, your new employer already knows that you’re a skillful communicator and you mean business.

“Keep building your negotiation muscle,” Charlop said. “You won’t get everything you want every time. But if you stay smart, practice and build that muscle you will ultimately win more than you lose – just by smart asking. Over time, it will add up to significant dollars in growth over the career span.”

I am a sophomore, Journalism major at the University of Georgia. I enjoy spending time with family, reading, shopping, hanging with friends, and creating amazing memories.

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