For Students: Five Steps to a Successful Salary Negotiation

Nilda Melissa Diaz, CPRW
By Nilda Melissa Diaz, CPRW, Career Advice Expert Last Updated: October 05, 2023

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Video: 5 Salary Negotiation Tips

As you step away from academic life and into the working world, you’ll notice a few key differences in the landscape around you. For example, the metrics that determine your success will shift, and you’ll no longer be judged on your ability to complete tests and papers that benefit only yourself. Instead, you’ll be working for others, and the direct value you bring to your employer—not just your effort, intentions, intelligence, and potential—will take center stage.

You’ll also notice that your employer’s take on how successful you are won’t determine the final score. You’ll develop your own metrics, and the quality of your days and years will depend on your ability to control things like your schedule, your lifestyle, and of course, your salary.

That means you need to make sure you’re being paid what you want and need from the get-go, not what others may decide your time is worth. As the saying goes, our salaries don’t reflect what we deserve; they reflect what we negotiate. Here are five salary negotiation tips to keep in mind before you engage with potential employers.

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1. Do your research.

Before you meet with your employers for your very first interview (even a phone screening), make sure you’ve gone online and done some exploratory research. Review salary averages for your industry, your specific target job, your level of experience, and your geographic area. A mid-level and an entry-level job can come with widely varied compensation. So can a position in New York City and another with the very same title in Akron, Ohio.

2. Don’t overshare.

If your potential employers ask you for various data points, like your most recent salary, you’re under no obligation to answer. It’s in your employer’s best interest to provide you with the lowest possible salary you’re likely to accept, which may equal your current rate plus a few dollars more. Instead of sharing your salary history, provide a target range or, even more preferably, try and delay any conversation around exact figures for as long as possible. You can do this by mentioning the fact that you’re just interested in finding out if you and the company are a good fit. Then go on to say that once you both get to know each other, you can talk specifics.

3. Use your own metrics.

Your employers have their own metrics that they use to calculate your worth, and they probably won’t factor in your personal sacrifices or the difficulty/expense of your commute. You, on the other hand, will be measuring your monetary worth on a different set of scales. Base your target number on the amount you need and want, an amount which will cover your commuting costs, your living expenses, your education debt, and the value of your time and sacrifice. Your employers won’t care about these things (they may not know anything about them at all), but you owe it to yourself to account for these details.

4. Practice the art of silence.

Don’t rush to respond to the first offer. Ask for a few days to think it over. Until you’ve signed on the dotted line, you control your own destiny. If you don’t like the number on the table, just say so. Or say nothing at all for a little while.  A simple pause after an offer, followed by a request to ask for more time for consideration, can motivate a hiring manager under pressure to close a deal quickly with more money.

5. Collect options.

Options mean leverage. The more offers you can gather before you begin your negotiation process, the better. You don’t have to share or discuss these other options with your target employers, but make sure you keep them in your back pocket. In other words: never sit by the phone waiting to hear from just one employer. Keep reaching out, keep moving, and keep submitting resumes until you’ve accepted an offer and scheduled your start date.

For more on how to land the job you need and the salary you want, explore the job search tools and guidelines available on MyPerfectResume.

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