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Career Advice

4 Reasons Why You Should Negotiate Your First Job Offer

Posted by Heather Huhman

Last Updated September 23, 2021

Most recent college graduates and entry-level workers believe they don’t have negotiating power because of their lack of experience going into a first job offer. The truth is they are missing out on income that could be used to pay off student loan debt and contribute to their overall cost of living expenses.

NerdWallet conducted a survey of 8,000 new graduates who entered the job market between 2012 and 2015, as well as 700 employers, and found only 38 percent of survey respondents negotiated with their employers upon receiving a job offer -- even though most hiring managers said they expected to discuss salary at that stage.

As graduates prepare to walk across the stage on graduation day this December, being confident and prepared will clearly be key to taking advantage of an important first negotiation opportunity.

Here are four reasons why recent college graduates should challenge themselves to negotiate their first job offer:

1. Employers expect you to ask for more.

In the same NerdWallet survey, 84 percent of employers said an entry-level candidate would not be putting his or her job offer at risk by attempting to negotiate salary.

So, you don’t ask for more because you don’t want to be viewed as greedy or ungrateful and are assuming there will be consequences when asking for a higher salary. However, negotiating can show the employer you are confident in yourself and your career.

offer analyzer glassdoor

2. The ‘real world’ is expensive.

After college you realize how expensive life really is. You can no longer pay the rent with your leftover student loan disbursement check, your parents cut you off from the ‘family plan,’ and the bills just keep piling up.

When discussing your salary, cost of living should affect how much to request from your first employer after college. It’s also important to build a case and create a list of all expenses in comparison to how much the employer is offering and present that to them during the negotiation phase as reasonable cause.

3. Prepare for ‘No’ and have a Plan B.

While you’re in the negotiation phase of the job offer, asking questions about the total employee compensation package shows the employer you did your research on important issues -- a valuable asset for employers. If your employer rejects your desired salary request, don’t end it there.

Having a plan B means considering a total compensation package while you’re in the negotiation phase of the job offer. Companies may offer benefits such as bonuses, healthcare coverage, profit sharing, sick and vacation time, tuition reimbursement for advanced education, and on-site childcare. A compensation package could also include flexibility of working from home, gas reimbursement, and overtime pay.

Regardless of your offer, be aware of all the benefits and perks a company has. Also, if you advance in your position within the company, you may qualify for additional benefits in the future.

4. Do it for the gender wage gap.

In the same NerdWallet survey, only 34 percent of female recent graduates negotiated, while 44 percent of men did. Women are not only less likely than men to negotiate a successful first job offer, but they report being more uneasy about negotiating salary.

Regardless of the industry, women were more likely to expect between $25,000 and $44,999 as a starting salary. Men were more likely to expect a higher range, from $45,000 to more than $75,000. When women did ask for a higher base salary, they had the same level of success -- about 80 percent -- as men did.

In order to work toward closing the wage gap between men and women, both need to have more confidence when discussing a job offer. Avoid going into the negotiation conversation feeling uneasy and ill-prepared by practicing your approach and doing research on appropriate ways to ask for more from your employer.

Men and women can learn strategies to ask for equal and fair pay by attending salary negotiation workshops that will help empower them to advocate for themselves when it comes to salary, benefits, and promotions. It’s time to change these biases by challenging yourself to achieve a higher salary and more benefits at work.

In what ways have you negotiated your first job offer?