Know Your Worth, Salaries

How to Negotiate Your Salary at Your First Job

The idea of negotiating your first grown-up salary may leave you feeling angst-ridden and weary. While your anxious feelings are valid, the truth is that they probably come from the fear of the unknown. There are certain variables that are out of your control and reside solely with your boss, but there are other variables that are in our control and can help potentially ease your anxieties.

Follow the below simple steps and you may find yourself entering the negotiation phase of job search with calm and ease:

1. Equip yourself with research.

The Internet makes it easy to perform simple salary estimate searches for the type of role you seek. At Glassdoor, for example, a quick search of Administrative Assistant shows the national average to be $33,020 and the average for administrative assistants in the Oklahoma City, OK, area to be $27,080. They also provide a list of salaries by companies.  Make sure that you’ve jotted down the average salary for the position you’re negotiating for; this will help ease the anxiety that is born when an employer asks, “do you have a ballpark number?”

[Related: Are you paid fairly? Try Know Your Worth Now!]

2. Make a list of must-haves and negotiables.

If you know that anything below a certain number will not meet your bottom-line needs to cover your basics (mortgage/rent/car payment/etc.), then that is a starting point, must-have. Also consider whether health insurance, a 401k plan, childcare on premises, a flex work schedule, and more are considerations that are must-haves or negotiable. Either commit your list to memory or jot them down so that you don’t miss anything come negotiation time. Compromise will be key, so make sure that you also rank your must-haves by order of importance.

3. Delay the salary conversation.

For example, if salary is brought up too early in the interview process, politely express that you are looking for a fair compensation based on your experience and the value you bring as it relates to their needs and goals. Calmly attempt to transition the conversation back to the role of the job and how you can help fulfill and expand upon it, and the return you will provide. Build your case before seriously diving into the bottom-line salary. This will also give you time to understand all of the responsibilities that will fall under your role; eventually helping you make a more informed decision when it comes to what would be adequate compensation.

[Related: How to Nail an Interview With a Values-Driven Company]

4. How to handle the actual salary conversation.

Be prepared to negotiate back and forth. Don’t lead with your lowest number, if you are the first one to articulate your preferences. Consider that there likely is a range that the hiring manager is working within, and while their goal may be to bring you in at the lowest end of the range, yours should be to achieve the higher end of the range. Be polite, firm and know when to stop talking.

5. Request the Offer in Writing.

Whether a complex, multilayered offer negotiated for a more advanced role or a basic, to-the-point salary offer, asking for it in writing is proper and expected, so don’t feel shy about making the ask. Ultimately asking for it in writing will show how seriously you’ve taken the conversation and the value you’d be bringing to the company.

Negotiating your salary is a monumental step in the interview process, but remember that you have leverage in it as well. As long as you go in prepared and have a deep understanding of how you value yourself, you’ll be able to take on the conversation in a fair way.

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