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home : Careers : Landing a Job :

Negotiate a Whopping Salary

Since the dawn of time, salary negotiation has been a source of confusion for many a recent grad. It's time to ask yourself, "How much am I worth, and does anyone else agree?"

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It seems futile negotiating your salary with someone who has a pretty good idea your current salary is zero dollars, zero cents (holiday bonus included). But even unemployed job hunters can parlay initial offers into higher incomes. Consider the following savvy negotiating tactics from Vicki Spina, author of Getting Hired in the Nineties and owner of Corporate Image Career Consultants in Schaumburg, Illinois:

  • Know your market value. This isn't necessarily your current or previous salary, especially if you're savvy at assessing the location, industry and skills that you bring to the table. First, try getting a broad idea of the salary range for the types of position you're looking for ( is a good place to start). For more specific information, your Local Chamber of Commerce may provide an annual salary surveys (though this can be rather costly if you're not a member) or try calling some Human Resource Managers working in your field to suss out general salary ranges for your potential position. It's also worth talking to people already employed in your field, though they may be reluctant to state their own salary. However, they're likely to discuss a nonthreatening question such as, "I'm contemplating a career move in your industry, and thought a range of $34,000 to $42,000 per year sounds realistic. Am I too high or too low?"
  • Have a minimum salary figure in mind prior to the interview. Take into account not only what the marketplace is paying, but also the amount you need to live on (put together a rough budget to arrive at this number). Also, be comfortable with the sacrifices you're willing to make for the position. You may be willing to make peanuts if it means a shot at interning at a film production company or having the chance to prove yourself at a prestigious PR firm
  • Don't talk salary too soon. Employers dislike being asked immediately what they are offering because they want to know you're more interested in the company and in the position than in the corporate perks.
  • Don't sell yourself short. Phil, a recent college grad and one of Spina's clients, was willing to accept $20,000 per year just to get in the door. But by preparing for the question "What salary are you looking for?" with the response "I'm looking for your best offer. I am confident that I'm worth it and you'll be fair in the salary you'll offer me," he landed a $31,500 salary. The employer was very fair, and Phil beat the national average starting salary for most recent college graduates.
  • Ask for time to consider the offer. You can always call the employer back to re-negotiate: "Thank you, [employer's name], for offering me the opportunity to work for [company's name]. I have given the position a great deal of thought and am excited to come work with you; however, I have one concern. I've had a chance to review the position's responsibilities and feel they warrant a higher salary [support with your research], and would appreciate you reconsidering the salary offer." Keep silent and let them think. If the employer responds, "I'm sorry, but that's the highest we can pay right now," counter with "Is it possible to review me after three months instead of the standard six-month or yearly review? At that time, once I have proven myself, would I be eligible for the increase?" (Make sure such an agreement doesn't restrict your one-year anniversary raise.)

Also of Interest: How to Avoid Traps and Get Your Target Salary.

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