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How to Negotiate Your First Salary

Are you ready to begin the hunt for your first “adult” job? Do you have a few interviews lined up? If you answered yes to either question, it’s time to start thinking about your salary expectations.

Talking about compensation may seem taboo, but it’s important to get comfortable with the topic so that you can get the salaries you deserve throughout your career.

It can feel intimidating to negotiate your first salary, but the outcome will be worth it. Without negotiation, employers may pay you $10,000 less a year or more just because you didn’t ask.

Why do employees ask about salary expectations?

When employers ask you about your salary expectations, it’s usually for one of three reasons:

  • They want to make sure your compensation expectations align with the budget they’ve allocated for the position.

  • They want to determine whether you’re at the appropriate professional level for the position.

  • They want to gauge how well you know your worth.

Let’s explore how you can confidently communicate your salary expectations with potential employers.

Do your research

Try to learn whether there is a standard salary for your job or about the general salary range.

Browse sites like Glassdoor and Payscale to see what the typical salary is for someone in similar roles in your area. You can also ask people in your professional network, friends, and acquaintances in similar roles or industries who you think may be open to discussing. While you should never ask someone about their salary outright, it can be helpful to questions like “What do you think is a reasonable salary for this entry-level position at X company?”.

Consider your needs

You may be passionate about the cause or excited about the work, but you shouldn’t accept a salary that can’t pay your bills. Make a list of what you want from a new position. This list may include things like a competitive salary, retirement and medical benefits, and a good work-life balance. Take note of these things during the job hunt. Remember that you’re interviewing a company just as much as they’re interviewing you!

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