First Job: Salary Negotiation

Image from

Image from

Like many of you, when I graduated from college I cast a wide net, searching for career opportunities in several cities. The first offer I received was from a radio station in a little town–which meant little pay. Not to mention, it was in the middle of nowhere. So the search continued, this time closer to home, with hopes of a better offer.

I don’t remember at what point salary came up when I accepted my first job, but it was about $5000 more than the offer I’d declined, so I seized it like a hungry dog on a pork chop.  I got lucky–well, blessed. I’d been praying about this job in particular, and knew it was the opportunity for me.

During the interview process, I had no idea when to ask about pay or what would be fair. Back then, we didn’t have the internet at our fingertips and sites like Glassdoor as a resource. The rule was, never bring money up in the first interview. Now, having spoken to several recruiters, I’ve discovered we all have different opinions. I go over pay during my first phone call, but I still feel it is in poor taste to ask about salary at a career fair.

Interviewing in itself is nerve-racking, but salary negotiation can also unleash a swarm of butterflies in the guts of even seasoned employees. The idea, according to What Color is Your Parachute (a must-read),  is to let the employer bring up salary first.

A Starting Point

Many companies that hire for entry-level positions have a set salary, regardless of experience. This  gives you the opportunity to make an impact, prove your worth, and benefit from promotions, perks and salary increases.

This is what I discovered. During my tenure my responsibilities have grown to include managing the hiring process for 50 branches and 2 airports. Some of my perks include a company car and an expense account, and I have earned more than 6 weeks of vacation. With each promotion my starting pay became a distant memory.

The Total Package

That being said, don’t feel like you’ve lost out if initially there is no room for negotiation. Remember to consider not just the dollar amount, but the total compensation package.

  • Advancement opportunities
  • Travel
  • Paid time off
  • A work-from-home option
  • Health benefits (medical, dental, optical) and the cost per pay period
  • Company car (now or upon promotion)
  • Retirement (401k, 503c, 403b, profit-sharing, stock options, pension)

There are other things to take into account but, most important, can that company take you where you want to go in the time you want to get there, assuming that timeframe is reasonable?  Unless you are the owner or the child of the owner, you probably won’t become CEO in two years.

Negotiating Tips

Here are a few tips from The Doyle Report on that can guide you through the salary conversation. If the company has a firm starting point, it never hurts to ask. In fact, it can demonstrate your initiative and confidence to the recruiter. As my grandmother says, “Nothing beats a failure but a try.”.

Good luck, and make it a great day!


Classroom to Career-Part 6

I am back. Nanowrimo (that is, National Novel Writing Month, where writers strive to write a 50000 word novel in November) and Nanowrimo prep has taken up quite a bit of my time in the past few weeks. But, I know you’ve  gotten more comfortable in your new role and you might be wondering, what’s next?

Climbing the Ladder

Image by nattavut,

Image by nattavut,

How do you get to the next level anyway? Consult your research. Some companies, like mine, have very specific criteria for moving ahead but, oftentimes, the path isn’t always clear. In that case, performance is your best bet. Know your job inside and out and go above and beyond what is expected. If there are others in the same role, be the one to stand out.

Several years ago I had heard one of my hires was a little disappointed with her manager. Although she hadn’t said anything to me we were both at a luncheon and I could tell she was down. I gave everyone at the table the same advice, but I was talking to her and she knew it. “Remember, we are a promote from within company,” I said, looking around the table, my eyes lingering on hers for a few minutes. “Some of you might be working with people who you feel could do better.” I leaned in closer. “Out-perform them.” Her eyes sparked and she sat up straighter in her chair. Within months she was promoted to upper management

It has been said, If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Be honest with yourself about areas in which you could improve. Write out the career path you’d like and the action steps you’ll need to take to get there and don’t forget to consider the obstacles that might hinder you.

Overcome Obstacles

You’ve heard the phrase, If it was easy everyone would do it. So what are some of the challenges you face?

Are you shy? Join Toastmasters to improve your presentation skills. Since you’ll be presenting in front of an audience you will automatically face your fear. But this isn’t the only route to overcoming shyness. As a Manager I had to deal with customers and accounts on a daily basis. And, although my knees were often quaking, I just forced myself to do it. Little by little I grew more confident over time. In fact, now I love getting in front of an audience. And people don’t believe me when I tell them that at one time it was a struggle for me.

Have you fallen short in your job? That was my obstacle my first year as a recruiter. It was, in a word, abysmal. I went back to my mentor, made a marketing plan for the year, focusing on my weakest areas and within two years I won back-to-back awards for my efforts! Own up to your mistakes and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Is your image holding you back? Make sure you look and act the part (see part 2). If that isn’t your area of expertise ask someone who already looks the part for advice.

Maybe there aren’t any opportunities. Keep working hard. Remember, you’ve only been there a short time. A year or more is not an unreasonable time frame for promotion. In the meantime,you might receive some “in-kind” promotions: bonuses, extra time off or the opportunity to manage a project.

Do something great, then make sure people know about it. About a year into recruiting I realized we were spending an exorbitant amount of money using agencies to help us hire. I buckled down that year, utilized our other sources and reduced that number completely. That was great then, but what about recently? Well, last fiscal year I exceeded my forecasted hires and now I am setting new goals for this year.

Remember to walk before you run, work hard and make wise decisions. Keep these tips in mind as you become acclimated to your new role and it will pay off in the long run.

Make it a great year!

Classroom to Corporate—Part 5


By now you’ve probably heard the terms “micro-manager” and “macro-manager”. For me, a macro-manager is preferred—someone who trains you up front then trusts you to do your job. (With some follow-up, of course.) While there is a time for micro-management, typically when you are new and are being developed, some managers have trouble getting to that hands-off stage.

Many years ago I had a couple of rounds with micro-managers. The first time I responded the wrong way. I ran! I interviewed with another division and even outside the company. What I discovered was, I really love my job. And I decided I wasn’t going to let someone run me away from it. So I continued to do my best and within a month my manager was promoted. Even better, I’d worked with my new manager before. She knew my work-ethic and she allowed me to do my job without constantly peeking over my shoulder.

Later I learned a better way to deal with the situation. Give a micro-manager what he wants before he asks for it. If he likes reports first thing Monday, get them to him on Friday night. He doesn’t think you can handle coordinating an event without daily updates. Put it together and you call a meeting to discuss the details instead of the other way around. That way you eliminate the need for follow-up and, hopefully, he’ll come to you with praise instead.

That being said, don’t burn bridges. You never know when you’ll find yourself working with the same people a second time around in a corporation. You might even encounter them if you change jobs. Twice in my career I’ve worked under the same manager. Imagine if we’d ended on the wrong foot the first time around. It would make getting up to go to work very difficult. 


Many an opportunity will come your way due to networking. But what opportunities do you find appealing? Like many new grads you might still be in a place where you’re trying to figure out where you’d like to go in your career. What better way to find out than by doing some research. If there is an avenue you think you’d like, talk to the people in those roles both in and outside your organization. What are their likes and dislikes about the position? What are the qualifications? Will you need more training or education?

Check out the list under Mix It Up (Part 2) for some more ideas. While it refers to adding responsibilities to your plate it can also apply for your research of possible careers.


Find a mentor, even if one was assigned to you. In your career you should seek out both formal and informal mentors. Not only can they help you learn your job, they can help you learn more about the organization. Just choose wisely (see Catty Co-Workers).

When I first became a recruiter I had no idea what to do. How should I spend my days? Where was I supposed to find candidates? I reached out to an existing recruiter within the company. She was able to give me some guidance all those years ago and even now I still reach out to her to get her feedback on ideas. Keep in mind, your mentors don’t have to work in your company and they don’t have to work in the same industry. They don’t even have to look like you!

Be Visible 

Take advantage of opportunities to meet upper management. If a few people are going out after work, join them at least on occasion. Maybe it’s a bar and you don’t drink. Order lemonade, hang out for a half-hour and go home. I know from experience ordering a non-alcoholic drink in itself will make you memorable. Now when I arrive my colleagues already have my Cherry Coke on the table. If you do partake, however, don’t be the guy doing the drunken karaoke that becomes the topic around the break room the next day.

Appreciation events, holiday parties and committees are all great ways to meet some supervisors you might never encounter otherwise. Chat about things of interest and slip in a few details about your accomplishments and your desire to advance. Yes, the best candidate will and should get the promotion, but what an opportunity to get to know those making the hiring decision and let them get to know you in a more casual setting. Don’t miss out.

Next time we’ll wrap it up with a few more tips to make your transition into your career a smooth one.

Classroom to Corporate–Part 4

By now you’re all wowing your co-workers with our communication skills, but there’s much more to discuss when it comes to professionalism.

First Impressions

The last thing you want to do in a new office is get off on the wrong foot. As some of us may know, it takes a long time to change someone’s mind about you. So if you stumbled into a meeting a few weeks ago with your tie askew, your hair mussed and a coffee stain on your shirt, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Who do you want to be? How do you want others to think of you? This includes your appearance, attitude, personality, values and more. As a recruiter I’ve seen a few red flags early on from some of my new hires. One fell asleep during training. To make matters worse, she fell asleep while the GM was talking! Unfortunately, there was no coming back from that mistake. One guy just couldn’t seem to retain information during the interview process. He constantly mixed up dates and times as if he had no recollection that we’d ever spoken. Given the complexity of our business I brought the matter to the manager and questioned whether we should still bring him on board. These are things that are hard for a manager to ignore and, sadly, it can take months for that new hire to change the manager’s mind.

On a more positive note we’ve also had several candidates come into the business, pick it up quickly and get promoted at warp speed. One young lady several years ago took time to visit one of our offices for several hours before she ever applied. When I found out I knew she really wanted the job and she’s been extremely successful. That is what you want people to remember.

Another place where you can make a good first impression is during company meals. Of course, you want to follow the rules of etiquette: napkin in your lap, work from the outside in with your silverware and remember your bread plate is on your left and your drink on your right. If you tend to forget, simply watch the Top Dog at the table and do what she does.

Beyond the basics, order how she orders, wait until everyone gets their meals before digging in, and don’t eat as though it’s your last meal. If everyone else orders the $20 meal, I beg you not to order the market price lobster and dessert.

Catty Co-Workers

Choose your friends wisely. When you first arrive at the job you don’t know the lay of the land. You have no idea that Shirley is a gossip who used to date Bob in Sales and Mike in Marketing. Not to mention Tony in Accounting was accused of skimming money but it really turned out to be Stacy who they canned right away. And Troy used to be some bigwig in the company but got demoted instead of fired because he’s the nephew of one of the higher ups.

And guess what? You don’t want to know. Anyone bringing you news like this is going to drag you down with them. Make your own observations. Draw your own conclusions. And don’t buddy up with those you perceive as troublemakers. I promise they will make trouble for you.

Have a great week, and stop back next time for more tips in professionalism.

Classroom to Corporate—Part 3



Everyone knows how to act like a professional, right? Oh so wrong! Sure, we might know how to speak correctly, give a firm handshake, chew with our mouths closed during the lunch meeting—you know, the basics. But oftentimes it’s the little things we never think about that might cause others to question our professionalism. And you never want that to keep you from getting ahead.

Communication  Image by Boykung


I’ve said it before. Verbal and written communication both count. I met a student years ago who really struggled in this area. The problem was she didn’t know it. She simply spoke the way she’d always spoken, which was more than likely a result of what she’d always heard. I remember hearing a popular financial expert say something similar. He heard a recording of someone’s radio broadcast and thought, Wow, listen to that slang. That guy sounds way too casual to be taken seriously–then immediately realized he was listening to a clip from his own show! He had no idea how much room there was for improvement up to that point. Once he did, he went through training to help him become a better communicator. I gave the student the same advice.

You might think, what’s the big deal? People should accept me with all my flaws. That’s fine for an entrepreneur perhaps (and even they could discover clients prefer to deal with someone who can adequately demonstrate their expertise via their communication style) but right now, you represent a company and its brand and there is a certain way they’d like you to do so.

No one is immune. I’d like to think after all the years I’ve spent in a professional role that my communication is stellar, but I sometimes still catch myself being a little too lax in conversation and I have to take my own advice.


Image by aopsanRealizing that spelling is not everyone’s forte, spell check—and real live proofreaders (aka co-workers)—are your friends. Imagine if your manager sent out a message filled with misspelled words. Wouldn’t it make you scratch your head in confusion? Make you wonder how he ever got promoted? You might even doubt his ability to successfully run your division and be reluctant to follow his lead. I very rarely send out an email or letter at work without having someone else read it over first because when we read our own material it’s easy to overlook typos. Much to my chagrin I’ve even gone back to some of my posts here to make corrections!

Obviously, there are medical conditions that make written communication a struggle, so remember, there is nothing wrong with seeking help. Steven Spielberg, Bill Gates, and author Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland) all overcame the challenges of dyslexia to achieve great success.

One other note under the communications heading: say no to ringback tones. If someone calls you at the office, or your manager calls you for some reason, you don’t want Blurred Lines or Thrift Shop blaring. This is your career, not the dance club.

Take a moment to choose a more appropriate setting for your phone, and remember to stop back next time for more advice on professionalism in the workplace.

Classroom to Career–Part 2

Image by Ambro

Image by Ambro


You’re a couple months into your new career. Everything was exciting and new on that first day but now, although you still like your job things are beginning to feel…well, a little boring. You’re so used to having a variety of tasks due to all your commitments: classroom projects, your business fraternity, student government and volunteering. Every weekend brought a new undertaking or an event to coordinate.

What should you do? You don’t want to quit, but if this is all you’ll be doing for the next (gulp) year or more you can’t promise the thought hasn’t run through your mind. Maybe another company out there has something better to offer. Maybe you should check out Monster.

Hold on, people. Finger off the panic button, please. You just got there! By no means have you seen all your company has to offer in two measly months. Or even six measly months. Those who jump ship quickly often regret it later and wish they’d given that first choice just a little more time.

Want to add some more responsibilities to your plate? Try the following:

Start by asking some questions. Talk to those who brought you on board or your manager if possible. What are their responsibilities? Ask what you can do to help them reach their goals.

Image by Gualberto 107

Image by Gualberto 107

Shadowing. Ideally this is something you should request during the interview, but it might not be part of the process or realistic for every company. Shadow those in the positions in which you’re interested if you can, including your manager.

Ask someone to lunch. If a company hired you it is in their best interest for you to succeed, so they should appreciate your desire to build relationships within the organization. Ask people to lunch—both in and out of your division—and take time to learn what they do.

Just ask! Let people know you’d like to learn as much as possible and you want to take on more. But prove yourself in your current role first to earn their trust. Years ago I spent an afternoon riding around with my Area Manager asking her questions about her responsibilities so I knew how to prepare for promotion.

Evaluate your long-term goals and consider what you’ve learned from your conversations and observations. What do you need to know and do to get to the next step? What tasks—both at work and at home—can you take on to help you get there?

Not only will you increase your knowledge but, by taking these steps, you will let others know you’re serious about your career, you plan to stick around and you’re open to learning more. Once they can trust you, your managers should be eager to give you more responsibility. And with responsibility comes opportunity.

Stop back next time when we’ll continue discussing your transition to Corporate America in the area of professionalism.

Classroom to Career-Part 1

You’ve been at the new job for a couple of months—or you’re preparing to begin a new job. A perfect time for some tips about how to make that transition from the classroom to corporate!


 When you find that first job after graduation you will more than likely receive the largest income you’ve had up to this point. It might seem like a lot of money, but it’s important to make a budget. Think about the unexpected expenses that might crop up. Maybe your roommates are moving out and you’ll be paying the rent and bills on your own. That will include utilities—gas, electric, phone, cable and possibly water. Groceries cost more when they’re not split between a couple of people. By the time you add all that up you could eat into a big chunk of your take home pay. With taxes, 401(k) and insurance benefits coming out of your check you’re bringing home only about 60% – 70% of your salary. That’s where your budget starts. Not with the gross. It might seem obvious but often people forget to consider typical deductions.

As I mentioned in a previous post, make wise decisions. Do you really need to get the priciest apartment? Do you need a new car right now or can your old college beater last a little bit longer? When I started my career I thought about buying a brand new Saturn. Beside the fact that, at nearly six feet tall, I could barely fit in it, I didn’t have much extra money for a car payment. So I kept driving my ‘85 Chevy Cavalier for a few more years. Yes, the paint on the hood had faded from blue to a curious gray, and by the time I was finally able to give the car up it had no heat, no air conditioning and some decorative rust around the doors. But by then I had been promoted to upper management and I was allowed to drive a company car. Now, many years later, I still don’t own a car of my own, but I get a new one every year— and since my company pays for gas and maintenance and we’re self-insured I save a ton of money.

As Dave Ramsey says (, live like no one else, so later you can live like no one else. Small sacrifices now allow you to have nicer things later on when you’re not indebted to everyone else. A good rule of thumb is to live on 80%, give away 10% and save 10%.

College Students


Yes, college is challenging. Juggling classes, study time, organizational involvement, work—and, let’s face it, if you’re dating someone that takes a huge chunk of your time too—can be difficult. But the bright spot is, if you’re lucky, your weekend starts on Thursday night. I was even fortunate enough a couple of times to have all Monday and Wednesday classes so my weekend started even earlier!

Not so in Corporate America. You might have friends who are still in school and they’re still hanging out until all hours during the week. This is your opportunity to make some good decisions. Sure, you can probably get away with that every once in a while, but don’t wait until you doze off in a team meeting before you learn to say no. Save the late nights for the weekend. Some of you might actually have to commit to going to bed as early as 10:00 pm.

I’ll admit I’m a night owl, but when the alarm goes off in the morning and all I can do is groan, I know I will be in bed early that night. I can’t sit through interviews, make good decisions or contribute to my team when I’m tired. Not to mention, my sunny disposition is a little more on the stormy side.  😉

Once you begin your career—unless you’re in education—Spring Break, Summer Break and, sometimes, holidays like President’s Day or even the major holidays you love could become a thing of the past. That’s not to say you won’t have vacation or other paid time off, but often new grads are surprised when Martin Luther King Day comes along and they’re expected to go into the office. If it’s a day that is important to you plan ahead and use one of your paid days.


Take Care of You

All work and no play…stinks! No it’s not the usual saying but it’s true. Even if you love your career, if that’s all you have in your life you will eventually wear yourself out. Take up some activities both with and away from your co-workers. It’s important to build camaraderie with your team; it can benefit you in the office. At the same time, many people need time to decompress which can be difficult to do in the company of your team members. So make sure you don’t inadvertently cast your friends aside just because you’ve landed a new job. I know someone who schedules quarterly outings or get-togethers with friends so they don’t lose touch in the busyness of everyday life. You’ll make new friends along the way, of course. Some of which will be your co-workers. In that case, you might need to make a pact to leave the office at the office. Otherwise it might feel like you never left work!

I take my workout clothes with me to work so I can go straight to the gym. I’m involved in a writing group and my church’s worship team. I salsa, go to local festivals (who doesn’t love a funnel cake?) and plays. I recently even went to the symphony a couple times. Not my thing, but it was worth a try. And in the past I was on a few softball teams. The point is, though I love my career, I have interests outside of work that allow me to continue to love it.

Stuck in a rut? Here are some ideas: join a book club, the gym, coach a team, have card tournaments, invite friends over for a cook out, mentor someone or pick up a new hobby. Check out to find groups of people with similar interests.

I’ll see you back here next time for some tips on professionalism in the workplace.