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
- 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.
Here are a few tips from The Doyle Report on about.com 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!