Getting a brand new job can be exciting- and scary. Will your fellow employees like you? Will your boss like you? How can you get the most out of this job? How do you raise complaints or questions to your supervisor without coming off all wrong?
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One of the biggest areas of stress for any new employee is your salary. Money is always a touchy subject, especially when you’re new. You don’t want to seem pushy or greedy, but you also want to be paid for what your work is worth. Life is expensive. So how do you figure this mess out?
First you’re going to have to do some homework. Most industries have a resource with the words “salary guide” or something similar on the end of the title that collects trends and information for folks in your field to use. If you’re not sure, or you can’t find it, sites like GlassDoor, Quora, and PayScale offer less specific data you can still use to figure out how much you should be asking for.
Your location is important, too. If you are applying for a job in a big city versus a smaller one, you’ll need to treat that as a variable. The cost of living in a big city is much higher than the cost of living in a smaller town, so you’ll need to adjust your salary expectations accordingly!
Now that you’ve done some research- maybe asked friends or acquaintances in that field what they’re getting paid (always a good idea)- you need to add about $5,000 to that number. Shocking, I know, but studies are showing that your initial negotiations influence how you’ll get paid for the rest of your career, and that extra 5K may amount to an extra $600,000 over the course of your career. It really does make a difference between barely scraping by and having enough money to visit family or friends on vacation.
Basically, if at the end of your strategy session you feel embarrassed to ask for that much- you did it right. Worst case scenario, your hiring manager will say that’s outside the budget they have for this hire. In that case, you can ask what the position’s salary range is, to see if there’s any wiggle room you can negotiate within. You can also ask about any additional compensation- such as equity, bonuses or commissions- if the hiring manager's figure is lower than yours. Let the manager know you’re satisfied with the job in other particulars, and you want to keep the conversation going. Hiring managers can and have made exceptions for certain candidates in the past, so act with confidence, communicate well, and you’ll make it work.
Once you’re in the interview, don’t feel compelled to offer tons of details if they ask you what you were getting paid in your last job. Most companies want to get away with paying you as little as possible for the position, and cut back on labor costs. Tell them you were paid an average amount for that position, maybe that you were underpaid or overpaid- but don’t feel pressured to say exactly what the pay was. In some states, this question is illegal, so depending on where you’re applying, they may not ask that at all.
Managing your salary can be intimidating, especially if this is a first “big” job for you. But half the battle is not letting anything frighten you out of the money you’re entitled to earn. Don’t sell yourself short when it comes to your salary- the difference between a comfortable salary and one you lowballed is huge. Know your worth, do your research, and you’ll do great.
Lilia Taylor is 21 years old, studying English and Marketing at New Mexico State University. She hopes to have a job involving books someday, loves the smell of coffee (not so much the taste) and tries to get outside whenever she can.