Wait a minute! A recent college graduate may negotiate a larger compensation package? The best answer is…It depends.
If you plan to work for a government agency or a nonprofit, there is little room for negotiating salary. However, there is ALWAYS room to attempt to negotiate something.
Understand One Important Fundamental in Negotiations
The first party to put a number on the table loses leverage. I wish someone had whispered this knowledge to me before I entered the work world. As an expert recruiter, I have negotiated with candidates for my clients for 39 years. Let me pull my curtain back to expose some of my secrets to you.
When Does Compensation Negotiation Begin?
Informally for the organization, salary negotiation begins when they open a position to hire a new or replacement employee. They may have a fixed salary number for a new college graduate – or they may have a range.
For you, it begins as you graduate from college. What expenses do you need to cover? Where are you choosing to live – a Large metropolitan area or a more rural area? What college loan payment responsibilities to you have to cover? Do you have other living expenses to cover – transportation, food, utilities, clothing, etc.? Create a spreadsheet that lists your anticipated expenses. The spreadsheet helps you determine if you can afford your favorite job.
The son of one of our neighbors (we live in Park City, UT) chose to be a river guide in the summer and ski instructor in the winter. What a life! Adventure and fun combined to make a poor living wage. He has a used pickup truck (of course!). Unfortunately, his pickup truck needs a new transmission that will cost $4,000. Since there is no river rafting during Covid-19, his summer job is now working as a landscape laborer. Depending upon Covid-19, there may or may not be a ski season next winter. The best news at this point is he does not have family responsibilities. Take this story into consideration in your search for your first job out of college.
As a recruiter, when I screen new graduates, my third question is always “What do you seek in compensation for this position?” As soon as you put a number on the table, only one good result may occur and two bad results may occur.
The only possibly good outcome would be, “Wow! That is Exactly the number we thought we would pay you!” If we have difficulty guessing the right number between 1 to 10, what are the odds of this outcome? Very poor.
One bad outcome could be that you overpriced yourself for the market. Your conversation could be very short. “Oh sorry, we cannot afford that level of compensation for this position. We will consider you at a later date.” You may have been willing at that level given the company and the potential for that job. Now someone else will get that opportunity.
The second bad outcome could be your required income was lower than they were willing to pay. However, companies always want their employees to be happy if they expect lower pay. Therefore, their offer will be what you asked for, instead of $5,000 or more higher.
On one of my recruiting contracts, I was asked to recruit for a new Director of Human Resources. The CFO and I agreed that if it took $145,000 for the right person, we would offer that salary. The best candidate was a sharp woman Human Resource Director (who should have known better). When I asked her my third question, she responded, “$125,000”. She was the best of the candidates we interviewed – and we made her happy at $125,000.
Your best response is, “Since this is my first position out of college, I am open to discuss compensation after we discuss the job responsibilities in more depth and you have a better understanding of my skills and experience.”
This response allows you to legitimately dance around the compensation issue.
If Salary Is Not Negotiable, What May I Negotiate?
On a recruiting contract in Silicon Valley, we were recruiting recent software engineers from the following colleges, Brown University, Rice University, UCLA, and Cal Berkeley. We were limited to offer $68,000 so they would qualify for affordable housing in the Bay Area. Some of the candidates negotiated travel expenses to the Bay Area (others did not). Some candidates negotiated that the company would pay the rental deposit for an apartment. Some candidates simply accepted our offer.
Final Words of Negotiating Wisdom
Remember to attempt to negotiate something above the salary offer. Use your experience working in high school to demonstrate your work ethic. If you have a former manager who offers to be a reference, accept their offer.
If you have summer internship experience in the field you choose to work, use that as a negotiation point. If you paid for some or all of your college tuition, use that experience to demonstrate both work ethic and responsibility.
This information will get you started. If you want to move more quickly in your search or would like more information on Salary Negotiation, you may order my book, Employee 5.0: Secrets Of A Successful Job Search In The New World Order – http://amzn.to/2D9w39f My book contains the 12 Steps to find a new position in a nice, orderly fashion. It also has the stories of people who did well – and some who did not. You may learn from both sides.
See you on Fridays!
Bill Humbert is available for Speaking, Talent Attraction Consulting, Career Transition Consulting, and Training contracts.
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