Salary. Know your worth!

I remember getting a call from my first employer informing me they wanted to hire me – I was SO EXCITED! The call lasted about 60 seconds, and it went something like:

Employer: Ross, we are thrilled to offer you the ______________ position with us! Do you accept?

Me: Yes! Thanks so much!

Employer: When can you start?

Me: Is June 1st okay?

Employer: June 1st is fine. Our salary offer is $___________. Does that sound okay?

Me: Um…yes, that sounds fine.

Employer: I’ll follow up next week with the contract and other info. Glad to have you on board.

I hung up the phone and thought, “Oh snap. I think I could have gotten a higher salary.” I was so caught in the moment and unprepared to talk salary that I automatically said yes. Never do this!

Many new professionals (fresh out of college) are doing interviews, reviewing job offers, and sending the dreaded “salary request”. The salary request question seems to send folks for a loop, and I can see why. Job seekers spend so much time updating self-marketing materials, networking, and preparing for interviews, that they don’t take the time think about their worth. This is very important!

So, let’s step through the process, shall we?

Step One: Research

It is important to know average salaries for your industry and your region  – a public relations assistant account executive will make less in Gibsonville, NC than in New York City. CNN has a great cost of living calculator where you can see how far $40K a year will get you in Gibsonville vs. New York. It is important to understand that you’ll make more for the same position in NYC because it costs more to live there.

Below are some great resources for researching salaries by company/organization or by region:

At Glassdoor.com you can click on the “salary” tab and search by company – they have TONS of companies, including colleges and universities, to search. Salary.com allows you to search for salaries by city, state. Jobs in digital or social media may be a bit more difficult to nail down, but you can find similar types of jobs and “guest-imate” an equal salary.

Ask around. Hopefully informational meetings have been a large part of your networking process. Reach out to those in your network and ask them to provide salary ranges for positions in their field. Asking for a range rather than a specific salary will make your contact more comfortable providing you information.

Step Two: Set your Boundaries

It is very important that you decide a desired salary as well as your rock bottom salary. These numbers will be chosen based on your research, cost of living of the region, and other budgetary issues (e.g. college loans…ughhh). Some of the best advice I ever got was, “never take a salary your unhappy with – you’ll start your job not only angry with the company, but angry with yourself, and that is no way to start anything.” Makes sense/cent$ right?!

Step Three: Sending your Salary Request

I always think it is a good idea to send a range rather than a specific amount. $5K-$10K is a good range. So, if I were sending my salary request for an assistant account executive position in Raleigh, NC, I would say my range is between $36K-$41K. Giving a range allows some wiggle room for you and the employer. Remember to never go beyond that rock bottom salary you gave yourself! If an employer really wants you, they will be willing to negotiate.

Sometimes when applying for jobs they will ask you to send a “salary history”. QuintCareers.com has some fabulous resources and tutorials on this topic, including how to respond to a salary request in a cover letter. Quintcareers.com also has really great salary negotiation resources.

You don’t want to start your career making less than you are worth…it is really hard to catch up, and you don’t want to spend the rest of your career regretting your first salary. Know your worth, do your research, and get paid what you deserve!

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