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How to negotiate your first salary

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20th-Aug-2017       
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Elizabeth Koprowski :
Graduation is just a few months away and before you know it you'll be out hunting for a job and, hopefully, getting exciting offers from potential employers. In fact, in some areas graduates job numbers are rising higher than other employment sectors. But just because you're a recent graduate, or you're applying to entry-level positions doesn't mean you should take the first offer sight unseen. Negotiating your salary, benefits, and even holiday time is an acceptable, and sometimes expected, part of the hiring process. But what can you request and how much is too much (or too little). Fear not! We have a handy guide for figuring out when to negotiate, how to negotiate, and for what you can negotiate. Remember, the best thing you can do during the hiring process is come prepared with sound knowledge and a sense of your own self-worth. So without further ado, here are six ways to maximize the earning potential of your first job.
1.Target industries with vacancies
The first thing you can do to assure yourself a good salary is to target industries that are hiring, especially those that have many openings. If you stick with narrow fields of expertise, you'll have a lot more competition and a lot less room to negotiate. Of course, some degree fields will already limit your job market, but many industries offer entry-level and graduate positions to applicants with all sorts of university degrees. So if salary is more important than sector, target jobs in accounting, energy, banking, and IT which all have a lot of vacancies and relatively high starting salaries. And do some research. Certain industries or companies may have higher graduate salaries than others, or you might find that salaries are higher and jobs are more prevalent in certain regions or cities.
2. Have work experience
We all know that the job market is competitive and that you need to stand out from the other applicants. But one of the most important things you can do to improve your chances of finding a job and landing a big salary is to gain some experience before you enter the job market. Volunteer work, work-placement programs, and internships will all give you valuable experience that could boost your earning potential. Even when employers are targeting graduates, they're looking for applicants with relevant and applicable experiences and skills and are more likely to offer, or be open to negotiating, higher salaries to job-seekers with work experience. Plus, work experience is a great way to make connections and, possibly, find a job.
3. Don't name the first number
Remember that interviewers and hiring agents are skilled negotiators and the dreaded salary question is a useful tool for weeding out candidates. If you can, avoid naming a salary number - too high and you may be discounted because you won't be satisfied with what the employer is offering, too low and you may seem to lack confidence. Of course, if pressed, you may have to answer but try to name a range instead of a hard and fast number. Use industry averages if you must provide a figure, but present your answer in a way that indicates you're flexible and open to negotiation.
4. Know when you must negotiate...
Speaking of negotiation, once you have that all-important job offer, don't be afraid to negotiate on salary and contract terms. In nearly every situation, negotiation is welcomed, and in some areas, it's pretty much mandatory. This should go without saying if you're applying for jobs in sales or marketing - the abilities to assess value and negotiate are essential qualities for such positions. And regardless of the sector, negotiating your initial offer can demonstrate that you're confident and astute.
5. But start with something easier
Still, money is always a tough subject to broach, so don't feel that you have to slam down a figure and start a bidding war. Approach the subject carefully and start by asking about (and negotiating) benefits, pension plans, holiday time, and other aspects of 'total compensation.' These can be a good way into the conversation about salary, but they will also be an important part of negotiating your final terms. For instance, the employer may be unable to offer a higher salary, but could compensate you with a better pension plan, more frequent reviews, bonus schemes, or the option of flex-time or extra paid holidays. And these benefits could be far more valuable than a 2% raise. It's up to you to weight the options. Maybe you'll be happier with a smaller paycheck but more paid holiday time, or a smaller initial salary but more reviews equaling more opportunity for advancement. In the end, it's all up to you because you can always reject a job offer if you feel that the compensation is not worth the work required.
6. Have a good reason
No matter what you're offered or how you plan to negotiate, make sure to come prepared with industry figures and solid, respectable reasons that you feel qualify your requests. Most employers will not rescind an offer if a candidate tries to negotiate their starting salary, but they may not look favorably on someone who demands a higher salary without grounds, or who appears to be negotiating only for the sake of negotiating. Before you go to the interview, do some research on typical starting salaries in the field and also compare these to industry averages. Then weigh those numbers against your expectations, experiences, and skills. Work experience, high grades, awards and merits, and even additional skills like a foreign language can give you an edge on your starting salary.
(Elizabeth Koprowski is an American writer and travel historian. She has worked in the higher education system with international students both in Europe and in the USA).

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