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Don't Leave Money on the Table: Tips for Negotiating Salaries as a College Grad

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    Don't Leave Money on the Table: Tips for Negotiating Salaries as a College Grad
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    Getting that first job right after commencement is a major win for any new college graduate.

    But when accepting the offer, many are leaving money and other potential perks on the table, according to career development experts.

    Just over a third of new college grads who entered the job market between 2012 and 2015 said they negotiated after the got the job offer, according to one survey of 8,000 such job-seekers published by NerdWallet.com. A 2013 report by CareerBuilder.com revealed similar findings across age ranges; It found that 49 percent of about 3,000 full-time workers don't negotiate.

    While some eager applicants may be hesitant to ask for more, most hiring managers are expecting to discuss salary, both reports by the financial and career advice sites noted. More than 80 percent of 700 employers in the NerdWallet survey said an entry-level candidate would not be putting his or her job offer at risk if attempting to negotiate salary. Just under half said they would be willing to negotiate and about three quarters said they would increase the offer.

    Here are a few tips recent college graduates and early career professionals could consider before signing the dotted line:

    Know Your Worth

    The first thing candidates should do before accepting the offer is to research the salary range for someone who has the same skill set and experience. Don't forget to calculate monthly living expenses, including taxes.

    Job seekers should take into account the size of the company, its location and the type of employer they are seeking, said Susan Gordon, director of career development at American University. She recommends candidates to use online sources including glassdoor.com, salary.com and the Occupational Outlook Handbook on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website.

    “Informational interviews can also be done in their target fields, for them to know a reasonable salary range for an entry level position within that field,” Gordon added. “Realistically, they have to know what their worth is, given their skills and experience.”

    Joe Aini, assistant director of career services at the University of Albany, urges candidates to get in contact with the career development departments at their universities for guidance. He said university alumni associations are also great resources because former students could give first-hand accounts of their experience negotiating.

    Practice Your Pitch In Advance

    After the research is done, Gordon advises job applicants to be prepared and rehearse what they hope to tell the employer, with a family or friend. This will enables them to show what they’ve learned from their research to convince the employer about their worth to the company.

    How To Ask

    Aini, who has been a career counselor for more than 15 years, said the key is to “know how to articulate your worth to the company, work experience and special skills that could be used to move it forward." 

    The special skills could include things as simple as computer literacy and fluency in a foreign language, which he said would make the applicant more “competent and marketable.”

    Gordon, who had counseled students in similar situations, echoed Aini’s recommendation. She cautions applicants to be aware of their “tone” — how they ask for a higher salary. The 20-year veteran career advisor suggests opening with a question, while expressing confidence and enthusiasm.

    “You may say, ‘Thanks for the offer. I’m very pleased by it, and I have a question: Is there room to negotiate the salary?'” said Gordon.

    If negotiation is possible, she said one could add, “Based on my research, I understand that the salary for this position ranges from (insert amounts). I am more than proficient to excel, and I will be able to get the job running. Because of that, I’m wondering if we could move that dollar amount from $40,000 to $45,000.”

    What To Do if You Get a No 

    If the employer cannot increase the salary, it's best to accept the answer and reply with a polite response. If still interested in the position, it is imperative to maintain express enthusiasm, career advisers stressed. 

    For example: Gordon suggests replying: “I’m very disappointed to hear that, but I do remain interested in the position.”

    If the salary is low enough to pass up the offer, she suggests that candidates should follow up in email by thanking the employer for their time and opportunity, then state reason for declining.

    “This would put some professional polish on it” she said.

    Consider Other Benefits And Perks

    A no on salary doesn't have to be the end of all negations, though. Whether or not job seekers are successful in their attempt get a higher salary, Aini and Gordon stressed there are employee benefits and perks that are often overlooked. These include a bonus, extra vacation days or financial assistance furthering their education. Aini said some companies pay a percent of the tuition or give a full ride.

    "This is something that many don't consider," he added.