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Talk your way to higher pay

MBA Career Development Specialist, Erin Reed, said that even recent graduates can negotiate their way to higher pay. Courtesy Photo  |  The Daily Cougar

MBA Career Development Specialist, Erin Reed, said that even recent graduates can negotiate higher salaries.
Courtesy Photo | The Daily Cougar

Many students have been preparing their resumes for internships and job positions for the Business Career Fair happening on Friday. Erin Reed, MBA career development specialist at the C.T. Bauer College of Business Rockwell Career Center, told The Daily Cougar how to negotiate a higher salary after the job is secured.

The Daily Cougar: Can recent graduates actually negotiate their salaries?

Erin Reed: Yes, and they should take that opportunity! All employers expect students to do some negotiation and many companies are willing to negotiate. Unfortunately, the majority of students don’t even try to negotiate their offer. Furthermore, many students neglect to analyze the “total compensation package.” There is more to an offer than base salary. So as a result, money, benefits and other perks are left on the table. Students should thoroughly review the offer packages they are given and be prepared to have an informed conversation of what they are worth and how they can add value to the company. Prior to negotiating any offer, students should visit their designated career services office for guidance on negotiation methods.

TDC: What could give a recent grad enough leverage to negotiate their salary?

Reed: Every interaction that a student has with a prospective employer leading up to the offer is important to determining the negotiation power of the student. However, other factors including the number of years of relevant work experience, major, importance of skill set for the role, additional offers on the table and contributions made to previous employers can certainly make the student look more attractive.

TDC: What job fields have salaries that are most up for negotiation?

Reed: Every job offer is up for negotiation. With that being said, there are some companies that have more room for negotiation than others. It is the student’s job to be armed with the salary history for that company, industry and job position so that they don’t go into an offer negotiation asking for a salary that is unreasonable. Students should utilize their designated career center for assistance with this research. Career advisers work closely with companies and can give students the proper guidance.

TDC: How can someone start the “higher salary” conversation?

Reed: After having done a considerable amount of research on the offer, the best way to start the “higher salary” conversation is to first thank the hiring manager for the job opportunity. The opening should go a little something like this:

“Thank you for the opportunity to join your team. I am excited about this job, and I know that I will be able to add value to your company. I have reviewed the offer, and while I appreciate your offer of $55,000, I was expecting an offer closer to $65,000 based on my years of work experience (for a graduate student) or internship experience (for an undergraduate student). Will you consider a salary of $65,000 for this position?”

Career services offices at the University of Houston have workshops to guide and assist with this conversation.

TDC: What should you do when you know that one of your colleagues makes more money than you do?

Reed: As a rule of thumb, you should never discuss your salary with your colleagues. If you discover that you are making less than one of your colleagues, it could be for a number of reasons. The person could have more credentials, more seniority, more experience or education, better performance reviews or may have simply negotiated a higher salary at the outset. Since there could be so many reasons for the discrepancy, you should never complain to your manager that someone else is making more than you. Instead, consider approaching your manager for a raise. Set up a meeting with your manager (possibly at your next performance appraisal meeting) and be prepared just as you would for negotiating an offer. Do your homework. You may discuss your successes up to that point as well as any new training or credentials that you have gained.

TDC: What do you do if your company doesn’t want to give you a higher salary?

Reed: There is more to an offer than just the salary. It is very important for the student to determine the monetary value of the complete offer package by also evaluating the signing bonus, health insurance package, 401K plan, vacation, scope of the job, relocation expenses, tuition reimbursement, stock options and start date. These other components have a financial value and many times are also negotiable!

TDC: How much is too much to ask for? What is a reasonable percentage?

Reed: There is no standard percentage to ask for over the amount of the original offer. It all depends on the job position and other factors. Students should use their career center to access a variety of salary resources and to help guide decisions around a reasonable salary range. Sometimes an employer will push back on the first request, but students should always know their walk-away point prior to the negotiation discussion so that they are prepared to handle that scenario. As long as you are professional and treat the employer with respect, it is acceptable to hold firm to the amount that was originally requested. You never know; the employer may want you bad enough to make an exception.

TDC: How do you know your worth?

Reed: The best way to determine your worth is to determine your fair market value via salary research websites and even the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, don’t underestimate the power of networking. Attend professional association meetings and alumni events to get a current perspective on positions across various companies, industries and sectors. Never ask others what they make. However, you can always ask if a particular range sounds right for a certain kind of job or company. If there is any doubt about the content of this conversation, students should always visit their designated career center for assistance.

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