I had just graduated from college and I was on the hunt for my first job, focusing on marketing roles in tech companies. After a few months of job hunting I was really discouraged. I was still unemployed, My effort of sending out resumes constantly did not result in any offers.
Thankfully, after final round interviews with a small startup I was really excited about, the COO called to offer me the position. Initially, I was thrilled. But when he then told me that my salary would be $58k, Saying I was disappointed would be an understatement. I had been doing salary research for some of the larger tech companies, which pay more, so I was expecting a higher starting salary.
I didn’t know how to react to the offer. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled to finally have a job offer. But I knew I needed to do research on the salary and potentially ask for more.
I used a response that a mentor of mine once suggested: “I’m really excited about the position, but the salary is lower than I expected. I’m flexible and willing to negotiate but I’d like to do a little more research on this and speak about it in a few days.”
He paused. I don’t think he expected me to push back.
He gave me five days to respond to the offer.
How did you decide what was a good salary right out of college?
I went to a Facebook group I was a part of called Tech Ladies and asked for advice. The women in this group are incredibly supportive and give great advice, so I knew they would have suggestions for me.
When I posted my offer, a lot of women assured me that it was a fair salary for the position, but it was absolutely OK to make the case for a higher starting salary. They also gave me the idea to do more research on the salary and look for comparable salaries on sites like Glassdoor. The salary range that I found was $62k-$68k.
With that information I scheduled another call with the COO to discuss the offer.
I was really nervous about negotiating for the first time, so right before the call I gave myself a much-needed pep talk. I looked at my resume to go over my accomplishments and made a list of all of the skills I could contribute to the team.
How did you negotiate salary for your first job?
It was very uncomfortable.
When someone is offering you a job that you really want, it’s hard to say, “thanks, but I want more.”
I launched into a script I had prepared for myself that highlighted my skills and told him that after doing research I felt an appropriate salary was $66k.
He talked to me about the benefits of the role and what I’d learn by joining their company. He then pushed me a little harder and asked why I believed that I deserved more.
I was nervous, faltered a little bit, and gave some reasons that weren’t very strong (for example, I justified asking for more based on the high cost of living, rather than any of my personal attributes).
He then told me that the max they could offer me was $64K.
I wasn’t ready to continue pushing. That amount made me happy. Plus, I wanted the conversation to be over. I told him I was happy to accept that offer, but I’d like a 6-month review.
He quickly agreed and we ended the call.
What did you learn from the experience of negotiating your first job?
There are some things that I wish I had done differently. I wish that I had prepared a more articulate response as to why I deserved the higher salary, rather than stating cost of living for the area, which doesn’t speak to why I personally deserved more.
During a negotiation conversation I learned that I need to make my points clear. I asked for a 6-month review but I didn’t explicitly tell him that I wanted to be reviewed and considered for a raise. My worry now is that at my 6-month review I’m going to need to negotiate again because he’s not expecting for me to ask for a raise.
Though there are things I would do differently in the next negotiation, I’m so glad that I had the courage to ask for more.
What advice do you have for others who are negotiationg entry level jobs?
Join an affinity group
I know that women are underrepresented in tech companies and I proactively looked for networking groups to join. That was incredibly beneficial. They not only gave me advice, but they helped boost my self-confidence. There are so many groups to join based on your industry, gender, race, or interests and I really recommend finding one that fits for you.
Focus on your self-confidence
Being unemployed can be hard on your self-worth. I’m so glad that I remained focused on my strengths as a candidate during the job search, rather than letting myself feel desperate and willing to take anything that came my way.
Need more tips for negotiating entry level positions?
Did you know that negotiating your salary one time can add over a million dollars to your earnings over the course of your career?
That’s kind of a big deal. And so is the confidence you get from knowing that you can ask for and get what you want and need in your career.
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