Negotiating A Salary
When people talk about school, they often contrast it with “the real world.” They say things like, “In the real world, there are no grades.” Or, “Sure, you’re book-smart. But wait until you’re out in the real world.” And they’re right, in a way. “The real world” can be scary, crazy different from the structured life of academia. One of the scariest parts about life after graduation? Negotiating a salary.
Sure, your life is going to change once you stop being a student and start being a grown-up with a career. But you should keep in mind that a salaried job is what you’re working toward while you’re in school. It’s what your coursework is preparing you for. Those essays you’re being forced to write? They’re teaching you to be an effective communicator, a persuasive person, a critical thinker. And these skills will all come in handy when you sit down to negotiate your first salary.
It may seem hard to fathom negotiating a starting salary. What leverage can you, someone who’s never even had a salary before this, possibly have going into this negotiation? But salary negotiations aren’t just for people who are well-established in careers. The first salary you have can set the base rate for the rest of your life.
Most grads start out at salaries that are below-average for their field. And women—who are less likely to be praised for assertive behavior growing up—are even less likely than men to start out with a decent salary. (It’s part of the reason why there’s such a persistent wage gap between men and women—when it comes to starting salary negotiation, women just don’t ask to be paid what they deserve. So when they and their more-assertive male peers are getting their annual raises, women are at a disadvantage, having started out behind.)
But it’s not just a gendered problem. It’s hard to be assertive when you’re a recent grad. What do you have to offer, other than good grades and an eagerness to learn?
Sure, recent grads lack the...