You’ve polished your resume, you’ve tailored your cover letter, you’ve practiced your interviewing skills – you’ve even picked out the right thing to wear. Don’t step into the interview, however, without thinking about potential salaries and what is standard pay for the position or industry. Below are some tips on considering salaries and job offers from start to finish:
Choose the right time to talk about salary.
Unless you are asked specifically, do not mention anything about salary or compensation until you have secured an offer. Throughout the application and interview process, you want to focus on showing the employer your qualifications and determining whether or not the position is a good fit for you. Click here for what to say
when it comes time to talk about salaries and offers.
Decide ahead of time what is acceptable to you. Think about what would be the minimum compensation that you would consider and what you think you would like to receive. This may adjust after you do the research suggested below, but make sure you have a firm sense before you begin discussing salaries or offers with any employer. If you find that the typical salary range is not acceptable to you for a given position or industry, you may need to consider other ways for a second income as you get established in the field of interest to you. Talk with a career counselor if you have questions about these issues.
Find out the average salary range for this type of work. Start with these resources:
Talk to alumni and other contacts
. Most of your contacts should be willing to share with you the ranges for the types of positions in their field. Never ask for a specific amount, and never phrase the question in terms of what they make. For example, use phrasing such as:
"I'm seeking a position as a chemical engineer for an environmental start-up company. I expect a salary between $___ and $___. Is that reasonable?"
"What's the typical salary range for a chemical engineer in the environment/energy sector?"
Calculate your “worth”. As you find out the average salaries and ranges for a position, you will need to know what you are worth in order to know where you fall in these ranges. Salaries can often be negotiated on the basis of work experience, type of degree, special skills and so on. A good habit to develop is to document your performance (from past or current jobs and leadership positions), including specifics on what you accomplished, who benefited, and any recognition for your work.
Evaluate the entire package and not just the salary amount. Your base salary is very important, but a comprehensive benefits package can add 30-40% to that amount. This can include health care premiums, retirement contributions, personal time off, tuition reimbursement, and professional association fees. You should also consider your future earnings potential, which can increase significantly with future bonuses, commissions, or promotions. As you consider those tangible benefits, think about these intangible ones as well:
Job Fit: What will your day-to-day responsibilities be like? How challenged do you want to be? In job satisfaction surveys, employees often rank enjoying their job as more important than salary.
Environment Fit: What is the culture of the organization? Will you be able to get along with your colleagues? What office space will you be working out of? Do you feel at ease with the supervisor?
Organization Fit: Do you believe in what they do? Do they value the same types of things that you do, such as work/life balance, advancement, professional development, mentoring, diversity, etc.?
Location Fit: Is the organization in the city, suburbs or rural area? Will you be close to people or activities that are important to you? Will you want to establish roots in this area down the road?