Negotiating your first salary

You did your gap “yah”, you have your degree. You’ve interned for the EU, the UN and everything in between. After months of sending late night applications, you finally land an interview. Get in!

You go to the interview… and woop woop! Three to five short years later, you finally have your first job. Get in some more!

There is no way you are going to mess this up. You are a professional now. A professional with awesome new shoes, a Linkedin account and a smartphone. You rock. You have a plastic nameplate on conference panels. You’ve been on company away-days to glittering casinos and danced like a fruit and nut cake at the office Christmas party.

You… are literally da bomb: the miraculous exception to a generation of lost souls in far away lands. You’ve made it.

But hang on a minute…

That brick and chrome loft you always dreamed of is actually a tiny studio furnished with junk you suspect once belonged to someone’s dead and burried aunt. Your parents still send you “pocket money” and whenever you go home, you borrow a fiver from a smug cousin for the bus.

So what happened? You’re employed after all! Surely a job was all you needed to ensure social standing, financial security, self-respect and endless fodder for dullish dinner party conversation?

Nope, you are underemployed.

This can mean one of two things. The first is that you’re paid enough, but spend your days making giant balls out of plastic bands and paper clips. The second, which applies here, is that you love your job, but wish that for once you could do more than just pay the bills and eat spaghetti bolognese.

So what’s the trick to this? Is there one? Well…sort of.

In this day and age – if you’re in your mid twenties and someone offers you a real-life job – you’re jerk reaction might be to kiss their feet, prostrate yourself before them and swear your undying loyalty and devotion until death do you part. That is understandable. Youth unemployment is high. Youth underemployment is rife. Someone has just offered YOU a job. Who wants to rock the boat? Not me!

Three key things to remember after receiving a job offer:

If someone offers you a job, that means they want to give it to you! Use this window of opportunity before accepting the role to have a conversation about salary. Particularly if salary wasn’t brought up in clear terms during the application or interview process.

Companies and other organisations usually have a very specific budget for entry-level employees, but that doesn’t mean you can’t test the water before signing a contract. Ask in particular about what you can expect to receive after tax and decide if that’s reasonable to live and play on.

If the salary will be low, ask what other benefits you will be entitled to and decide if you would really be happy with them. Discuss transport allowance, overtime, health insurance, bonuses and prospects for future promotion. Ask about everything that is money related, so that you have the full picture.

You’ve already proved by passing the interview that you want to contribute to the company, so now make sure they will value that contribution properly. You don’t have to ask for the earth, but you can ask for what you think will be reasonable to live on and negotiate openly from there. As expired aunties always say: if you don’t ask, you don’t get!

Of course, if you do turn out to be terrible at your job, I can’t promise a renegotiation won’t take place.

Article by Laura Hemmati, Cofounder Leadarise

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