Negotiating Salary in Your First Job

Salary negotiations are intricate conversations. A lot depends on your industry, your skills, the job market, and company finances. That being said, not negotiating can cause you to lose millions in potential earnings over a lifetime. There are many who argue you should always negotiate your first salary and plenty of others who say you won’t get very far.

How will you know if negotiating is right for you? Do your research:

  • Research similar positions at the company or similar organizations in your industry in your geographic area. Determine what a reasonable range is for your position. Utilize,, and to get started.
  • Speak to contacts in the industry. Utilize informational interviews to determine if negotiation is common in your field.
  • Conduct online research. Nerdwallet’s Salary Survey provides some useful guidance on negotiating stats based on industry, job role, applicant’s gender, and applicant’s major, etc.
  • Ask yourself: Why you are you choosing not to negotiate? Is it because you took the above steps and determined negotiation could have a negative impact? Or is it because you are afraid of negotiating or need help navigating the process? If the latter, check out our guide on Negotiating the Job Offer, or speak with a Career Consultant to discuss your situation.

Key tips to remember:

  • Ask for the offer in writing. You might lose the opportunity to negotiate if you accept on the phone or in person without reviewing the offer.
  • Remember you can negotiate other benefits such as extra vacation time, a later start date, relocation expenses, your title, tuition reimbursement, etc. If you get a “no” on your request to discuss salary negotiation, you can ask to discuss these “extras.”
  • Lead with your value, not why you need more money based on personal finances.
  • Be realistic about your goals and prioritize those of most importance.
  • In many industries, employers will expect negotiations; being polite and prepared will give you your best chance for success.
  • Check out this comprehensive Salary Negotiation Guide from PayScale.

By Emily Merritt
Emily Merritt Career Consultant, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Emily Merritt