You’ve received an offer. Congratulations! Now what? While this is an exciting time in your life, it is important to pause and take a step back to evaluate the offer and determine if it will meet your goals and needs. You will want to invest time into this process in order to set yourself up for future success.
Consider the Big Picture
Before strategizing for the salary negotiation, consider the role itself, the company culture, the opportunities for growth. Does this job match your interests, skills, and values? Does this role fit into your long-term career goals? Will the position help you grow professionally? Will your boss’s management style align with your supervisory needs? These are big questions, and luckily there are many resources out there to help you answer them.
If you’re determining whether or not this role fits into your long-term career goals, consider these resources:
- Use Eagle Exchange and LinkedIn to search for other current or former employees at the organization. Viewing others’ career paths before and after their work at your potential organization will help you determine if this position is right for you. You can also use these platforms to reach out to current and former employees to ask about their career paths and their experience.
- Research your field and/or your company on Vault Guides (sign in through your BC account). Vault Guides can give you insight into the field outlook as well as insight into the day-to-day aspects of the job.
If you’re trying to learn how the culture of the office will align with your needs, check out these resources:
- Again, Eagle Exchange and LinkedIn are extremely helpful. Try connecting with alumni who have worked at the company or organization you’re considering. Talk to others who have been supervised by your prospective boss. Ask what the organization's culture is like and about opportunities for advising and mentorship.
- Glassdoor.com is another great resource for exploring company culture. Search for the company or organization to get the inside scoop on salary, benefits, organization culture, and overall experience from actual employees.
You may be wondering why you should negotiate your offer. Again, we encourage you to think about the big picture. Each salary functions as a benchmark for your future earning potential because each of your salaries will be built off of your last one. This means that negotiating your salary early on could set you up for significantly higher earnings over the course of your career.
Negotiating also shows your employer that you have done your research regarding your relative worth in the current labor market for your industry. We advise that you begin this process (steps 1-4 below) prior to the interview for a role in case you are asked about your salary requirements.
Keep in mind, however, that negotiating your offer may not always be possible and that there may be more to negotiate than your salary. Schedule a career coaching appointment if you have questions or to prepare for your negotiation.
According to researchers, assuming a 5% average annual pay increase over a 40-year career, a 25-year-old who negotiated a starting salary of $55,000 will earn $634,000 more than a non-negotiator who accepted an initial offer of $50,000.
Step-by-Step Guide to Salary Negotiation
Know your value
Before even getting to the dollars and cents, you’ll need to think about the value you bring to the position. What will you contribute to the organization? Consider professional and academic accomplishments as well as measurable, positive results and contributions to significant projects or outcomes. You’ll need to be able to articulate these attributes when negotiating your salary and benefits. Need help articulating your skills and accomplishments? Use the Career Readiness worksheet to organize your thoughts.
Create a realistic budget
In order to evaluate your offer, you’ll need to consider the salary you need to cover your expenses (rent, food, utilities, student loans, etc.). Start by developing a realistic budget. A good way to do this is to track your expenses for about 3 months (it’s sometimes helpful to look at the past three months). You can use a budgeting app like BudgetTracker or Mint to track your expenses OR simply fill out a budget worksheet like this one to get a sense for what you spend.
Pay attention to the cost of living in the city in which you plan to work. Rent, groceries, and other basic living expenses might be more expensive in one city than in another. You can use this online calculator to research cost of living. Looking for some financial coaching? Check out Boston College’s Money Mentors program! The program will match you with a mentor who can help you budget, manage your income, and even invest.
Research the salary range
Once you have determined your budget, research the salary that others in your field and/or position are making to make sure your earnings expectations are realistic for the market. You can use resources like Salary.com and glassdoor.com to research what someone with your experience and skill set is typically paid in a similar role. Make sure you’re adjusting for location, as salaries for similar roles may differ by city or region.
Calculate your target salary
Now that you can estimate what other professionals are making in your field and know your own budget, identify your salary range. Use your target salary as the bottom of the range, and do not stretch more than 20 percent.
- If you’ve determined that you will need to make about $50,000 to cover all of your expenses, and your salary research indicates that others in your field (with your skill set, in your city) are making a median $55,000, your target salary might be $55,000. And, your range might be $55,000-$66,000.
- Note that you should be mindful of your take-home pay. You can calculate your take-home pay using paycheckcity.com. Make sure your target salary will be enough to cover your expenses after taxes.
Evaluate your offer
Now that you know your budget and your target salary range, you can evaluate the employment package being offered to you. If you’ve been given a verbal offer, request it in writing so that you have all the relevant details. Does the offer match your target salary range? Make sure you also pay attention to the benefits offered in addition to salary. (Wondering what other benefits you might expect? Check out this page.) Other benefits besides salary might include:
- 401k or 403b plans (retirement)
- Stock options
- Flexible scheduling
- Gym membership
- Parental leave
- Paid parking and/or subsidized commuter plans
- Education credits
- Signing bonus
- Commission or other incentives
You may want to consider negotiating the salary if you feel that the salary offered is not sufficient for you to live on or not in line with the local market (the salary range you researched). Be aware that salary negotiation is not always possible. Some compensation packages are standard for all new employees at a certain level. Once you’ve evaluated your offer and done your research, ask whether the offer is negotiable.
Before a salary negotiation conversation with your potential employer, make sure to gather your salary research and your skills sheet. You can start by articulating your value (remember Step One). Explicitly state the skills and unique value you bring to the position and/or to the organization. If applicable, you can also mention the research on comparable roles. You might say something like:
- “Do you have any flexibility on the salary number?”*
- “Thank you for the offer. Based on my research with comparable roles in this area, I was thinking of something in the range of [your target salary range].”
- “Based on my prior experience and familiarity with this role, I believe that an additional $___would be fair.”
If salary is not negotiable, find the “wiggle room.” The starting salary for an entry-level position may not be negotiable, but find out other aspects that may be —e.g. start date, vacation time, or flex time.
Remember: No offer is really final until you have received it in writing. Be sure to request written documentation of the terms of the offer, especially if you have negotiated anything out of the ordinary. Finalize the agreement when you feel the offer is fair and is within the range that you can accept. Finally, accept or decline the offer both verbally and in writing.
- Don’t ask any questions that you could have researched.
- It is unlawful for employers to ask your current salary in an interview, but they can ask on an application. If they give an option other than a numerical value on the application you can simply say “open and flexible.”
- If they ask your desired salary in an interview, you can say that you have to get back to them as you don’t have a number prepared yet and you’ll have to take into consideration benefits, taxes, etc.
- Once you get to the negotiation phase, if the employer starts mentioning numbers, you can say “thank you for sharing that information”- not accepting, just acknowledging.