How to Negotiate a Starting Salary

Career Advice
11 January 2022 | Career Advice | annie blinkhorn

 How to Negotiate a Starting Salary

As a final-year student looking to secure your first-time ‘proper’ job, it’s a very exciting experience and there’s the temptation to take whatever you’re offered – after all, some money is always better than none.

But in some cases, your experiences and skills might be worth more than you’re being offered, so it’s worth understanding how to negotiate your salary so you can secure a job and package you’re happy with.

Student living specialists Scape and This Girl Talks Money bring you some top tips on how to negotiate your salary, as a final-year student ready to enter the world of work.

Research, research, research

The first step in negotiating your starting salary is to do your research; you need to be realistic about what the general starting salary is for people with your level of experience, qualifications, and skills. If you think you deserve more (nothing wrong with this!), you need to be able to share why; this could be because you have a lot of experience in that industry (whether it’s formal work experience or not) or because you have strong academic achievements.

Having a look at the average graduate salary and thinking about any costs (such as rent if you have to move) associated with working for your chosen organisation can really help you form an idea of what your personal minimum salary should be.

Show your charm

There’s a popular saying in the business world – ‘Businesses don’t negotiate, people do’ and this applies here too. This isn’t necessarily about making people like you - if they didn’t already see you in a positive light, they wouldn’t have made you the employment offer in the first place. What’s important is making sure you don’t reduce your likeability or the connection the employer feels with you. Remain polite and pay attention to nuances such as where the line is between coming across as greedy and knowing your worth.

If you’re doing this in-person, what can help is to be aware of your contemporary’s body language and mirror. Don’t make it super obvious by copying them exactly, but for example, if they’re leaning in, do the same; this can subconsciously make you more relatable.

Confidence is key

In the same vein as showing your charm, being confident is also really important in helping to negotiate a salary offer. The process of negotiating can be nerve-wracking, especially when as a graduate you might feel as if you don’t have the ‘right’ to want better or even have a sense of imposter syndrome. 

But when it comes to negotiations and advocating for yourself, confidence really is key; there’s no way you can convince someone to take you and your skills seriously, if you don’t even sound like you believe yourself. Remind yourself of the reasons behind your wanting a higher salary, and why you deserve it (because you absolutely do). Then take a deep breath and relax. The worst they can do is say no.

Sell your strengths

In the same way you would have done from the start of the application process, you need to sell your strengths to the organisation. This goes a little beyond what you would have done earlier through your CV and interview where you were selling yourself as a fit to the role; this time your aim is to make sure the organisation sees you as an asset worth paying your preferred price.

From an organisational standpoint, companies want the best employees they can get for as low a cost to them as possible. At the same time, if you can make your employer see why you, being the best person for the role, are worth however much, they will usually be willing to adjust their salary offering in your favour.

Avoid setting ultimatums

Just don’t do this; no-one likes being threatened and it can make you come across as a petulant brat, as opposed to a cool-as-a-cucumber negotiator. On top of that, it can severely reduce your likeability and relatability to the employer. Even though you probably deserve that salary increase, you’re not yet indispensable to the organisation, especially at the start of your formal career.

These tips aren’t exactly a guarantee that you’ll get the salary you want, but they’re a good place to start thinking about what you can do to get what you want out of your job. Best thing is, this advice is relevant at any stage of your career and applies to not only a salary increase, but even securing a promotion, so we suggest you bookmark this page to come back to!

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