New graduates: Don't be afraid to 'Lean In' and negotiate

Graduates, despite lack of much work experience, do have value in the workforce.

by bret.silverberg, published 05/12/2014
New graduates: Don't be afraid to 'Lean In' and negotiate

Sheryl Sandberg, in her bestselling, tell-all book on life as the chief operating officer at Facebook, "Lean In" encouraged women to push for their careers. She wrote that women no longer should have to feel they must make a choice between having a happy life, or a solid career.

In her new book, “Lean In for Graduates,” a reproduction of the original book with added chapters, voices and advice for college graduates, she’s spreading that same message to the American workforce’s newest class.

Kim Keating, founder and managing director of Keating Advisors, a human resources consulting firm, wrote a chapter in Sandberg's literary re-format titled “Negotiate Your Salary,” which provides advice for graduates on how to present herself as an individual with worth despite a lack of track record.

Monster Working: Negotiating one’s salary can be intimidating, especially for someone new to the workforce. What troubles do college graduates run into after they’ve been offered the job?

Kim Keating: Well, first of all, go grad! It is a tough market out there and getting that first job offer is huge!

The three biggest mistakes I see new graduates make when negotiating their first job are:

  • Not negotiating. Make the decision that you will negotiate before the first interview or initial call. Be prepared to redirect the conversation if they bring up compensation before you have an offer.
  • Showing up unprepared. Make sure you do your homework. Think of it as a three-part assignment. Part 1: Do your homework on you. Know what your compensation needs and goals are and aim high. Part 2: Do your homework on them. Gather information that tells you the market rate for the job you are interviewing for. Part 3: Know your BATNA (the best alternative to no agreement). You already know your aspirational salary — now identify your BATNA. It's important to think about alternatives because the negotiation may not end with the offer you want.
  • Making it all about you. Make sure to map your skills and abilities to the organization’s goals and strategic objectives. They will be much more willing to negotiate if you are their number one candidate.

MW: Is it the idea that college graduates feel they’re just lucky to have been offered the job? What hurdles do you find candidates just out of college run into? Are they often lowballed?

KK: I think that candidates are often lowballed whether they are just out of college or not. That’s why having up-to-date compensation data is so important. If the offer is below the market rate, the market data is what you can point to when presenting a counter offer.

MW: How can a young person, just entering their first job, assure that she has firm footing to stand on in negotiations? How does this candidate learn to feel strongly about his or her worth in the job market when this candidate has likely done very little in the market?

KK: The best way a candidate can feel confident about his or her worth in the job market is to make sure she has up-to-date compensation information that reflects similar years of experience. If you go to my website keatingadvisors.com, I offer customized salary reports that can show data for entry-level jobs with zero to two years of experience.

MW: How does your model for job success for graduates tie into Sandberg’s original “Lean In” theme?

KK: One of the most important pieces of career advice in “Lean In” is to negotiate for yourself. But negotiation can be particularly difficult for women. Research shows that we expect men to negotiate for themselves but women pay a penalty for negotiating for themselves. In the graduation edition, my chapter outlines 4 steps that are a roadmap for successful negotiations and arm women with specific knowledge about how they can negotiate.

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