How to Negotiate a Salary Offer at Your First Job

New grads: Master the skill of salary negotiation with tips from college career counselors.

How to Negotiate a Salary Offer at Your First Job

Not sure how to negotiate? Read this for tips.

Money might make the world go 'round, but one thing's for sure: No one likes talking about it. And negotiating salary? Forget about it. But if you want to get paid what you're worth so you can afford the little things in life (like rent, car payments, and the other perks of adulting), you've got to push past the awkwardness and learn how to negotiate a salary offer.

Yes, salary negotiation is tricky—but necessary. You don't want to sell yourself short and miss out on cash money, but on the other hand, you don't want to aim higher than your worth and risk hurting your chances of landing a job.

Negotiating properly can mean the difference of thousands of dollars. The good news is, you don't have to go it alone. Monster has simple tips to help you get through your first salary negotiation.

How to Negotiate a Salary Offer

1. Know Your Budget

Sure, everyone wants as high a salary as possible, but realistically, your first full-time job will likely be one of—if not the—lowest-paying full-time jobs of your life. That means you need to be smart about how much you ask for, so, you know, you can have a life, too.

Obviously you need to research companies and salaries, but you should also create a budget that factors in everything from your current rent and school loans, to any relocation costs and other reasonable living expenses. Your job offer needs to cover these expenses. Unless you create a detailed budget, you're just guessing.

2. Understand Why the Offer Is What It Is

Think your skills and experiences are worth more than you've been offered? Ask the company how they came to their offer. You want to hear that all your skills and experiences are being taken into consideration. If they aren't, it's time to counter.

For instance, if you're up for a job, but you've had three internships in a similar position and you've mastered entry-level skills that other candidates may need to learn on the job, stress how valuable your experience will be to them—you're ready to go and won't require basic training.

3. Consider the Whole Offer

It's easy to get deflated (or elated) when you hear the hiring manager throw out a particular salary number, but remember: Job offers are not just about salary. Understanding how to negotiate a salary offer includes knowing what's on the table besides money. If you're disappointed by a number and they just won't budge, that's when it's time to hear what else they're willing to offer—and consider what that might be worth to you in the long run.

When mulling over an offer, it's critical to consider all aspects—tuition reimbursement, time off, employer contributions to retirement savings accounts—in addition to the base salary.

Things like retirement contributions are cash. Tuition reimbursement could mean a much bigger pay bump down the road. Bottom line: Don't get thrown by the initial number.

4. Know How Location Is Affecting Your Salary Offer

Location, location, location. When you're considering an offer, be sure to think of it in the right context. An entry-level salary in New York City can differ wildly from an entry-level salary in a small town. Check Monster's Salary page to see what you'd get paid in different locations.

It's important to look at the salaries of entry-level workers in your industry as well as in the geographic location where you're interested in working. Salaries can vary wildly for a variety of reasons, so the more specific your comparison is, the better.

5. Negotiate at the Right Time

Knowing how to negotiate a salary offer is also a matter of knowing when to do so. Even if you've sailed through multiple interviews and it seems like the job is yours, wait until the company formally offers you the job before you attempt to negotiate the salary.

A job offer and benefits package often come from a person in HR. Once you have that offer in your hand (or inbox), you can decide whether or not to negotiate for more money based on your education, accomplishments, skills, and potential.

Practice Your Salary Pitch

Just like your elevator pitch, your salary pitch will go a lot more smoothly if you practice first. And that's where your job squad comes in. Practice with your roommates, friends, parents, and of course your college career counselors!

After you've completed your research on comparable salaries and can explain to a hiring manager what you bring to the position, you're ready to work on your negotiation skills. Turn to your career services office for help. You can practice your responses to employer pushback and perfect your pitch.

Become a Better Employee

Understanding how to negotiate a salary offer is a vital career lesson. Getting paid a decent salary is one negotiation you'll likely experience a few times, so definitely put the time in to become good at it. And that's not all you'll need to learn how to do to better your career. Could you use some help navigating these uncharted waters? Make a profile on Monster—for free. We'll send you career advice and job search tips to help you throughout your career. From gaining the trust of the boss to delegating assignments to co-workers on a group project, there are a good number of tricky lessons Monster can break down for you.