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How to Negotiate Your First Salary

Hubert Cheung
How to Negotiate Your First Salary

Congratulations! You graduated during a pandemic. So, what’s usually the next step? You’re probably going to start applying for jobs, get a job, start earning a salary and there you go! Easy, right? 

Well, we all know it’s easier said than done- but one thing that could really help make sure you get paid what you deserve when you secure that first job is knowing how to negotiate your salary.

Average Graduate Salary

To figure out how to negotiate your salary, you must first understand the industry standards. According to ​​the Institute of Student Employers, the median average graduate starting salary in the UK is £29,000, while the Higher Education Statistics Agency’s “Graduate Outcome”reports the average graduate salary is £24,217, both for the year 2021. Quite a big difference, right? And to make it even more complicated, you have to take into account the region you are working in. The highest average salary (to no one’s surprise), is in London, while the lowest goes to Wales.

As if that wasn’t complicated enough, even though certain regions may be attractive with their much higher salaries, it is also important to keep in mind the cost of living because a lot of the dough you make could end up going into the dough you eat! By putting the cost of living in your region against the average graduate salary, you can evaluate how much discretionary income you actually have to spend. Here are the five most affordable and the five most expensive regions in the UK according to Money Nest.

Now that you understand the difference in average graduate salary in different regions, there’s still the problem of the difference in industries. And knowing it can help you decide which industry you would want to work in and navigate what to expect in that industry. Here is a list of the 5 highest paying industries and their relative average graduate salaries according to ISE.

Finally, pay can also differ vastly by company. Make sure to look on Glassdoor to check if they have salary information for the particular company you are interviewing at to make sure you know what salary ranges to ask for.

Negotiation Tips

Now that you’ve done your due diligence understanding the average graduate salaries, it’s time to talk about going into the actual battlefield.

1. Before Negotiation

 There is a list of things to consider before making an offer (I know, I sound like a broken record now). First is to know if you are in the position to negotiate. In most instances, you would be but there are few exceptions. The most fundamental aspect to consider is: have you received the job offer already? If you have, you are in a strong position to negotiate. If you have not, it is usually better to avoid discussing your salary because that might give the employer the impression that you do not truly want the job but instead your eyes are set on the money. Knowing this, the employer can easily eliminate you before you even have a chance to get the job, opening the position to applicants who are more lenient with their salary. 

However, the employer may bring up the topic of salary during the interview process. Instead of stating exactly what number you are looking for, you can dodge the question by giving a salary range. If the employer insists on proposing a salary, avoid accepting or denying it on the spot. Simply express that you would be happy to further discuss it after an offer has been made.

Now that you have been made an offer and are in the position to negotiate, it’s time to think, “should I?”. As a recent graduate, you’ve got bills to pay so it can be tempting to accept the job right away. However, do not feel pressured to respond to an offer and instead take your time to do the research (but don’t take too long!). On top of considering how the offered salary compares to the average graduate salary, it is also important to consider the whole package deal. What benefits come with the jobs? The number of paid holiday days, sick leave days, working hours, the employer’s pension contribution, insurance, private healthcare, paid meals and transport are all things to evaluate when deciding whether you should accept the offer. If the salary is lower than market value, maybe these benefits make up for it.

Moreover, it is important to consider the current state of the market. The current pandemic is a great example. If your industry was heavily affected, such as travel & hospitality or food, drink & catering, it is understandable that your offered salary may be lower than expected. So to keep yourself updated and you can always check the latest UK earnings figures from the Office of National Statistics.

2. During Negotiation

Now that you’ve decided to make a counteroffer, it’s time to talk about strategies. Although we did say take your time to evaluate your offer, don’t take too long. It is important that you get back to the employer within 24 hours to show that you are enthusiastic about the offer and starting work. When stating the changes you want to make to the offer, be sure to also state which terms of the offer that you are happy with. Your counteroffer should be a negotiation, not a complaint. Show that you have done your research and your counteroffer is reasonable with the current statistics. This can help make your counteroffer more convincing. After you have listed your counteroffer, make sure to state that you are open to further discussion. Your offer should not be a “take it or leave it” but an open and flexible proposal. This way, you are making a point without being unprofessional.

Now that you know the different aspects to consider before and when negotiating your salary, good luck on getting the bag!

Illustration by Siege Media

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