By Victoria Gospodinov
When recent University of Georgia graduate Grace Fitzgerald was offered her first post-college job offer, she said she overlooked the importance of the salary negotiation process and missed the opportunity to request a higher salary.
Fitzgerald is a marketing coordinator at a startup tech firm in Atlanta. Her initial introduction to her salary rate was over the phone during an interview, when a human resources representative asked her what salary rate she was hoping for and explained what the organization’s budget was.
“I didn’t really negotiate my salary at first because I was like, well, this is higher than what I thought it would be in the first place so I’m just going to take it. But I wish I had negotiated because I feel like they had more money in their budget,” said Fitzgerald.
Kenneth White , assistant professor at the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences, explained workers should always be negotiating their salary and students can start learning about the negotiation process as early as their senior year in college.
Prior to teaching at UGA, White worked in public accounting, investing, and has worked for the IRS. He said the most important way a student can be prepared for salary negotiation is “to do your homework and stay armed with information.”
A recent graduate might not have as much leverage as someone with previous experience in the field, but it’s still possible and necessary to negotiate that first salary, said White. He explained that one of the ways to begin research is knowing what type of position a worker wants.
Additionally, he said asking faculty members and career center advisers what the standard market value for a particular position is at the time of application can also be helpful.
White said a salary should never be accepted without proper time for research.
“Know what you want, know what the market value for your position is, then ask for the high number,” said White. “My answer is you should always ask for more.”
White said the problem many students have when negotiating their first offer is the anxiety surrounding the uncomfortable conversation they’re about to have.
“You have to be willing to have the conversation and initiate the conversation. You just have to do it,” he said. “Remember that if you’re receiving an offer, the company most likely won’t rescind that offer.”
Fitzgerald said she wishes she had been more prepared for the salary discussion in the human resources interview.
“I’m sure there was an elegant way for me to say I don’t know the full scope of the role yet, but I would love to know your budget,” said Fitzgerald. “I might have received a higher number.”
White said a worker entering a conversation knowing they’re about to negotiate their salary must be prepared to justify why they’re asking for more money. “Ask yourself, what value can I bring to the company,” White said.
Once a worker has made the ask, White said it’s important to give the organization space to respond. If the company doesn’t have the budget to accept the higher salary request, the worker can always negotiate other economic benefits, such as getting professional fees or supplies paid for, he added.
“Negotiation can be a tricky thing but it’s something that you should always do for every job that you take on, no matter what,” said White.
Victoria Gospodinov is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.