Can you really negotiate your starting salary?

By Ethan Henderson

Negotiating your starting salary can be easier than you think, as long as you are detailed and realistic in your efforts, according to an executive at the Greater Sacramento Economic Council.

Troels Adrian, executive vice president at GSEC, has worked in the economics field across U.S. cities for decades, most recently in the metro Atlanta area and Portland, Oregon, before his current role.

“If you’re going to negotiate, have a reason for your number. Not just ‘this is what I demand,’” he said. “The job market is not the NBA and you’re not an all-star, so if you feel like they’re low-balling you, have some data to back that up, not just your feelings or pride.”

Adrian has worked previously as a hiring manager, and explained that through his experience an organized, well-researched approach to negotiation usually leads to a better result for candidates.

“I respect people who negotiate reasonably more than those who just throw themselves at the employer without any effort,” said Adrian.

However, salary negotiation may be a lower priority for recent college graduates, according to a Handshake survey of the class of 2024. The survey found that just 1 in 4 college graduates say they “definitely” plan to negotiate their starting salary.

Jacob Brunner, an analyst at Ad Victoriam Solutions, graduated from the University of Georgia last May. He stressed the importance of research, self-improvement and knowing your personal needs when it comes to salary negotiation.

“Know your worth. Research online, learn what you can offer, and match it with market values,” Brunner said. “A job is a good job for you, as long as you’re learning and earning. If one of those doesn’t match up, it might not be the right place for you.”

Brunner stressed the importance of negotiating even when discussing factors other than salary.

“You want a job that can meet your financial needs, but you also want a job that furthers your value as a professional,” he said.

Adrian emphasized a similar perspective when looking at the broader scope of the negotiation process.

“Think of it in 5-year terms: If I do a good job here, will I be able to quickly increase my earnings within the organization?,” he said. “If not, will the experience and reputation of the organization enable me to jump to another more lucrative opportunity in 3-5 years?”

Adrian, who holds a master’s degree in economic development from the Georgia Institute of Technology, still thinks negotiating is important, money aside.

“Do negotiate, even if it winds up on something else than salary. There’s usually somewhere you can get to sweeten the pot,” he said.

According to the Handshake survey, 56% of respondents reported they expect to have student loan debt upon graduation, making salary negotiation a vital skill in bettering one’s finances.

Brunner described his interview process as extremely competitive and long. His position is part of a cohort program only hiring a few candidates each year. Despite the difficulty, he said he stuck to the negotiation strategies he’d learned in the past.

“Making yourself look more desirable, talking about the skills you can offer, a desire and love of learning. I think that helped distinguish myself from other applicants,” he said.

Ethan Henderson is a journalism student at the University of Georgia



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