How to Negotiate Your Salary for Your First Job

Written by Sara Holsing, Class of 2020

If you haven’t gotten your first job yet but are currently in the process of applying, preparing for the conversation about salaries is important to think about. Here are a few steps to follow so that you’re prepared and ready to ask for your new salary with confidence:

1. Do your research

First and foremost, it’s important to be prepared and do your homework before asking for your desired salary. A social media manager in California will be paid differently than one in Nebraska. You can view sites like,, or which will give you insights to current salaries for your position, how many years of experience you have, and even for the specific region you live in. After researching this, understand if these positions and their salaries line up with what skills you have and what your responsibilities will be. This data will support your pitch and give you an idea of what you can ask for!

2. Decide on a number

After you have figured out the average salary for your new position, you should be prepared with solid numbers. What is your lowest point you are willing to walk away with? You should keep this in mind and shoot higher when proposing your first offer. Your employer could offer lower if you ask for your ideal number and that could be less than you wanted at minimum. If it makes you more comfortable, come up with a range based off of your research and request for the top of that range. If your desired salary is $75,000, you could ask for a range of $70,000-$80,000 and request the top value.

3. Practice, practice, practice

Practice makes perfect! And it makes you more comfortable and prepared going into this conversation. Practice what you will talk about out loud. You can start off with some talking points before diving into salary negotiation or you can even talk about other benefits before moving into the topic of salary. If you need some confidence before your negotiation, strike a power pose where you stand with your hands on your hips, shoulders back and chest out. But overall, you should come prepared for possible questions and also with your research to help support your desired salary (you can bring your supporting documents with you too!).

4. Don’t be afraid to counteroffer (or take more time to think about it!)

When you actually get into the negotiation process, your employer may counteroffer you. After you have decided on your desired range and salary objective beforehand, you can decide whether their counteroffer matches with your interests. If they didn’t increase your salary but increased your paid time off, is that desirable for you? Also, if you need time to think about it, it’s okay to request time to think about the offer! You can ask them for when they need a response back and take time to consider their offer and make a decision.

5. Be confident! Don’t be afraid of the “No”

Although you should be kind and thoughtful about your employer’s position, you can still be firm with what you want without being rude. Instead of being forceful and saying, “I want to be paid X because I deserve it and that's what you should pay me,” or being too timid and saying, “It would be really great if I could be paid X but it’s okay if not,” try to find a middle ground of firm and considerate. You could say something like, “I’m very excited about this position! I am also excited about your offer and know that I will bring a lot of value to the team/company based off of [past experiences]. But I was wondering if we could explore a higher salary of [desired salary] and what I could do to achieve that.” This conveys confidence while being flexible! At worst, they might say no. If you find their offer acceptable, then you can take it. But it’s okay to say no to them as well and not accept the job offer they have given. If it does not have all of the benefits you want or even need, it is perfectly fine to keep looking for alternative opportunties.

Negotiating salaries can be a tough and uncomfortable conversation to have, especially if you are new to the working world. But having these conversations are important for defining your worth and receiving what you deserve. Smash that interview and get an amazing job!

Elizabethtown College