November 21, 2013

Don’t be Afraid to Negotiate

Business team negotiating in a meeting roomMy good friend is actively applying for a job, but she recently admitted to me that she’s encountering one problem—salary requirements. Specifically, the problem is that the job ad requests applicants to list their salary requirements, and my friend doesn’t know what number to put down.

What’s her dilemma? Well, she said she didn’t want to put too high of a number for fear the job would be turned off, yet she also didn’t want to put too low of a number and possibly struggle to make ends meet.

Another concern she has is that, as a recent graduate, she hasn’t had any “real” jobs yet. Sure, she worked at her university for awhile, but as she put it, “That’s hardly enough money to even keep my gas tank full.”

What’s a recent graduate to do? And more specifically—in my friend’s and so many others’ cases—what’s a woman to do?

The salary negotiation endeavor isn’t usually easy for many people, but that seems to be especially true when it comes to women. For example (according to

  • Men initiate negotiations about four times as often as women.
  • 20 percent of adult women (22 million people) say they never negotiate at all, even though they often recognize negotiation as appropriate and even necessary.
  • Women are more pessimistic about the how much is available when they do negotiate and so they typically ask for and get less when they do negotiate—on average, 30 percent less than men.

This apprehension when it comes to salary negotiations hurts women because:

  • By not negotiating a first salary, an individual stands to lose more than $500,000 by age 60
  • Women own about 40 percent of all businesses in the U.S. but receive only 2.3 percent of the available equity capital needed for growth. Male-owned companies receive the other 97.7 percent.

But why is it that women are less likely to tackle this chore? Well…

  • Many women are so grateful to be offered a job that they accept what they are offered and don’t negotiate their salaries.
  • Women often don’t know the market value of their work: Women report salary expectations between 3 and 32 percent lower than those of men for the same jobs

A article also explained that women aren’t always too thrilled about negotiating their salaries because, as research shows, they’re already at a disadvantage.

The study of 184 managers, published in the journal Organization Science, showed that when the participants faced a scenario in which they would have to explain raises they were awarding—in other words, prepare to negotiate—they were likely to give men raises two-and-a-half times as large as the raises for female workers of equal skills and experience. This was even before any negotiations would have occurred.

While some studies indicate that women don’t negotiate as often as men do (especially early in their careers), this experiment suggests that the cards are stacked against them before they even begin a negotiation.

What’s a gal to do?

Like I told my friend, I will tell every woman who reads this article: If you’re concerned about requesting a certain salary or raise, ASK ANYWAY.

It’s high-time we start standing up for ourselves, ladies. And before we do, let’s ensure we follow a few key steps to be adequately prepared:


My friend wasn’t sure on the amount she should request because she failed to conduct research. Use sites like Indeed Salary and Glassdoor to get an idea of the salary for your desired position. Research salaries for other positions that include similar keywords to the position you’re applying for just so you’ll have a range. A helpful technique is to Google the position title and salary for a specific company. For example, program associate salary XYZ company. Sometimes Glassdoor will provide the actual or ranges of salary for positions if the information is available. This will certainly help during negotiation time because you can inform the employer that research shows that a former (or current) employee in the available position earned a certain amount.

Another important step when researching is to compare cost of living. Sites like offer a breakdown of the cost of living in select cities. It even has a function where users can compare costs of living between two cities, and entering in your current salary information, it will tell you the equivalent amount you’ll need to live in another city. This helps with salary requests and negotiations because region and cost of living affect one’s salary requirements. Region also plays a major role how much an employer pays its workers.

Analyze and Compare

Many recent graduates don’t’ have “real world” experience on their resumes. It’s important to understand salary ranges for entry-level positions at specific companies so you don’t high or low ball your requirements/negotiations. Sometimes it may be hard to accept, but in certain industries, entry-level workers do earn much less than others. Research your field and specific company to understand the proper number commensurate with your experience level.

Be sure to compare the number you’re requesting (or desire) with the average income for your experience level. If you’re able, having a real-life example of someone’s salary who was either 1) in the position you’re applying for or 2) works (or worked) in the same industry and has your experience level will definitely help strengthen your argument(s).

Be Firm and Confident

This is an extremely important step. After you’ve gathered all your research, it’s time to make your demands. Be firm and exude confidence knowing that you have skills and abilities and they should be fairly compensated. Know your worth. Think about any extra skills and/or qualities you possess that will be an asset to the company and state them. Be clear as you present your findings and firm about your demands. Remember, an employer isn’t likely to just offer you a higher salary. If you’re content with a low-ball offer because you’re too afraid to ask for what you’re worth, the employer will be content to pay you less than you deserve.

Read more in Salary Negotiation

Marks’ stories have also been published in a variety of newspaper, magazine and online formats including The Arizona Republic, The Daily Herald, Arizona Foothills Magazine and various classroom magazines of Scholastic Inc. Service is her passion, writing is her platform and uplifting and inspiring the community is her purpose. Marks received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from Arizona State University.
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