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Negotiating salary early in your career is always a bit more challenging than later due to lack of experience. This doesn’t mean that you should “take what you can get,” but it does acquire a certain level of courage, knowing you may have to accept something that may not exactly line up with your expectations and market research.
Regardless of the stage of your employment, early or later, always take time to do market research. Knowing your value and national/regional market trends for your discipline is critical to your negotiating power. Also, understand the company you are working for and try to learn as much as you can about their company culture as this may help reconcile the salary and benefit packages offered.
If you apply for a company that invests in the professional growth of their employees, therefore increasing their market value, though you may not get exactly what you asked in terms of salary, training is a valuable benefit which will add to your bottom line over time. Understand their benefit package. If they do company matching for 401K’s, if they offer bonuses, and what the average annual pay increase looks like (if it’s based on company performance, personal contribution, a combination, or other factors).
Have a good understanding of the cost of living where you are applying, including sales tax (I know it’s silly, but I admit I sometimes forget about this). If you happen to be in a position where you have multiple offers, if you have a preference, but they are paying less, don’t be afraid to negotiate since you now have leverage.
This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.
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