How to Successfully Negotiate Salary at your First Job

Your first salary negotiation lays the foundation for the earning power of your whole career. Raises within your current company and negotiations with future employers are anchored to your starting salary, as the value you bring to an organization is often conflated with your wage.

For women, knowing how to negotiate your first salary prepares you for the most crucial step in your career, the one organizations like McKinsey call “the broken rung”—the first step up to manager on the corporate ladder, where women start to represent a smaller proportion of leadership.

So how can you navigate this uncomfortable and hush-hush process, and feel empowered as you climb the corporate ladder? Here’s how.

1. Know your value

The first step of negotiating your salary happens before you sit at the negotiation table. It’s crucial that you understand the value you will bring to the organization and how similar positions are compensated. You can use Glassdoor or Comparably for a salary comparison, and assess your skill set to determine where you fall in the salary range.

2. Reach out to individuals working in your role

Every position, company, and hiring manager is a bit different when it comes to salary negotiations. The best resources for learning what to expect in a negotiation are those who have been there before. Utilize your network to try to find a “resume twin” who had a background similar to yours and works in your new role. If you need any help you can leverage the Poker Power network of working professionals, who are always happy to help!

3. Consider the portfolio of salary incentives

Salary is more than a number. For many jobs, your compensation is a package of benefits, performance-tied incentives, and pay. Discuss frequency of raises/promotions and be creative on ways you can work with your employer. Maybe you would be willing to forgo part of your asking salary in order to work at an office in an area with a low cost of living.

Maybe your employer is willing to give you a bonus for completing projects ahead of schedule. When you give your employer multiple compensation options that you’re indifferent between, your employer has more flexibility to find one that works for both of you.

4. Know when to say no

Part of the wage gap can be attributed to cultural pressures on women not to negotiate. In their book “Women Don’t Ask”, Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever found that 57% of male graduate business students bargain over their starting salaries, while only 7% of women do so.

Come into the negotiation with a strict cutoff in mind and don’t be afraid to walk away if this isn’t met. Always negotiate your salary; if your boss doesn’t value your abilities fairly, this may be a red flag to jump ship before you commit yourself to that job. You’ll have other offers later.

Ultimately, salary negotiation is a calculated risk. You may strain your relationship with your new boss or feel awkward when you aren’t met halfway. But negotiating will give you the confidence and closure to become excited about your new job.

Negotiation is a critical part of life and poker. And it’s a skill you can strengthen alongside other women in a Poker Power club. Enroll for free to build your confidence and negotiating skills. Take your seat at the table and experience the power of poker.

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