What soon-to-be graduates should know about salary


It’s that time of year when hundreds of thousands of college students transition from full-time education to full-time employment.

But I am prepared… right? I have a résumé, writing samples and graphic designs that have been reviewed, torn apart and sewn together multiple times. I’ve even completed more internships than what can fit on my résumé. The graduation line is just 1 ½  terms away, I can almost taste the coffee from my future employers communal coffeemaker.

With résumé and work samples in hand, I sat down at my computer and began searching for jobs. I wasn’t window shopping this time, I was searching for the real deal. When I found a job listing I liked, I would search for their current public relation efforts. I even ran searches to see how other people like working at the company/branch.

But all my education, job experience and window shopping had left me unprepared for five little words.
“Please include your salary requirements”

Really? The last time I had to negotiate a salary was when I was 16 and babysitting. This salary inquiry got me thinking about how much college graduates may not know about salary negotiations. I have compiled a list of the top 5 things I believe every college graduate should know.

1. Know your bottom figure. Pull out a calculator and pen to do some calculations. What is rent, electric, cable, student loans, food, and bills going to be each month? Come up with a number that will get you from one month to the next and then start thinking about savings for emergencies and savings for retirement (yes I said “retirement”). Multiply this number by 12 to get the yearly income. This number should be your bottom figure, the least amount of money that you need for the beginning of your career.

2. Find out how much other people in the field make. This can be as simple as politely asking or preforming an internet search. I would recommend onetonline.org where salaries for any job in any state are listed. For example in Oregon, PR practitioners are expected to make an average of $79,000 a year when national average is $95,500. (Keep in mind that the cost of living in Oregon is typically low). Image below is taken from this link.

OR vs National wage PR

3. Come up with a range. A range demonstrates the research preformed in steps 1 and 2. According to Doyle employer’s ask for salary requirements because they are screening out people who ask for more money than the company can afford. For example, a company would loose money if they invest in you and then you quickly leave because your pay is too low. Employers are trying to find a candidate that fits their budget.

O’Donnell’s LinkedIn post had a good script for when you are negotiating your salary. O’Donnell says: Share with the employer you are looking to make between __ and __. Now, this range will be pretty wide, so you should immediately follow-up with something like this: “The reason the range is so broad is, for me, no two jobs are the same. Money isn’t my only criteria for work. The benefits and opportunities for growing my skills are equally important in my mind. So, I’m willing to be flexible in my salary, depending upon the position.”

4. Know when to discuss your ideal salary.  Only put your salary range on your résumé, cover letter or application if asked too by the organization. Sometimes the salary negotiations don’t come up until after you have been offered the job. However, it is still important to know what you are worth before applying.

5. Don’t buckle under pressure. I was once told “your interview is 50 percent ‘do we want this person working here?’ and 50 percent ‘do I want to work here?’ “. I believe this to be very true. I am fully aware that a potential employer may try to low-ball me, despite how great we are getting along during the interview. The competition for any job is high, and in the back of the mind we know someone is willing to do the same job for less money. Remember that if they asked you for your salary requirements it means they are open to negotiation. Show off your portfolio, be polite and don’t buckle under your bottom figure.

Got a burning question? Have anything to share? Comment below!