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Money talk: Are you ready to negotiate?

An entry-level job is akin to being a walk-on in college sports. Walk-ons have to work extra hard, show previously undetected talent and be able to add something to the team.

Your interview went well and you have your first bona fide job offer in the professional world. Congratulations! 

Now comes the sticky part – negotiating your salary. Or maybe not. In reality, for the vast majority of first-time job seekers, plans for making big dollars often have to be put on hold.

The truth is former student-athletes who are seeking their first career position out of college are most likely looking at entry-level jobs. These positions are designed to help new hires “earn while they learn,” and their salaries reflect this. Many companies purposely hire 20 or 30 new college graduates at a time, knowing only a handful will make it to the next level. 

An entry-level job is akin to being a walk-on in college sports. Walk-ons have to work extra hard, show previously undetected talent and be able to add something to the team. If they do all that and a scholarship becomes available, the walk-on might be rewarded with financial aid.

It’s the same with entry-level positions.  New employees are expected to work hard, learn fast, show talent and add value. If they do and a position with more responsibility and a higher salary opens up, they may be offered the promotion.   

But until then, in all likelihood, the entry-level salary is not negotiable to any major extent. You might be able to get a little here or there, but because your talents are largely untested, you have little leverage to negotiate anything substantial.   

And don’t put too much hype in being a college graduate. Graduating from college doesn’t make you special or unique to a prospective employer. It gets you only to the starting line with other college graduates they could hire. From the employers’ perspective, college didn’t teach you their way of doing business, their culture, their range of products or how you can add to their bottom line. Employers are going to wait and reward performance, not potential, which is all you have exhibited to this point.

As an entry-level hire, it is important to learn as much about your new job as quickly as you can. It may be the bottom rung on the corporate ladder, but it is the “first cut” on your way to a successful career. For most first-time job seekers, mastering the art of salary negotiations only becomes important once they have established themselves in the workplace and bring proven value. Once they do that, the fun really begins.

Paul W. Barada is a human resource consultant and chairman of the board at Barada Associates Inc. who serves on the “I” Association board for the Indiana University, Bloomington.

 

 

“The real competition is just beginning.”

- Jacqueline Nicholson, Assistant Athletics Director for Academic Services at Norfolk State University, Track and Field, Virginia Tech ‘05