Negotiating Your First Salary

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Carol Frohlinger lawyer, negotiation expert, co-founder of Negotiating Women, Inc. and author of Her Place at the Table: A Woman’s Guide to Negotiating Five Key Challenges to Leadership Success (Jossey-Bass/John Wiley, September 2004). She recently co-authored Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It: 99 Ways to Win the Respect You Deserve, the Success You’ve Earned, and the Life You Want with Lois Frankel. As an expert on negotiation, I was curious about Carol’s position on negotiating your first salary in the midst of a tough economy. Here is what she had to say.


Christina: Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO quoted a stat that only 7% of women negotiate their first salary vs. 57% of men. I get the feedback, “Who can negotiate a first salary at all in this environment where many 20-somethings are out of work?” Do you recommend negotiating your salary for a first job in this economy?


Carol: I think it’s harder to negotiate for initial starting salaries. For first time workers, the important thing is to understand what the benchmarks are for compensation. What does the job pay in this geography for a company of this size? Even for starting salaries, there’s usually a range so knowing that the range and being able to go in and say, ”I’ve done some research. My understanding is that the starting salary range is from X to Y. I believe I belong at the Y level and let me explain to you my thinking about that.” Then, of course, you have to be able to articulate a strong case.

However, the somewhat good news is that there is more room for existing workers to negotiate for raises. And the reason is that you may be doing the work of at least one and a half and maybe two people due to staff reductions. While there are plenty of people in the workforce who could potentially replace you, it will take some ramp up time and you have both institutional knowledge and knowledge of the job. So I think people in the payroll have more leverage than they perhaps think. Of course, they have to plan carefully about how to ask for at the right time and in the right tone.


Thank you Carol.  It is so important to know the salary range and then be specific about what you want and why you deserve it. A lot of people in hiring positions have told me anecdotally that men tend to give a specific number while many women give a range. That starts you off on the the bottom end of the range right off the bat!

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