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Career Development Talks Salary Negotiations for Adulting 101 Series

Career Development hosted a virtual event titled, “Salary Negotiation and Understanding Your Benefits” as a part of their Adulting 101 Series on Wednesday, Feb. 22.

Jeffrey Mass, Director of Employer Engagement for the Department of Career Development, and Kathleen Stein, Director of Employee Benefits for the Department of Human Resources, appeared as guest speakers. The two faculty members taught students how to negotiate salaries and benefits when accepting offers for jobs.

Stein has worked in collaboration with Career Development for the past 20 years, providing guidance to students who struggle to find the right fit post-graduation.

She began, “When applying to a job post-graduation, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind: be realistic and be confident. When you are applying for a job, do some research by looking at job sites, paying attention to the market level of a job while recognizing your value.”

Students can search for jobs or internships via Handshake or LinkedIn. As advised by the event’s speakers, it is important that students pay attention to the position of a job. For example, entry-level positions allow graduates to start building their skillsets.

Stein noted, “By being confident in applying to jobs, it will also show companies what you bring. You don’t exactly want to sell yourself, but you want to show the company your own values and the skillset you have as a candidate.”

One of the biggest things to navigate during the job search process is how to negotiate salaries.
“Negotiating a salary offer can be as simple as having a counteroffer ready— it should not be a confrontation. It is more of a conversation where you are presenting a win for the employer and a win for yourself,” Mass explained. “It is always a good idea to be prepared, to know the salary ranges for the type of position, to state clearly and confidently what you bring to the table.”

In cases where salary negotiations are not plausible, benefits are another important aspect to consider and discuss with potential employers. Stein continued, “Some of the important benefits that you want to pay attention to when applying for positions are annual salary, bonuses, paid time off (PTO), personal or vacation days, and sick days.”

Some benefits, however, are non-negotiable, such as medical or prescription benefits, life insurance, vision and dental insurance, or a 401K. Stein and Mass reveal that oftentimes these benefits are not offered on a per-person basis.

“While some of these benefits are not negotiable, other benefits that companies can have that can be helpful (especially to students continuing education) are tuition reimbursement, or asking if the company has hybrid work available and professional development involved to grow,” continued Stein.

According to the speakers, a 401K is one of the most important benefits that students should be familiar with post-graduation.

“A 401k is a workplace retirement plan that allows an employee to make annual contributions up to a certain limit that is dictated by the IRS. The contributions are made with pre-tax dollars, meaning that you make the contribution from your gross pay, thereby reducing the portion of your pay that is taxed,” discussed Stein. “Sometimes the employer will either match the employee’s contribution or a portion of the contribution which helps your retirement savings grow. This is a vehicle to help individuals save from their earnings.”

Alternatives to a 401K plan involve stock or equity options in the company, depending on the industry.
Stein emphasized that each student will have different priorities and preferences when determining the employment package that works for them. “It’s a very individual decision. Ask yourself these questions: What makes me excited about working for this company? What are the deal breakers? Do I have other options? Answering these questions will help guide you in making the correct decision on choosing a job offer.”

“As of right now, the job market is wide-open. Having confidence, being assertive, and asking questions will help make you stand out more in an interview and have a higher possibility of having your salary negotiated. Nonetheless, sometimes the offer is what it is, and there is no wiggle-room. Be prepared for that as well,” said Mass.