“Oh my god Britney! Did you hear that Karen is getting $8 an hour working at Abercrombie?”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that line. Salary and wage is such a big deal for most workers, in particular students.
Yet with more and more students taking on jobs in addition to their studies, I’m inclined to say that the majority of them don’t know how to properly navigate salary negations. As such, they often end up working for less than they are worth.
Take for example the case of Karen – sure she’s making the minimum wage, but is that really enough? Could she have gotten more, perhaps $9 or $10 an hour?
Personally, I’ve always found salary questions really tricky. If I say a number that’s too low, the company will hire me because I’m the cheapest labour. On the other hand, if I say a number that’s too high, I’ll be too expensive for them to hire. So what do you do?
And so I’ve always tried to keep calm when it comes to salary. I don’t jump up and say what I’m expecting. I do my research to see what those in my job or similar jobs are being paid and I look to see what other employees have been offered – I guess that’s why my recent salaries have all been between $15 to $35 per hour.
So what advice can I give you?
Well first things first, do your research. Workopolis.com has an excellent resource that lists jobs and their salary ranges (http://tinyurl.com/2s8h9m). If your job isn’t listed their, search the job listings on the site and see what salary comes up. That’ll give you a good starting point.
And after doing your research, here are some other tips to keep in mind:
- On an application form, when they ask what your expected salary is, put "To be discussed." The last thing you want to put is that you'll work for minimum wage, because really, $8/hour won't even put a dent in your cell phone bill. At the same time, you can't reasonably expect a store (like the Gap, Wal-Mart or McDonalds) to pay you $20/hour to be a cashier.
- As well, if the application form asks for your previous salary, you don't have to put that. Often, employers will look to your previous wage to determine what your demands will likely be. If you don't want to put it, just say that your wage was "Various" - for most of my jobs, I have to do this because I've held some pretty high paying jobs and I'd hate for a store manager to write me off because of my previous salaries. It sounds far-fetched, but it's happened to me countless times and I've seen it haapen to a lot of my friends - and so don't think you're immune to it.
- During the interview, if the question of salary comes up, it is more than acceptable to say "I'd feel more comfortable discussing salary once I know the true scope of the position." By doing so, you put the onus on the manager to talk more about the position and the roles and responsibilities it entails. Plus, once you have a better understanding of the job, then you can mention your wage/salary expectations.
- If you want to give your salary expectations, don't just give a fixed number, give a range. So instead of saying $10/hour, say something like, "My ideal wage range is between $10-$14/hour." Giving a range shows that you are willing to negotiate with the employer, which can work in your favour especially in situations where they are interviewing a number of candidates that could easily fill the job.
- Lastly, if the employer demands that you put your salary expectations on a cover letter, make sure you do so – otherwise you could be screened out. Do your research on Workopolis.com (http://tinyurl.com/2s8h9m) and then give them a range. As well, make sure you put “Negotiable” beside it so that the employer knows they can negotiate with you if need be.
By no means was the preceding list exhaustive. But if you keep these tips in mind, you’ll give yourself more leveraging power when talking salary with an employer.
I followed my own tips and have had a ton of success. I started out earning $6.85/hour selling coffee in 2003 and just recently, I was paid $35/hour for consulting work I did for a marketing company. Not too shabby, eh?
And so just remember this, if you know how to navigate wage negotiations and keep an open mind and ear, you’ll easily find yourself earning more than you thought.
And let’s be real, everyone wants to earn as much money as they can – because, let’s face it, as employees, we’re worth it!