College taught me everything I know – except how to negotiate.
The concept of starting a career after college seems like a million years away when you’re in school. Once you cross the stage and hear “good luck,” reality sets in. Everyone is watching your next move and you absolutely want the last four or five years of your life to count towards your next milestone.
When I graduated from school, I didn’t feel “entitled” to a specific salary; I always wanted to be sure that I did what I loved and felt everything would fall into place. I applied and accepted a position that I was positive I would “love.” Sure, the pay wasn’t the best, but when you’re fresh out of college, you are eager to test your toes in the waters of uncertainty.
I drowned. Not because I was incompetent or disliked my work; I assumed my age was a disqualifier from higher positions and my experience (which is actually quite stellar) was of no comparison to any John or Jane Doe who could easily beat me out of a job.
Eight months, 35 weeks, and 249 days later I realized that I have made the ultimate boo-boo of my early career; I lacked the ability to correlate monetary value to my talents.
It’s hard to convert your talents into dollar signs when you do things for passion and not for money; however, you should make sure you eliminate the habit of short-changing yourself by asking these three questions before it becomes routine throughout your career.
What can you offer that no one else can?
When you are searching for employment, match your resume against a job description. It is very likely that if you are in the early stages of your career everything will not match up skill for skill. Don’t be discouraged – brainstorm the qualities and skills that you have to offer that are not listed in the job description. Anyone can meet a requirement but how can your assets take a position to the next level? If you can craft an answer, be sure you highlight it in your cover letter and elaborate in detail during an interview. The ability to be unique raises the bar from other candidates and can potentially raise your salary if you communicate how you can contribute to a company.
What are your career expectations? (Not just salary)
Starting a job is one thing; beginning a career is another. When you begin a job, the wages and expectations are generally straight, with no chaser of personal requests. A career is different. When you are in a role that has flexibility; do not take it for granted. It’s important that you consider all the factors that make up the details of your life and transform them into your best offer. Researching the position is key; if you meet the qualifications or bring something dynamic to a company, you want to guarantee that you are exchanging your time and talents for the best deal that may accommodate your finances, educational pursuits, or other factors that coincide with working.
What am I willing to accept?
It is always good to hope for the best, but, in life you are not always fortunate to get your own way. If you don’t receive the offer that you desired or expected, weigh your options before you walk away from a deal. Is the company a place that promotes advancement and growth of its employees? If so, consider accepting the position if it can sufficiently provide for your needs. In the future, another opening may surface and you will have the home-court advantage of building a rapport with others in the company and having the opportunity to show off your skills and work ethic.
Stop degrading your talents and understand your worth. There is a giant world of people who are waiting for individuals like you and I, who are full of talent and energy but have not yet discovered our true value. Don’t wait; accept better for the experience, education, tears, blood, and sweat that you dedicated to your professional endeavors. You deserve it.
Have you accepted a position or contract that didn’t represent your talent value? Tweet me @TheWriteGirl_ to share your story.
Whitney L. White is still trying to figure it out. She’s bubbly, inquisitive, and continues to make career strides each day so that her talents are valued and serve as an example-in-progress to other 20 somethings.