I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay…

5 ways to get better graduate pay

Graduate salaries are like a box of chocolates – you don’t always know what you’re gonna get. There are cunning ways to get a better deal, says Save the Student: here’s what you need to know.

A report by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research suggests students from state schools may be less pushy about pay rises or promotions than those from private schools. Women are also less likely to negotiate – and more likely to earn less than male colleagues over their careers. However you slice it, that’s a lot of folk who don’t feel confident about asking for what they’re worth, or don’t know how to go about making the case for better pay. We’ve got some tips that could help.

1. Know the going rate

Lots of employers ask candidates to name their own salary expectations, so pitching yourself at the right level can also help you swerve one of the quickest pre-screening tricks going. Find out going rates by industry here or ask the careers department to hook you up with a mentor (someone who knows the industry from the inside out) to give you a steer.

2. Know your worth

Job ads can help you narrow down the essentials here. Give yourself a score for each item you fulfil, or mark-up experience or skills you’ve yet to nail (and working on getting them!).

It’s also worth looking at more senior roles: what are the skills and experiences that come with a premium, and do you have any? List anything you’ve got which benefit employers – contacts, awards or achievements. Having a salary range of your own, which takes into account your living and studying costs, can help you focus on jobs that match your goals, and is key when it comes to negotiating later on.

3. Find out about pay first

Some companies play their salary cards close to their chest. It’s fair enough to call ahead and ask for the pay range before you apply for a job – if an answer’s not forthcoming, you can always fall back on your own research from the above steps. That way you’ll be in a better position to weigh-up or ask for more when you get offers.

4. Know what to ask for

It can be intimidating to ask for more cash when you’ve only just been offered a job, but what you get on day one can influence how quickly your future earnings rise. Now’s the time to scrutinise the deal.

  • How does the salary compare to your worth or the going rate? If it’s not a fair match, you’ve got a case for asking for more.
  • Compare any skills, experience and training you’ve got above what’s asked for and work out how much you think they’re worth in cold hard cash.
  • Don’t forget location or other associated job costs: does the salary cover the expense of getting to work?
  • Identify some of the problems you think your employer faces, and show how you can solve them.
  • Write it all down so you’re clear what you’re asking for and why: you’re looking for evidence for why you’re worth more.

It can be worth dry-running the steps above just in case you strike it lucky and get an offer at the interview itself (you can always ask for more time to consider if you need to, or bring it up before signing the paperwork). Otherwise, a quick “could we discuss the salary a bit more?” by phone or email is all you need to get the ball rolling. If the answer’s no, it’s over to you to decide whether you can live with the money on offer.

5. Don’t forget the full package

Some employers can’t (or won’t) be able to find any more cash, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with what you’ve got. There could be other benefits to the job in question and, if nothing else, having one gig in hand can help you move to better paid positions or promotions with another company later on.

  • Take the tour or any other opportunities to meet your colleagues – whether the job’s right for you is just as important as whether you’re right for the job.
  • Ask what other perks are on offer, such as health insurance or gym membership.
  • Find out when you can next pitch for a promotion or pay rise.
  • If you’re feeling super confident, you could ask whether some of your work could be linked to performance bonuses or rewards.
  • Is there any training on offer? This is a great one to get as it contributes to your long-term worth for future applications.
  • Think about anything else that improves your worth: time-out for volunteering, for instance, or a reworded job title.
  • Ask what the deal is with the company pension – it’s never too young to start thinking about, and your employer’s cash can boost your funds.

There’s much more to a career than clocking in, clocking out and collecting your pay cheque: the people you work with, your opportunities and loving what you do are all just as important in the long run. Learning to be a savvy negotiator pays off just as much, though, whether it’s in bagging a better deal or sticking up for your rights, so get out there and get what you’re owed!

– Guest blog written by Ruth Bushi, an editor at Save the Student. Featuring the kind of straight-talking advice you won’t get at school, the site has everything you need to know about managing money without the migraines: student finance explained, insider info on careers, plus ways to save and scrimp without the stress.

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