10 Myths About Negotiating Your First Salary

Your starting salary serves as an anchor throughout your career. Starting too low could be a costly mistake. Don’t let these 10 common myths hold you back at the negotiating table.

1. I don’t have experience, so I have no bargaining power. At this point in the hiring process employers are extremely invested in their chosen candidates. So even entry-level candidates have bargaining power.

2. I don’t have another offer, so I can’t negotiate. Although having an alternative offer gives you more bargaining power, you can negotiate even without one.

3. The offer is more than what I was expecting, so there’s no need to negotiate. If the offer is more than you expected, it probably means that you aren’t well calibrated. Don’t compound your mistake by not negotiating.

4. I shouldn’t negotiate because I’m a woman—people won’t like me.This presumption often holds women back from negotiating, and it isn’t true.

5. The economy isn’t great, so it’s a bad time to negotiate.Good talent is still hard to find, and it’s valued accordingly.

6. An online search will provide all the salary data I need before the negotiation.Do some offline legwork using your educational and professional networks.

7. Preparation doesn’t really matter—it all comes down to how I present myself during the negotiation. What you do before the negotiation matters more than you think and it dramatically affects your performance.

8. Ask for what you want.No! Ask for more than you want. Negotiations always involve some back-and-forth.

9. If your new boss says yes immediately, go celebrate. An immediate yes probably means you didn’t ask for enough. Collect enough information ahead of time to know that you aren’t selling yourself short.

10. Getting a no means that negotiating was a mistake. By negotiating, you’ve shown your employer that you know how to negotiate—a valuable skill.

Linda Babcock is a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University. Julia Bear is an assistant professor in the College of Business at Stony Brook University.


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