Moral of the Story: Experience and exposure are priceless.
Trust that you are not alone and that it happens and it happens to the best of us. I graduated with a degree in math and economics from one of the top universities in the country and when I attempted to negotiate my starting salary, I was met with resistance. There are several reasons why some salaries and hourly pay rates are non-negotiable including roles that are entry-level and/or in a highly scrutinized company or industry. For example, educational, military, and government institutions are highly scrutinized and require a lot of standardization across operations, accounting, and salary scales. Additionally, there is a significant supply of labor for entry-level positions in retail stores, factories, and restaurants and hence you will find a lot of fixed pay rates where minimal to no experience is required.
Millennials are less likely to negotiate their starting salaries because many of them graduated during the financial crisis and are just grateful to have a job at all. This was exactly my sentiment but when my dad suggested I asked for a higher starting salary, I put on my negotiating cap. To my dismay, they threw me only a few more beans but at that point, I had been job hunting for three months and I was willing to fill whatever analyst role that was available.
In my case, the reason why the salary was practically non-negotiable is because the business unit I was working for was losing money and and there was a hire freeze going on during the time I was brought on as an analyst. Hiring freezes usually result in there being more work than there is man power which means everybody is stretched extremely thin. So not only was I extremely unhappy with my salary but also, I was working late hours as it seemed as if the work never stopped piling up. I was being underpaid and the work was tough but still yet, I decided to turn a negative into a positive. I rolled up my sleeves and decided that it was the industry in which I wanted to grow and even though, I was being underpaid, I was learning a whole lot. I became obsessed with wanting to soak up as much knowledge as I could for crappy pay because I knew I would be able to leverage the experience and exposure I was getting in future salary discussions. I also gained a couple mentors and champions during my stay whom I was able to lean on for references and mentoring further down the line in my career.
In your case you will have to determine if ‘just a job’ or if you see this job as a potential launchpad into a fulfilling career. Just think of all the famous stylists, make-up artists, dancers, editors, etc. that you know of today. Many of them started as an assistant or had internships for college credit only but because they were working for a major client or influential brand, they decided to choose experience and exposure over dollars. You don’t want to be in a situation where you are being abused, I mean we do have labor laws in every state, but you also don’t want to be too dismissive of an opportunity now that will allow you to gain and earn more down the line. In my case, I decided to grind hard, and in less than four years I more than doubled my salary because I was able to sell my experience from my underpaid days which led to quicker promotions and a fast-tracked career.
In summary, in addition to a salary or hourly pay rate, there are other things on which to place value.
- Are you working for a growing or leading brand in the industry?
- Is your boss willing to serve as a mentor?
- Will you get a lot of hands on experience?
- Will you be able to pick the projects and/or accounts you want to work on?
- Do they provide a stipend for travel?
- Do you have a good work/life balance that would possibly allow you to pursue other interests? e.g. working remotely, vacation policy, etc.
- Can you leverage your experience to land your dream job in the future?
Don’t forget, if you sign up for the job and it’s not at all what you thought it would be and is not taking you anywhere closer to your dream job then you can always look for another opportunity – it doesn’t have to be forever! Most importantly, I am so glad to hear that you attempted to negotiate your salary in the first place!! You are certified #fiercedaily.
(Congrats again on negotiating! NOT negotiating at all is no longer acceptable in 2016!)
Photo Credit: science2society.eu