Job Search: Salary and Benefit Negotiation

 by Stefanie Lucas

Negotiate your salary and benefits. Probably well talked about in your graduate program and with mentors, yet so many folks (especially women) fail to do so as a part of their job search. My first job (not in student affairs) I did not negotiate my salary, and I regretted it later on.  I want to pass on some tips to help prepare you for this important part of the job search:

  1. Research- Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the negotiation is researching the salary range for the position. There are salary surveys available online, and public institutions have to report out salaries. A great tool for housing professionals is the ACUHO-I Salary Survey. You can search a database by region and view low, average, and high salary ranges. Ask other folks in the functional area you are applying for what search tools are available for you. Be aware the salary range will vary based on location and cost of living.
  2. Prepare- Research is a huge part of preparation; however, I also suggest practicing salary negotiation with someone. This will help you feel more comfortable and less intimidated.  You might have to negotiate with your future boss or a representative from Human Resources, and this conversation could look very different. Try and practice with someone who is a supervisor and has been on the other side of salary negotiation. Bullet out points of your experience or why an additional benefit would be relevant because of your skills set or the position requirements. The more prepared you are the smoother your conversation will go and there is a greater likelihood you might get additional compensation or benefits.
  3. Understand the benefits, vacation time, professional development, and extras- Though the dollar amount is extremely important, the benefits package is a part of your total compensation. Things to consider include: what type of packages are available (HMO or PPO), can my partner or dependents be covered, and how much will I have to pay each month for the benefits? Calculate the amount out with your monthly salary and planned expenses such as loans and rent. Inquire about professional development and vacation time.  What discounts are available to employees in the area or on campus? Try and get a full picture of your package before negotiating.

Some institutions will be very upfront and say we will only offer $100,000 (clearly an exaggeration!) for a Residence Life Coordinator position and this is all our budget can offer. Consider other areas to negotiate such as:

  • Cell phone and Cell Phone Plan
  • Computer
  • Professional Development
  • Time Off
  • Parking
  • Gym Membership

If you will live on campus:

  • Meal Plan/Meal Plan for Partner or Roommate
  • Laundry Assistance (if you do not have one in your apartment)
  • Parking Close to Your Apartment
  • Additional Storage Space

If an institution is unable to negotiate and provide additional salary or benefits package this does not mean you shouldn’t take the position. I see fit and opportunity for growth as extremely important factors in your job search. You will be happier someplace where the fit “works”. However, asking and getting a no is likely better than not asking at all.

What did I leave off the list? Anything else you have negotiated for in the past? If you have negotiated, how was your experience?

Student Affairs - the First Years

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