As someone who spends her days in career consulting, part of my job is to help college grads get realistic about their job search.
One of the biggest obstacles they run into is not knowing what to expect from their post-grad salaries. When asked “What is your least acceptable salary?” they either give an astronomical figure or they have no idea what to say—both of which don’t look very good to a hiring manager.
Here are some tips for how to deal with this question and know what to expect from your post-grad starting salary.
IT’S NOT WHAT THEY TOLD YOU IN SCHOOL
Far too often, college grads are told they’ll make a certain figure upon completion of their bachelor’s—only to find out the hard way that post-recession salaries are not up to par.
In fact, it has recently come to light that several colleges either exaggerate their graduate employment figures or simply don’t gather accurate data. As a result, these schools are under fire for allegedly misleading students into enrolling.
Despite a few schools feeling the need to inflate their data, there’s still value in getting a higher education. After all, the less educated have been hardest hit by the recession. However, when someone asks you how much you expect to earn, don’t quote your university’s employment figures verbatim.
Instead, do your own research. Start by seeing what the average salary for recent grads and entry-level positions are in your field—but remember that a lot of factors go into whether you’ll be above or below that average.
SALARIES DEPEND ON EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE
Having both education and experience is the golden ticket when it comes to your salary. Often times, recent college grads have the education, but not much experience (if any experience at all). As a result, they usually end up at the lower end of the salary range.
For this reason, it’s more important than ever that college students seek internships and part-time jobs while they’re still in school. Otherwise, you’ll experience some serious shock during your post-recession job hunt.
When asked your expected salary, make sure your answer is in line with both your education and your experience. For instance, let’s say you have a bachelor’s but have never made more than $30,000 annually; it would be absurd to tell a hiring manager that you want a $10,000 increase. The recruitment world just doesn’t work that way.
On the other hand, it you capped your least acceptable salary at $33,000, you at least have a shot of being called back for a second interview.
Is there something wrong with making more money? Of course not! You just have to know your boundaries. And who knows? There are many cases where candidates end up making much more money than they bargained for, but it was because they were realistic when they first walked in the door.
YOU WON’T TAKE YOUR ENTIRE SALARY HOME
You may have a certain salary figure in your head, but thanks to taxes and other expenses, you won’t be taking all of it home.
Learn the difference between gross and net income—and remember that difference when figuring out how much to ask for. In a nutshell, gross income represents your earnings before taxes, expenses, etc. Net income is what’s left after these deductions. It’s what you’ll have to actually live on.
Just because you may not be getting what you expected in your post-grad salary doesn’t mean you won’t ever reach your financial goals. Financial wealth doesn’t necessarily come from how much you make, but how you manage your money. Knowing what to expect can help you plan for your financial future while you open the door to your career.