Know Your Worth: A Black Girls Guide to Negotiating Your First Salary

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the day you’ve been dreaming about since you started the recruiting process: the day you receive your full-time employment offer. This is an honor. This is a blessing. But before we get blinded by the giddiness, we need to get one thing straight: sign on your own terms. Yes, the idea of money is so enticing and oh so close, but remember this is a negotiation. To get the most for yourself, you need to know your own worth. Then add tax. Letsgetit!

Step 1: Consider ALL Aspects of Your Compensation

There is more to your compensation than just money. It also includes benefits. Here are some questions to consider for this step:

  • Does your company offer relocation stipend? This money can either fully or partially cover your move. If offered, it is important to know if the amount is fixed or can be negotiated.
  • What are the healthcare options available to employees? Some companies also offer additional programs that covers a portion of your wellness spending (e.g. fitness classes, physical therapy, and even financial planning)
  • Does the company offer sponsorship for employee education? For example, some companies will cover an employees’ graduate school tuition up to a certain dollar amount.
  • How many days PTO are initially offered to employees? Is this amount negotiable? If you have extenuating life circumstances, it might be worth it see if you can ask for additional days off.

Step 2: Do Your Research

It’s important before you start the negotiation process to know what your company (or its peers) have offered historically. You don’t want to ask for $96,000 when the typical starting salary for your position is $75,000. They won’t take you seriously, and you’re wasting everyone’s time.

For this step, Glassdoor is your friend! The website allows you to investigate salary based on company, breaking data down to reveal compensation based on role and city. This is a great starting point, and can help temper your expectations. Glassdoor also shows data on stock compensation and bonuses; seeing the ranges for these amounts will be helpful when you are trying to establish your baseline (the minimum you will accept) and goal amounts. For this example, if the typical starting salary is $75,000, that should be your baseline; the baseline should match to where you fall in the applicant pool based on experience and skill match.

If you saw that salary ranges from $60,000 to $80,000, your reach amount could be $80,000.

Step 3: Identify Your Wants and Document Them

Once you’ve done your research, it is important to define an acceptable range of amounts (starting with your previously determined baseline) and a goal amount for all negotiable values. A visual person, I found creating a table to be the most helpful strategy. Let’s continue with the example from the previous step. You should record your goal value ($80,000) as well as the range of values you would accept that fall below that reach value ($65,000 to $75,000). You should also leave space to document the initial amount offered to you as well as your negotiated amount. I used the following format:

As you can see, I left the “Initial Offer” and “Negotiated Amount” columns empty. You will fill these in as you proceed through negotiations.

Step 4: Note Your Justifications

You can’t just go in and ask for money/benefits with no reasoning to back it up.

You need to have concrete reasons why you are asking for a certain amount. For example, if you’re converting from an internship to FTE, list your deliverables and how you amplified the business impact for your team. In all cases, you should talk about your past results, track record, and positive peer/manager reviews. If you have extenuating personal circumstances that play a role in your asks, feel free to use these for justifications as well (e.g. I need additional relocation money because I am moving from the other side of the country and shipping costs will be higher).

Step 5: Negotiate

Now that you have your toolkit ready to go, use it! Make sure to have your chart and justifications written, printed or otherwise readily available during the discussion, and have them with you as you start negotiating. Remember to breathe and thank the person before you start. Take the time to write down the figures as they share them with you, and make a note of any questions you have or points to follow up on. Most of all, remember that you’ve got this!

Additional Tips

  • Never accept the first offer on the table!
  • Do not be the first person to list numbers; have the recruiter/HR person show you the numbers first.
  • Even if you get a “good” offer, you should still try to negotiate. Remember: if they do not explicitly tell you their offer is “non-negotiable”, this is a starting point; they are willing to go higher.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for more. The worst thing they can say is “no”, and if they do you haven’t lost anything you already had.
  • Feel comfortable checking in with your recruiter/HR point person. You have to be an advocate for yourself. If they aren’t responding within your timeframe, reach out to them and check in.

Now that you have the tools and you’ve read the tips, go forth and negotiate. May the force be with you, young Padawan. Good luck!

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Michael Berhane, Founder of POCIT
Jacqueline C Gibson
Jacqueline C Gibson

Incoming Software Engineer at Microsoft...

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