Salary Negotiation: The Worth of Your Work

Negotiating Your Salary: Handshake Image

You did it! You wowed your interviewers with your cover letter, work history, and interview. They want you to join their team. It’s exciting to be paid for your work, but is the pay worth it? Too many people don’t get paid what they’re worth for one simple reason – they don’t ask! 

Salary negotiations are not just common, they’re expected. One survey from Career Builder found 53% of employers are willing to negotiate salary for entry level workers. However, only 42% of workers aged 18-34 negotiate for better pay when offered a job. Additionally, pay inequities persist. According to PayScale’s The State of the Gender Pay Gap 2020 women earn $0.81 for every dollar a man earns. Women of Color, meanwhile, earn $0.75 for every dollar a White man earns. 

So now you know you should negotiate your salary. Let’s look at how to do it. 

Do Your Research 

Assess The Market 

The Vermont Department of Labor provides information on salaries across various occupations and locations. You can also use crowd-sourced services like Glassdoor or Payscale to get an idea of the salary range for similar jobs in your location. Research salaries for similar positions in the organization (some institutions even publish salary data).  

Determine Your Cost of Living 

According to, Cost of Living continues to increase across the country, so it’s important to create a monthly budget to determine what salary you will need. The amount of money needed to live comfortably can vary widely from city to city. NerdWallet offers a free salary comparison calculator. You might also consider using UVMConnect to reach out to an alum who lives in that city for a firsthand account of the costs.  

Understand Your Compensation 

The total value of your compensation package is greater than the dollar amount of your salary. Do some research to understand other benefits, such as health insurance, paid time off, 401k matching, gym membership, etc. Check out this guide to common benefits. These benefits might also be up for negotiation.  

Set a Range 

Your range will be based on the market, cost of living, total compensation, and your worth. Reflect on your skills and acumen that will meet the needs of the organization and your years of experience. Weigh these against the minimum requirements for the position; the more relevant skills and experience you have the stronger your case is. As this is a negotiation, approach the conversation with a pay range you’re willing to accept instead of a hard number. 

Be ready when the call comes, know your range and be ready to negotiate. 

Salary Negotiation for Women 

As vexing as it is, wage inequity still exists. Our society still has a long way to go in recognizing equal pay for equal work. The truth about salary negotiation for black women offers 5 useful pro tips from

Negotiate the Offer 

Once an offer is made (and if you are indeed interested in the job), be sure to demonstrate enthusiasm. After thanking the employer, ask if there is room for negotiation.  

  • If the answer is yes, you will likely be asked what salary you have in mind. Remember the range you determined. Start the conversation at your high end knowing that they might not meet you there. Use your research to mention the skills and experience that you would bring to the organization as a rationale for the salary you request. Be prepared for some back and forth. 
  • If the compensation is firm, make sure you understand the whole benefits package. You might ask about merit-based increases, room for growth in the company, professional development opportunities, schedule flexibility, or the possibility for remote work – these are additional ways that you can negotiate compensation. 
  • If you’re happy with the offer, feel free to accept on the spot! If you’re unsure, thank the employer and ask for some time to consider the offer. They will likely ask for your decision within 3-5 business days. You may find it helpful to talk through the offer with a trusted source (eg. parents, mentor). Remember: it’s ok to say no to an offer that just doesn’t meet your needs. 
  • Also: do you have more than one job offer? Check out this article from on Tips for handling multiple job offers
  • Want more? Check out these 37(!) strategies for how to approach negotiations
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Final Thoughts 

Like interviewing, negotiating is something we don’t normally do – practicing is always a good idea. And remember, negotiating is always in your best interest. Future raises will probably be based on a percentage of your current pay, so if you start off at a lower number, your salary will grow more slowly. A successful negotiation is a win-win. 

Confident Interviewing

Preparation and practice are key strategies to increase your confidence for any interview.

Senior Series 2022 Image Interviewing with confidence
  • Research the organization. Check out their website, social media pages, and do a quick Google search. Learning about them will help you tailor your answers to their mission and help you predict what they might want to ask about. Employee reviews on sites like Indeed or Glassdoor can also lend key insights. If you know who is interviewing you, you could also look them up on LinkedIn to learn a bit about where they are coming from.
  • Ask about what to expect. Ask who you’ll be meeting with (could be one person, may be several) and if there is anything you should prepare. There are several kinds of interviews – visit the Prepare section of our Blackboard site to learn more about Technical Interviews (common for IT and engineering positions) and Case Interviews (common in consulting and management positions).
  • Prepare your questions.  Every interview goes both ways, you are interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you. Think about what you’d want to know about the position, the organization, the culture, measures of success, potential challenges, etc. Thoughtful questions will not only aide you in making an informed decision but can also effectively demonstrate your understanding of the position. Here are a few sample questions.
  • Plan your outfit: You’ll want to dress to impress, but that does not mean the same thing in all fields, nor is it required that you confirm to outdated gender roles. Do some research about what is appropriate, and then focus on a polished and thoughtful ensemble. If in doubt seek advice from a trusted source, like your career center 😉
  • Know where you are going.
    • In Person: Consider visiting the building ahead of your interview so that you know where to park and how long it takes to get there.
    • VirtualMake sure your technology is up-to-date and you know how to use the platform required. Do a practice call with a friend to familiarize yourself with the layout.  Seek out a quiet space with minimal distractions (don’t forget to tell others in your house about your interview).  And declutter your background. There is nothing more distracting than an unmade bed. Tidy up, adjust what can be seen in frame and consider a blurred background.  Pro Tip: lighting should come from in front of you, not behind.
      • If your interviewer is a few minutes late, just wait: They may be wrapping things up with someone else. After 5 minutes, chat, email or call them.

Remember that you’re interviewing because they saw promise in you.

While it’s normal to feel nervous, we hope these steps can help you feel calm, confident, and curious during your interview. Remember that these future coworkers want to get to know you as a human so don’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat a question, elaborate on the question, or, after you answer, ask “Did I answer your question completely?” 

Go in with 3 key things you want to be sure to convey

Consider your strengths (and areas for growth – you’ll probably be asked about that) and look for opportunities to highlight these skills. The NACE Competencies can help you focus on strengths sought by employers in all industries.

Tell concise stories

Prepare a couple good stories using the STAR method to answer questions in a concise, thoughtful and memorable way. Don’t assume that everyone has read your resume – in fact you may want to bring copies – so do make sure you are explaining your relevant experience as you answer questions. The goal is tell the story of who you are and how you’ve developed skills/experiences that prepare you for the position.

Send Thank You notes

Always. For real. To everyone who interviewed you. A short thank you note (often via email) is a demonstration of your interest, appreciation, and professionalism. Don’t wait, send it out 24-36 hours after your interview. It’s a great opportunity to mention anything that you forgot to mention in the interview or highlight a topic from the interview discussion you considered noteworthy. Check out some example thank you emails.

Take Care

Whew, you made it! Take a few more deep breaths (hopefully you’ve been breathing throughout!) and, if your interviewer asked for references as a next step, be sure let them know to expect a call. 

Now you get to practice selfcare and patience. Decisions can take longer than you think. That said, if the time frame the employer gave you for a decision has passed, it is perfectly fine to reach out to them with short, courteous email to continue the conversation. Example: “I’m writing to follow up on the timeline for (job title). I wanted to inquire about updates on the process and restate my interest in the position. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need any additional information.”

You Have Options!

Chalk Drawing What's Next Image

What’s next? That’s the question many seniors are asking themselves as their undergraduate education is winding down. Remember, you have many options when it comes to approaching life after college, such as:

Work Immediately

If you are looking to work immediately after graduation, Handshake is a great place to find jobs available right now. If you need help crafting your resume and cover letter, see last week’s post to get you started.

  • Start your Own Business – Have a great idea? A passion you want to turn into a company? Consider starting your own business. Venture for America is one organization that can help you get started. This 12-step guide is a good way to start thinking about it.

Grad School

Graduate or Professional School might make sense for your degree and career path, or it may be unnecessary. To help make the decision and learn more about the process of applying, check out the Graduate and Professional School page.

  • Be a Research Assistant – Reach out to professors you know or check UVM job listings to explore possibilities. You might be surprised by the various fields that offer research possibilities.

Service Possibilities

Volunteering your time and effort is a perfect way to make a lasting impact on the world around you. As an added benefit, many employers value public service and volunteer experience from candidates in a job search.

  • Peace Corps – Peace Corps volunteers engage in hands-on service projects all around the world. You will immerse yourself within a community working alongside community members to tackle some of the greatest problems facing the world. 
  • AmeriCorps – members receive a stipend while volunteering to serve directly with nonprofit organizations across America to tackle our nation’s most pressing challenges. There are a wide variety of programs to choose from, including City Year & Teach for America.
  • Search online for additional national and international service opportunities.

Work Abroad

Interested in working outside the US? UVM Students have access to GoinGlobal – a robust resource filled with insider tips from local experts and career guides with up-to-date career and employment information for 120+ locations worldwide – log in through Handshake.

  • Teach English as a Second Language (ESL): Many countries offer opportunities for native-English speakers with little or no teaching experience to teach abroad (like Japan’s JET program), here’s a good starter list of Popular job boards as well as board to avoid.  

Take a Growth Year

You may be more familiar with the term “Gap Year,” but we’re not big fans of this term. It sounds like something is missing or absent during this chapter, when this relatively short period can lead to some of the most valuable experiences in your lifetime. Choosing a growth year can be an incredibly rewarding experience in which you…well, grow.

You might choose to: 

  • Travel – If you can, consider taking advantage of being untethered and take in the world’s incredible splendor. Become that annoying person at parties who constantly talks about backpacking all over the world (the writer of this blog is aware that he is one such annoying person). 
  • WWOOF – Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a worldwide movement to link visitors with organic farmers, promote a cultural and educational exchange, and build a global community conscious of ecological farming and sustainability practices
  • Pursue a Professional Certification – Whether you are a Psychology major who wants to learn to code or a business major who wants to become a certified yoga instructor, pursuing your interest can benefit you both personally and professionally. 
  • Take additional coursework to fill in knowledge gaps. UVM’s Professional and Continuing Education offers courses. You might also consider online platforms such as Coursera or LinkedIn.
  • Any number of things that don’t fit neatly into the above categories – For example, you might try creating art, writing software, starting a podcast, launching a local campaign advocating for a special cause, etc. Taking the initiative to be a self-starter is a desirable quality for any future job candidate. 

Whatever you choose for your growth year, remember that these experiences have value – both for you, and for your next employer. Don’t be afraid to list these experiences on a resume or talk about them in a job interview.

Senior Series 2023

The bottom line is that you have options. Like, a lot of them. This is exciting but choosing one (or several!) is not always easy. This cute video lays out a simple step-by-step process you can use when making decisions. And as always, consult your loved ones and mentors for different perspectives. 

Remember: Your email won’t last forever so be sure to:

  • Add your personal email to Handshake to maintain access to all the opportunities there (Learn how).
  • Create or update your UVMConnect account with a personal email to engage with a robust network of alums. 

Next: Confident Interviewing (in person & virtual)

You Are Your Own Brand: Application Materials

Graduation is just around the corner!

In last week’s Senior Series 2023 installment last week, we discussed getting started from scratch with the job search – what to think about, resources available to Catamounts, and how to search for the job that suits you best. In this week’s installment, we’ll discuss tips on: 

  • Resumes & Cover Letters
  • Crafting Your Online Profile


Your resume and cover letter should be tailored to each position you apply to. The job description is your cheat code. Use it as a checklist to make sure you are addressing as many requirements as possible.  Consult our Guide to Resumes webpage for tips and examples.

Check out this video from a previous Career Center workshop on resumes:

Cover Letters

Your cover letter is your chance to showcase your personality, goals and passions that might not be obvious from your resume. In addition, you can elaborate on how your experiences have made you the person you are. Your resume answers who, what, when, and where. The cover letter fills in the why. See our Guide to Cover Letters for more tips and examples.

Check out this video from a previous Career Center workshop on cover letters:

Crafting Your Online Profile Having a LinkedIn profile is highly recommended – think of it like an extension of your resume. (And include your personalized LinkedIn URL on your resume) You do not have to be very active, but establishing an online presence allows you to present the professional “you” to potential employers. 

This video on LinkedIn shows you how to set one up and start to use it for researching career paths and looking for jobs:

Senior Series 2023

Remember: Your email

Your email won’t last forever so be sure to:

  • Add your personal email to Handshake to maintain access to all the opportunities there (Learn how).
  • Create or update your UVMConnect account with a personal email to engage with a robust network of alums. 

Your career journey requires a lot of independent work and initiative but know that you’re not alone. Collaborate with Career Center staff, employers, alums and fellow graduates in this week-long series of workshops. 

Search Now, Search Always!

Image of diploma and shaking hands at a job interview

Senior Series 2023: Getting Started in Your Job Search

Leading up to the end of the semester, the UVM Career Center presents Seniors and soon-to-be-graduates with an assortment of focused topics to start your career chapter off right. This week: Getting started in your job search. So, let’s start at the beginning – knowing what you want in a job.

Know What Is Possible

The first step in beginning your job search is understanding what career paths are possible based on your major, skills and experience. You might be surprised by the number of options you have.

A Note On Stress
We know all of this can be stressful. Some level of stress is actually a good thing – it motivates us and helps us grow – check out this article on Job-search-anxiety.  That said, if you’re finding stress is getting the better of you – do reach out to CAPS for help.

Refer to the Occupational Outlook Handbook for career ideas that appeal to you. This site also provides salary information and educational requirements. 

Use UVMConnect as a research tool. You could start searching by major and noting what jobs other alums have pursued. Remember, most people have labeled themselves as “Willing to help”, so you should have no hesitation sending them a short message with questions. See example messages

To find more UVM alums, do some more research with the LinkedIn Alumni tool. Like UVMConnect, you can look at their profiles to see their unique career journey. You can also message them with a question, and don’t forget to mention your common Catamount bond!

This video walks you through some examples of using these tools. 

Know What Is Important

By now you probably have a good sense of what is important to you for your career. If you are still deciding, try using some of these tools.

Know Where to Find It

Many job boards are for a general audience. However, if you are looking for a specific field, be sure to use the appropriate board for that job.

An expansive list of general job boards.

100 job boards based on industry.

Remember: Not everyone approaches their career journey the same way, and that’s okay! It’s important to remember you’re not embarking on this new journey alone. We’re here to help you along your path. Here’s a handy checklist which we will explain more in future posts.

If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to drop in at Davis Center Room 204 and talk with our peer leaders. We’re available Monday to Thursday 10 am to 2 pm, we’d love to connect with you!

Don’t lose touch with valuable career tools you have access to for life! Your email won’t last forever so be sure to:

Smart Job Search Strategies

As you search for jobs, keep in mind that the process will probably take longer than you think. Devote a few hours each week to searching and applying to positions.

  • Adjust your search terms to get different results. Ex: “medical laboratory scientist” and “medical laboratory science” will yield different results (you can also do this using Wildcard characters; and think broadly – not just “teacher” but also “educator” and “instructor.”
  • Use filters and save searches so that you will be notified when your criteria are met.
  • Stay organized in your job search using a spreadsheet – sample at the bottom of this checklist.

Decoding a Job Description 

  • Typically, the most important requirements are written first.
  • Education level or certifications are typically not flexible.
  • Years of experience might be flexible.
  • Don’t get hung up on titles – a coordinator at one company might be a manager at another. 

Second: Read between the lines – phrases like “self-starter” may mean you will be working alone a lot so be sure to highlight your ability to work independently; jobs seeking a “team player” may want to hear more about your experience collaboration.

Check out the video below from a previous career workshop on Job Search Strategies.

Stay tuned for our next installments every Monday morning in your inbox! And remember the Career Center is available to alums for life!

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ALSO: Don’t lose touch with valuable career tools you have access to for life! Your email won’t last forever so be sure to:

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