The Career Center located in the Melville Library at Stony Brook University. The center helps students build salary negotiation skills.  NINA LIN/STATESMAN FILE

Assistant Director of Graduate Career Services Alfreda James and Employer Relations Associate Crystal Diaz outlined the steps to effective salary negotiation at the Career Center on Tuesday, Oct. 16.

Their talk noted the importance of negotiating a good salary, highlighting that women earn just 80 cents to the dollar compared to men. Better negotiation abilities could help women close that gap.

“If your partner is underpaid, that’s going to have a direct impact on you,” James said. “So it’s not just a problem for women, but a problem for families and households in general.”

James underscored that the current gender pay gap amounts to roughly $400,000 over the course of a career. Without salary negotiations, that’s a hefty loss.

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“The person who didn’t negotiate [from $55,000] up to $60,000 is already starting at a disadvantage,” Diaz said. “That $5,000 shortfall at the start of a career can easily turn into $400,000 by the end of a career.”

The four main steps to salary negotiation are knowing your value, setting a target salary and benefits, choosing a strategy and practicing, James and Diaz said.

The pair emphasized that applicants should research the industry, understand the job’s market value and be able to articulate the skills and value they are bringing to the company.

James and Diaz recommended using salary.com to determine a job’s average market value. Then, as a guiding sentence, they suggested students fill in the following to help them articulate their value: “As a result of my effort to do ______, I have achieved ______, which provided the following specific benefits to the company:_______.”

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For step two, setting a target salary and benefits, the duo told students that the key is to calculate their budget and prioritize their values.

Knowing their budget sets a standard for the minimum salary that they can reasonably accept. Similarly, knowing their values helps them rank benefits in order of priority and negotiate them accordingly. In practice, they’ll know not to take a job that won’t fit their salary needs, and know which benefits to bargain for (e.g. retirement benefits, paid leave, sick days, professional development and/or healthcare).

For step three, James and Diaz implored students to deflect all questions about salaries at previous jobs. Previous salaries don’t affect current market value. They also urged participants to deflect any conversation about salary negotiation prior to the company’s initial salary offer, and even to deflect the employer’s attempts to negotiate before an offer is proposed.

“You don’t usually want to be the first person to reveal what your [salary] number is,” Diaz said.

They suggested that, after reaching an agreement on salary, students ask the employer to put the offer in writing as soon as possible, to make sure they receive the salary and benefits they negotiated for.

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It is crucial to practice negotiating with somebody else, students were told. Practice allows them to bring everything together in a discussion and see how others react to their requests and comments.

Outside of the four steps, James and Diaz noted that prior to applying for a job, it’s good for applicants to make sure their resumes fit the job description. Similarly, they advised participants to start preparing for salary negotiations even before the interview.

“The negotiation workshop was pretty helpful,” Marc Richer, a senior mechanical engineering major, said. “I went in not knowing too much on how to negotiate salaries or benefits. I left with a little bit more knowledge on the topic.”

Another student walked up to Diaz after the presentation and said, “[The event] was amazing.”

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