Knowing your worth: The whys and hows of salary negotiations

Don’t leave money on the table.

New college graduates hear this often when beginning a job search, but negotiating over salary, especially in a first job, can be daunting. That’s why Amy Scott, director of the Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) Program and associate professor of history, has worked with colleagues to assemble a team of experts to coach students in this essential skill.

In 2014, using materials from AAUW’s “Start Smart” Salary Negotiation program, WGS partnered with the Smith Career Center (SCC) to host workshops. Since then, 750 students — women and men representing all five colleges — have completed Start Smart.

“Our certified facilitators explain the gender wage gap, introduce tools for researching salary benchmarks and ranges, coach students on persuasive responses to use in salary negotiation, and provide opportunities to role play and practice newly learned salary negotiation skills,” Scott said.

Kate Mendham ’18 took the workshop twice: once as a sophomore and once closer to graduation. She used the techniques not only to negotiate salaries in two internships, but in making a case for scholarships from law schools. “I learned not to undervalue myself. That I am qualified and deserve the job. That it’s OK to negotiate — and how to do it.”

Nine facilitators from three colleges and the SCC teach the 2.5-hour workshops in teams of three. Hampton Inn-Hilton Hotels, also facilitate. The program has allowed students to collaborate with employees from Caterpillar Inc. and the United Way.

Scott said the SCC is “an equal partner” in Start Smart, providing funds and administrative support to market and run it. “They also secured corporate sponsorship from leaders at Auto-Owners Insurance, who provide food and send a manager to every workshop to offer a corporate perspective on the nuances of the interviewing and negotiation process.”

An example of the interdepartmental collaboration the Women’s and Gender Studies program has always championed, the salary negotiation training has been an unqualified success.

“Ninety percent of our participants say they’re more confident they’ll be able to negotiate a fair salary and benefits package,” Scott said. “We just renewed the university’s three-year license with the AAUW, and plan to deliver Start Smart to 250 more Bradley students by 2020.”