Salary Negotiation 101
A Monthly Column about Life on the Job
|By Elisa F. Topper
American Libraries Columnist
Elisa F. Topper is director of the Dundee Township (Ill.) Public Library District and a career consultant. Contact her at email@example.com.
Column for February 2004
Until my position was eliminated four months ago, I worked as a special librarian for a corporation on the West Coast. Although I want to be appropriately compensated, I feel desperate to take any job offer that comes my way at most any salary. How can I negotiate a salary and benefits package that I won't regret later?
But while salary negotiations may be more challenging in the current market, you can still learn to be a skillful negotiator, regardless of the state of the economy or the length of time you've been out of a job. What makes a good negotiator? “Meticulous preparation, a willingness to understand the other side's needs, and an ability to build rapport and trust,” says Hal Lancaster in “Career Success Depends on Negotiating Know-How” on the Wall Street Journal's career website.
Two key points to keep in mind:
- Know what the salary range is for the position and what you are worth in the marketplace.
- Delay any discussion of salary until the final stages of the interview, after you've been made an offer.
How do you determine your competitive market value? The best way is to review salary surveys for your specific area of librarianship (see resources below) and ask colleagues what the salary range is for a similar position in their organization. You can also get advice from local recruiters, including a number who specialize in placement of information professionals. Typically, aim for at least 10% more than your current salary if you are still working, and don't forget to factor in cost-of-living differentials for geographic location. Salary calculators at sites such as Monster.com can help you make the comparison.
Once a salary offer is made, ask for time to evaluate it; never accept an offer immediately. (An acceptable period is one or two days.) Prepare questions to ask if any aspects of the offer are unclear.
Be sure to assess the entire compensation package, not just the base salary. Many people focus only on a dollar amount without taking into consideration benefits, which can add up to 30% to the total value.
As a general rule, you may be able to negotiate at least $1,000-$2,000 above the salary that you are initially offered. If the salary is firm, you can sometimes bargain for an extra $1,000 after six months or extra benefits such as more vacation time, flex-time scheduling, time off for conferences, and/or tuition reimbursement. Whatever you propose, make sure your requests are reasonable and that your manner is direct and honest, not demanding.
Finally, always get your job offer in writing.
- American Library Association Survey of Librarian Salaries 2003 (see AL, Oct. 2003, p. 64, for summary of findings and ordering information).
- Arline Simpson Associates offers links to numerous resources on negotiating at www.asastaffing.com.
- Association of Research Libraries Annual Salary Survey at www.arl.org/stats/salary/.
- Lisjobs.com gives statistics and links to articles and advice on librarian salaries.
- The Riley Guide lists general salary information, along with occupation- and location-specific surveys, at www.rileyguide.com/salguides .html.
- Libraries Association Annual Salary Survey summaries and ordering information at www.sla.org/content/memberservice/researchforum/salarysurveys/.
(c) Copyright 2004 American Library Association