Ever heard the proverb “Good salaries happen to good people?”
Of course you haven’t. Because it’s not a proverb, nor is it remotely true.
Good salaries happen to those who work in fields with complex skills, which is why a highly specialized occupation such as U.S. News’ No. 1 job, dentist, has a lofty average salary of $164,570. The scarcity of applicants who possess certain skill sets, combined with factors such as competition and location, affects salary growth over time. Some jobs with the greatest salary potential aren’t usually associated with fat paychecks.
For example, in its 2015 Salary Guide, the staffing firm Robert Half predicts pay will increase by 3.8 percent from last year for accounting, finance and information systems occupations. Robert Half also lists 10 positions to watch in terms of pay growth. Some are gigs with six-figure starting salaries, but others have average starting salaries in the mid-30s or mid-40s:
Mobile Applications Developer
Salary increase: 10.2 percent
Salary increase: 7.2 percent
Chief Security Officer
Salary increase: 7.1 percent
Salary increase: 6.8 percent
Salary increase: 4.9 percent
Human Resources Assistant
Salary increase: 4.3 percent
Senior Business Systems Analyst
Salary increase: 4.2 percent
Salary increase: 4 percent
Salary increase: 4 percent
Salary increase: 3.9 percent
Salary Guide by Robert Half
Then there’s the ultimate determinant of the pay you receive — you. A job seeker’s ability to negotiate, starting with the first job offer, is pivotal to his or her earning potential. “If you begin working at age 25 negotiating a salary that’s $5,000 below the market value, every raise and promotion and even new salary at a new job for the next 35 years could be based on this initial figure,” says Martin Yate, author of “Knock ’em Dead 2015: The Ultimate Job Search Guide.” “That amounts to a substantial amount of money that you’ve thrown away by the end of your career.”
Keep these pointers for negotiating salary in mind, particularly if you’re searching for your first job.
Study. There are the annual Robert Half salary guides, plus the wage estimates found on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website. The subscription-based job matching website TheLadders also releases reports on the job market, and you can’t forget Salary.com.
In short, there’s lots of quality sources for salary information, and you should check more than one and delve into more than national average when you do. “The same job pays differently in Chicago versus Tampa, so you need to consider the average amount given your experience within the location you live,” says Amanda Augustine, career management expert at TheLadders. “You also have to keep in mind company size and industry — and the competition. If your job is a difficult position to fill, an employer will be willing to pay more to find an applicant that’s right.”
Check your favorite salary sources on a quarterly basis at least, because the range for your position might fluctuate due to market demand.
Also, obtain intel on your target companies. For example, “someone who’s worked at the company might tell you that it’s a policy to strike anyone who asks about salary or vacation time in the first interview,” Augustine says. If you don’t have someone on the inside to talk to, read up on previous applicants’ interviews with your company of choice on Glassdoor.com.
Work with three figures. Yate says you should base your desired salary on three figures: the lowest salary you could accept (and still be able to eat) for a job that fits your skills, experience and location you live in; a fair salary given the aforementioned considerations, and a salary that’s commensurate with your skills, experience and location and you’d be a bona fide idiot to turn down. “Now that you have those three numbers, you can kick out the bottom one,” he says. “It’s easier to negotiate down instead of up, so you want to stay within a salary range that’s between your midpoint and your high point.”
Most employers will try to hire you by offering a salary at the lower end of your range, but if you’ve given them a range within Yate’s recommended confines, he says “you double your chance of being approved for a salary you want.”
Practice various outcomes. It’s one thing to have a salary in your head, but it’s entirely different to sit in the hot seat, speaking with a potential employer about dollars and cents.
“Some people don’t negotiate well because they haven’t actually prepared themselves to compromise,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. Ask a mentor or friend to role-play with you. “This will help you identify where you may hit potholes, where you want to check your tone and speaking pace, and what to watch out for in terms of body language,” McDonald says.
Don’t apply until you’re ready to haggle. You should have Yate’s three suggested figures in mind before submitting an application or résumé. “We’re seeing employers ask questions about salary earlier in the process, because they want to be efficient in weeding out candidates,” McDonald says. “So we’re coaching individuals to be prepared upfront — more so today than we were a decade ago.”
Knowing this, you should still push off any money talk as long as possible so your interviewer focuses on your qualifications before your salary requirements. “Try to deflect talk of salary once or twice, but never more than that,” Augustine says. “Try saying, ‘I’d love to learn about the role more and its responsibilities to better inform you of what my salary range might be.'”
Speak up in the first place. Don’t let all that research go to waste. You shouldn’t shy away from countering if you feel you deserve more.
“When people get their first job offer, they’re so happy and excited they often forget or are afraid to negotiate,” Augustine says. “They think if they counter, then the job offer will be retracted.” But most employers expect you to negotiate, she says. “The worst they could say is ‘No, we can’t pay that.'”
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Jobs With the Best Salary Potential originally appeared on usnews.com