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How to negotiate your salary as an international student or graduate

Thinking about your possible earnings isn’t just a thought just for recent graduates but undergraduates too. Knowing the value of your skills can be investigated while you’re still at university and help you when searching for jobs to apply for. When looking for a graduate role a number of factors can take priority including role duties, progression, company culture, location and of course salary. It can be difficult for a recent graduate to know if, when and how they can discuss the subject of salary when attending interviews and starting a new role. There can be a fine line between knowing your worth and appearing mercenary, and it’s important to give employers a good first impression that ensures they know that your interest lies primarily in the role itself rather than its monetary reward. We’ve put together some ideas for how to tackle the sometimes tricky topic of money.

Do your research

Understanding the financial landscape is vital as without a benchmark to guide you, it will be hard to know what is appropriate in your chosen industry and salaries will differ vastly across the country and by industry. Search job sites that include roles you’re interested in, by doing this while still at university you can start to understand not only what salaries are on offer for certain roles but what is expected from candidates. This can help you hone your skills in your final year with your graduate career in sight and identify if you have any exceptional skills to offer employers. These salaries will give you a good indication of the level of experience needed and what certain roles will pay entry-level graduates. Spend some time thinking about your current contacts, is there anyone at university who understands your chosen industry? This can be a good opportunity to expand your network and make contact with your institution's careers team or lecturers on your course with external links. They should be able to help you prepare for what will be expected from you once you leave university and therefore what salaries you can expect with your skillset. Gathering knowledge about pay for similar roles will arm you with the information you need to have an informed discussion with an employer when the time comes. The recent International Graduate Outcomes report shows not only the value international students have gained from studying in the UK but the possible salary trajectory. They note that “There are clear salary benefits for graduates from UK universities. The average salary of all survey respondents working full-time is £43,430 for research postgraduates, £31,619 for taught postgraduates, and £30,094 for undergraduates”. This shows the earning potential for international graduates is certainly there. When talking about entry-level roles, student money website Save the student report “The current average graduate salary in the UK is just shy of £23,000, but we've also heard folk reporting everything between £16,000 and £90,000!” This clearly shows the vast range and why it’s so important to know where your graduate role falls in this scale.

How to go about asking

There will be some opportunities such as graduate schemes where it’s unlikely there will be any room for negotiation. Graduate schemes are created with a set salary to provide a uniform role which can be replicated across regions, the positive side of this is that pay is the same for both male and female graduates creating an equal opportunity for all new starters.

The general rule of thumb is to avoid asking about salary at the interview and to show you are motivated by other aspects, such as enthusiasm for the role, and the opportunities it gives for skills development and career progression. It is much better to save salary negotiations until you’ve received the offer in writing, as you will be in a much stronger bargaining position. An employer may ask you about your salary expectation during an interview. In this scenario use your research to demonstrate that you understand how similar roles are salaried at other companies, and to cite a range of salaries (eg from £20,000-£23,000) to show flexibility. Then you can review what you’ve been offered and decide if you feel negotiations are appropriate. Some employers may set the entry-level salaries lower than they expect to pay but may be willing to pay higher if asked. Again, it is better to discuss this after the interview at the job offer stage.

Prepare what you’ll say before making contact so you can answer any questions they may have for you backed up with your research and information about your own skillset. Be prepared for a negative response, there may not be any movement on salary so try to consider the overall package the role provides. Some roles may have a wealth of extra perks added. Others may have opportunities for quick progression in the company so it’s important to take all of this into consideration when thinking about salary.

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By Jen Garmston Published: August 14, 2019

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