How should I approach negotiating my first Job Offer?

Jun 6, 2023

The goal of that first job offer is often just that, getting one. Students are usually not focused on negotiations, especially given the current economic climate. Their focus is on resume and interview prep; receiving the offer is the end game. While bringing your interview A-game is critical to getting a good offer, we believe understanding and negotiating a good deal is just as important. We’ve begun partnering with University Career Centers, so we’re writing this post to share how we support students at the start of their careers.

  1. Salary

    The easiest and fastest way to get a raise is before you start the job. For industries like tech and finance, there is an incredible amount of data available for most companies hiring university students as they tend to be large companies with established pipelines (e.g. Levels.FYI). For your salary, negotiating the highest starting number will impact you years into your career as each subsequent promotion or transition will depend on your previous compensation. In lieu of industry experience, you can still rely on industry data to justify your compensation level.

  2. Additional Compensation

    Signing bonuses, housing stipends, and transportation allowance are all examples of additional compensation that are designed to support students in their first jobs. While there’s a broad spectrum of if and how much is offered, explaining that you understand these bonuses as an incentive structure for students shows that you did your research, not that you’re asking for too much. Here are some examples:

    1. You’ve received multiple offers, so you ask your potential employers if they’d be open to providing a Signing Bonus to help you make the most informed decision.

    2. You’re moving 3,000 miles for a summer internship, so you request a relocation bonus and housing stipend to cover the flight and apartment sublet.

    3. You work in a metropolitan area like NY or DC, so you inquire about a monthly transportation allowance that covers public transit.

  3. Benefits

    Extending from bonuses that have immediate cash value, let’s talk about the full spectrum of benefits employers provide. The basics are healthcare (including vision and dental), paid time off, and 401(k). Beyond the basics are services like company meals, child care, fitness facilities, and more. Offer letters tend to be sparse in the details and refer to a separate Employee Handbook or 1-Pager for details, so review these benefits and ask all your questions before signing. While interns may not be eligible for all benefits, it’s an excellent opportunity to understand what you’re signing up for as internships can convert to full-time opportunities.

  4. Post-Employment Terms

    We’ve just completed an extensive series on common employment agreement terms: Non-Solicits, Non-Competes, Confidentiality, and Intellectual Property. What these terms all have in common is their impact on your career after you leave this employer. They assign ownership of your work to your current employer and restrict your ability to work after leaving. The good news is, even as an intern, you have the same rights as any professional and the unenforceable terms are just as unenforceable. Identify these terms in your offer and ensure you understand their impact on your career long term.

  5. Conditional Action Items

    Most US job offers will be contingent on at least two action items: Background Checks and Work Authorization. The first item requires you to pass a background checks that reviews your identity, criminal record, education confirmation, etc. In some cases, you may be asked to provide references who your employer will speak with. The second item requires you to provide proof that you can legally work in the country. Beyond these two items, there’s usually a set of forms such as Company Policies, List of Prior Inventions, and Equity documents you have to agree with for employment.

When we were students paying six digits for our education, getting that first offer and getting paid to do something felt incredible and something we were so grateful for. Looking back, we missed an empowering opportunity to understand the fine print and have a conversation with employers on more equal terms. We’re proud to support the new generation of professionals through Ask Ginkgo and look forward to raising the bar for what students can expect from their employers.

For advocacy and beyond!
The Ask Ginkgo Team

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