How to negotiate salary for your first job

Here are some useful tips to make sure you're paid what you're worth.

Let's be honest – you won't usually be in the position to demand big bucks in your first full-time gig.

However you do want to get paid a fair salary for the skills you'll bring to the job, so it pays to be prepared.


Researching average entry-level salaries in your industry is a good first step. Search for graduate surveys released by large recruiters such as Hays, or organisations including Graduate Careers Australia.

Karalyn Brown, of InterviewIQ, says if you know that an average first-year accountant, for example, gets paid $58,000, at least you'll have a ballpark idea.

"If someone's going to pay you $35,000, then you know that's probably not a great place for you to start."

Find your value

"When you first start out you are raw, that's how an employer will view you … but you know you've got a lot of value to offer," says Brown.

Anything that demonstrates leadership – volunteering, internships – helps show employability and maturity, says Brown.

Don't discount that part-time job either. Perhaps you worked for five years at McDonald's, training people to hit company targets.

"That's a transferable skill."

Lastly, be aware that the pay gap between men and women can start now if women don't back themselves, says Brown.

Data from Graduate Careers Australia shows that in 2014, median starting salaries for men were $3000 higher.

The interview

Be confident, not arrogant. Show a real interest in both your interviewer and the company's products or services, says Brown.

"Ask intelligent questions. Look like you're pleased to have the opportunity."

Things to avoid

"Talking about salary upfront is not a good thing," says Brown. Have that conversation later.

Likewise, immediately refusing an offer can be bad form. Take some thinking time, or ask what you'd need to demonstrate to improve your salary within six months.

Be realistic

Brown says graduates should bear two crucial points in mind: "Is this a fair salary for my first job, and what's the opportunity?"  

This article was originally published by the Sydney Morning Herald on 13 November 2015. This article represents the views of the author only and does not necessarily reflect the views of AMP.

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