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Science Careers Blog

August 12, 2009

Salary Negotiations, Recession-Style

Alexandra Levit, the Wall Street Journal's careers columnist, offers advice this week on salary negotiation, geared to tough times. Levit stresses the importance of getting the best possible salary deal upon hiring. In this economy, she observes, "raises are small and promotions are often slow in coming..."

But, in this economy, when jobs are not plentiful, is it still wise to wheel-and-deal on compensation? Levit advises readers to still negotiate, but prepare well. Levit tells of a health-care professional in Boston who was hired for a new job and was prepared to accept the employer's first offer, even though it meant a salary cut. But before taking the offer, she did some homework, writing out a list of ways she could add value to the position. She called the hiring manager and presented her case. The result? She got the salary she was seeking. "The advance planning made me feel a lot more confident going into that conversation."

In preparing for salary negotiations, Levit advises, find out what the industry is paying people in similar jobs. Web sites like payscale.com can help, but you may need to supplement the public data by talking frankly with friends doing that kind of work. You also need to know compensation practices of the industry and the type of organization doing the hiring. Some businesses offer bonuses based on profits or sales (at least in good times), for example, while government positions often have built-in annual salary increases.

Dave Jensen's two-part series for Science Careers on salary negotiations talks about preparing for and dealing with offers from science and technology employers. Part 1 of the series discusses salary negotiations in general, while part 2 describes the finer points of academic and industry compensation practices. Chris Golde's article, "Be Honorable and Strategic," provides advice for scientists negotiating for academic jobs. While written before the worldwide economy went south, these articles can still help negotiators get what they need in today's job market.

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