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Empowering your money

Your guide to negotiating your salary — even in a pandemic

Maggie Stamets is a writer for BUILT BY GIRLS, which prepares the next generation of female and non-binary leaders to step into their power and break into their careers. WAVE is the backbone of BUILT BY GIRLS: it’s a 1:1 matching program that connects high school and college students with top tech professionals across the country. For more information and to sign up check out

People new to the workforce often aren’t told that you can — and should — negotiate your salary no matter what your previous experience is. The current job market is tough and you may feel so excited just to find a position that you forget to advocate for yourself. But don’t simply take the first offer.

Although your experience as a student is valuable, negotiating when you don’t have much professional experience can be intimidating. As women or non-binary people, we’re often made to feel like it’s rude or ungrateful to ask for more.

But the bottom line is when you start at a higher salary, you’re more likely to make more later on. It also shows your employer that you are serious and value yourself and your work.

(Photo credit: BUILT BY GIRLS)
The bottom line is when you start at a higher salary, you’re more likely to make more later on. (Photo credit: BUILT BY GIRLS)

Founder of Ladies Get Paid, Claire Wasserman discussed the importance of asking for every cent they’re worth with a BUILT BY GIRLS student as part of the In a World BUILT BY GIRLS series. Here are some of her best tips on negotiating your salary:

Quantify your experience

Your experience in internships, classes, or working on passion projects is completely valid to talk about in interviews, even if you weren’t paid. The trick is quantifying your contribution.

Did you run social media for a school club and increase your followers by 20%? That’s great! Bring that up. Or maybe you built a website for a fake business in your computer science class. Discuss what tools or coding languages you used.

Do your research

Find out what people in similar roles with similar experience are making. You can use sites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and PayScale to research. Claire suggests taking it one step further and reaching out to recruiters and HR professionals on LinkedIn to see what they suggest.

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Establish your limits

The person hiring you has likely budgeted with a pay band in mind — this is a range they were prepared to pay the person in your position. You should also come armed with a range of salaries.

Someone once told me the trick to negotiating is to be willing to walk away ... this isn’t always realistic. What is your bottom or the lowest you are willing to go based on your budget and how badly you want the job? Then think about what salary would be great that would give you some wiggle room, and lastly what is your shoot for the moon rockstar money?

Knowing these ahead of time helps guide your negotiating.


A pro tip form Claire is to practice saying that big number out loud. Feel confident in that number so you don’t seem caught off guard when you’re put on the spot.

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