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Know Your Worth: Navigating Salary Negotiation

Let’s settle this once and for all: the gender wage gap still exists. No matter what your drunk uncle claims at Thanksgiving or how much we may try to ignore it by praising companies that do the bare minimum, it is nowhere near being closed. At this rate, the chasm will not be bridged until 2106. For those of you who aren’t keen on math, that’s 86 years! Even longer than elder Rose Dawson waited to tell her story about the Titanic (you’ve seen the meme).

According to studies conducted by the American Association of University Women, over the course of a 40-year career, women are deprived of hundreds of thousands of dollars in pay. For Black women, the loss is roughly $946,120, and for Latina women, it sums to a jarring $1.14 million. The Heart of the Ocean isn’t lost to the sea per se, but “if the pay gap were to close tomorrow, 2.5 million children would be lifted out of poverty in the US.” 

If you identify with a community that faces systemic discrimination, it is paramount that you learn how to effectively negotiate to ensure that you are paid what you deserve. It is worth noting as well, that the tips discussed in this piece are universal and can be applied to any person looking to learn! 

While I can’t offer to wave a wand and fix the discriminatory systems that we live and work under — though I wish I could, soooo much — this article is meant to help you understand the importance and logistics of negotiation. If you usually struggle with self-advocacy, consider this a form of self-care.

Know Your Worth

Oftentimes cultural norms make it difficult to express or assert yourself, but it's important when you are dealing with the practice of negotiation to be articulate. When you know what you’re worth, it is easier to objectively see the accomplishments you have and skills you have gained that are pertinent to your desired industry.

To show just how valuable you would be to an employer, you’re going to need to make a list of the ways in which you will be or have been a vital asset. For this, it is important to look beyond the resume and cover letter.

Take Stock of Your Accomplishments

Make a detailed list of specific projects or research you have completed, what role you have played and the responsibilities you held. Next, take a look at the effects of that project and quantify any results you have achieved using hard data. In order to organize what you have done, you can use a value statement that offers evidence of your accomplishments. You can find more information about these by taking an AAUW class or by watching this Salary Negotiation Workshop & Panel available on YouTube.

Remember, big impacts can come from doing small great things. It’s a good habit to keep track of your day-to-day responsibilities so that if you are doing significant work beyond your job description, you can cite it as evidence when requesting a pay increase.

Keep in mind that when you are negotiating, the company is only thinking about its finances and budget. It does not matter if you have student loans to pay or a child that needs to be in daycare. Personal details should be left out of negotiations in lieu of professional confidence and a data-driven approach. 

Do the Research!

It’s so much more convenient to take the easy way out, but negotiating is certainly not the time and place, not with thousands, or millions of dollars at stake. Here is where the research happens. The first thing you should do is identify your target salary based on market wage data as well as a conservative budget that includes the cost of living expenses. You would be surprised at how many students will commit to an entry-level position in an urban environment and find that they are not being paid a livable wage. This budgeting that you will do in advance is to help you determine what your walk-away point will be. In other words, what is the lowest that the company could pay you for you to accept the position or remain in your current employment status?

Next, you’ll want to have a target salary range. It is advised that you stretch your range to be 10-20% higher than your walk-away point. And I cannot stress this enough: make sure that you determine your range by percentage and not by dollar amount. Making your target salary range 5k is appropriate for someone whose walk-away salary is 30k/year, but for someone making 150k, that five thousand dollars could be a drop in a bucket. At higher salaries, you have more room to expand your range. In this case, a person with a walk-away point at 150k could feasibly try and negotiate for wages between 165k and 180k. 

Don’t forget to research and consider asking for benefits as well! Some examples of benefits to research are: family and medical leave; tuition reimbursement; vacation, sick and personal time; stock options; sponsored retirement plans; life, disability, health and dental insurance; moving expenses; flex time; professional development; personal time; and future title changes (AAUW Start SMART presentation).

Please note: International visa status should not be a part of the negotiation process. Rather, it is up to you to have a thorough discussion with your employer so they come to understand exactly what you need in terms of visa sponsorship. For more information, students at the University of Rochester can contact the International Services Office and The Greene Center for Career Education & Connections regarding questions about OPT/CPT.

Plan Your Approach

The next step takes all your research and thoughtfulness and organizes it into a strategy that is data-driven and objective. First things first: it is a conversation, not a fight. Money is one of those things that can tend to get people all tied up in a knot of anxiety, so it’s best to start reminding yourself to remain positive, flexible and calm. Try not to take anything personally or take what they can offer for granted. 

If they decline your request while you are being hired initially, perhaps it is sufficient to ask for a meeting in 3-6 months to evaluate the progress the company has made while you have been employed there (AAUW recommends you get the agreement in writing). At this point, you will have concrete evidence that is pertinent to their specific company and you can cite any responsibilities you have taken on that are outside of your job description.


This is where the real work comes into play, and it is no time to give up! It is important to practice advocating for yourself and presenting the evidence you have gathered in a concise, clean manner. Having confidence in your abilities and knowing what you are worth makes all the difference.

And above all, remember: the employer picked you. They want to make it work. 

Suggested Resources

Research Industry Wages: 

Salary.com, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, your personal/professional network

National Association of Colleges and Employers

•Various Professional Associations


Learn about Salary Negotiation Practices:

American Association of University Women has resources, classes and workshops available for FREE. 

•UR students can attend the Salary Negotiation Workshop on April 27th, 2021 led by the Greene Center and Eastman & Benet Center Career Experts

Schedule an appointment with a Career Advisor on Handshake

•Attend virtual drop-in Collaboration Hours to talk to a Peer Career Advisor about value statements


For Information on International Visa Sponsorship:

International Services Office at UR

Grace is originally from Syracuse, NY, and studies at the University of Rochester, despite her overwhelming contempt for the cities' chilling winters. She is majoring in Film and Media Production with minors in Music and Audio & Music Engineering, and she spends a lot of time thinking about the sociopolitical responsibility of artists, career improvement, and how the world is often wack. Some of Grace's hobbies include consuming chocolate, collecting sticky notes, and over-analyzing movies and TV series.
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