Understand this reality: for the vast majority of jobs offered to new graduates, there is going to be little room for “negotiation.” The truth is that companies are much more negotiable for someone who brings proven experience that the company does not currently have. For the most part, hiring authorities hiring inexperienced, new graduates envision every candidate almost equally. They may like you better than the other candidates, but most likely there isn’t a lot of material difference between you and the next candidate.
With that in mind, other than the intangible, “I’m smarter than most, I’ll work harder than most, with more passion, commitment…etc.,” you don’t really have a strong position from which to negotiate. Don’t let the job offer go to your head. You need the best job you can find so that you will gain experience that can be leveraged in a future job negotiation. So, do your best at negotiating, don’t get greedy, know your limits, and accept a good offer.
The second key is a tactical approach to negotiating. It requires that you simply ask the question, “Is that the best you can do?” When you get down to the final offer, and you know everything there is to know about the opportunity, you look the hiring authority in the eye and say, “Is that the best you can do?”This is a “we are all in this together, but I would like a better deal” type of statement. It doesn’t threaten or push the hiring authority into a corner. It simply asks if that is the best they can do. Practice this before the final interviews. It is one of the best tools you will have.
The third key is to recognize and remember that this is your first formal job opportunity. The odds are really great that you will only be in this job and, most likely, this company for a year or two. The days of life-long employment with one company are history.
You should accept every job thinking, “where can I leverage this experience two or three years from now?” (Note – you are probably going to change careers 7 or 10 times!)
This is a very hard question to answer because, as I have described, companies change their complexion every two to three years. You probably can’t advance your career as an accountant if you start with a sales job. However, after interviewing with a number of companies, you will get some idea of where the experience can take you.
I discuss mentors in another portion of this site, but it isn’t a bad idea to discuss a job offer or opportunity with people you are close to – i.e. parents or relatives, people with whom you have interviewed that took a liking to you, or any knowledgeable person in business you respect. Even though you may get a number of different opinions, you are still the one who has to show up every day at work. You are the one who has to live with the decision. So, don’t be afraid to make a commitment. Life, after all, is a wonderful risk!
You risk making a mistake with your job decision. That is part of life. But the world won’t end. And, if you make a mistake and learn from it, you will be better for it. Fortunately, the job market is the best it has been for almost ten years and it appears that it will be strong for some time. You will be able to reinstate your search if you have to.