Jim Hopkinson is an author, writer, and speaker living in New York City. His focus is on career development for the new economy, showing how new media, technology and branding are changing how people look at their career and lifestyle. Read more...
It's a known fact that some industries pay more than others. No matter how good you get at negotiation, if you have your heart set on being a kindergarten teacher, a city social worker, or a project manager at a nonprofit, there’s a much lower chance you’ll be paid as well as your college friends that are now investment bankers, attorneys, or software engineers.
The one thing you want to avoid however, is being underpaid relative to your co-workers around you and in the industry. For example, let’s say you interview at a nonprofit and are offered a management position for $36,000 – is that a good offer or not? While it’s easy to feel bad about yourself compared to your sister the Radiation Therapy Dosimetrist (median salary: $100,000), that’s the wrong approach.
The correct answer is, it’s probably a good offer if other managers at the organization with similar experience to you are in the $35-$40k range, and the pay at competing nonprofits in your city are in that range as well. By tactfully negotiating, your goal is to at least get to the top of a given range at the position you're going for -- pushing that $36k offer closer to $40,000.
However, if all your research says that someone with your skills and experience is being compensated in the mid to high $40’s, you’ll want to dig a bit deeper.