Helping our students find great jobs is a huge part of what we do at Epicodus. In fact, it’s our mission. Over the years, we’ve accrued quite a bit of job-hunting knowledge to help set our students apart. Over the past few weeks, we’ve shared our best tips and tricks for junior developers who are looking for their first jobs. You can find all of the posts in this series here.
So you made it through your interview, and your prospective employer has brought up what your salary will be. Congratulations! Negotiating a salary can be a bit terrifying, though, so here are some tips to help you out.
Do your research in the city where you'll be working. Different cities can have drastically different average starting salaries for junior devs. Learn the salary range for the city you're in, and weigh where you think you would fall in that spectrum. If your technical skills are on the weaker side, you're interviewing for a job with tools or languages you haven't used before, and/or you don't have much professional experience, you'll probably make on the lower end of the spectrum; if you are very strong technically and have at least a few years of professional experience, you'll probably make on the higher end. Use the numbers as a starting point, and even share them with prospective employers when appropriate.
In the long run, though, your first salary really isn't that important. Within a year or two of working as a developer, you'll almost certainly make at least $20k more than wherever you start. The most important thing is to get a job, and if you have options, to take a job where you're more excited about the work you'll be doing.
Though your first salary might not be that important, it's worth your time to learn how to get a higher offer. In negotiation, you need to know who has more to lose. If you're charming and technically very strong, you have little to lose - you can walk away and probably get another offer somewhere else. If your interview skills aren't great and your technical skills are weaker, the employer has the upper hand.
When the employer has the upper hand, try to get more information from them. If they ask you for your desired salary, tell them "I haven't worked in this field before, so I'm not completely sure what to expect. What have you paid people in this position before?" Work that angle hard before putting any numbers out of your own. Then, feel free to share the salary ranges above.
If you have the upper hand, you might consider opening with a high salary requirement to set the expectation high. For example, you might say "I made $65k in my last job, so I'm looking for something in that range," and expect to settle somewhere around $60k. If you let them open the negotiation with an offer of $50k, you might have a hard time getting it above $55k. But make sure your expectations are realistic - you are coming in as an entry-level developer, and you will likely be an investment for anybody who hires you. If you have a lot of career experience, you very well may start out making less until you get at least a few months of experience working.