If you want to be satisfied with your salary, you need to be satisfied when you start the job, not with what you see as potential down the road. A lousy salary isn’t suddenly going to come up to your expectations once your employer gets a load of your spectacular, shining personality. If you want or expect a certain salary, it’s best to have that in place your first day on the job. You can certainly move up from a starting salary, but you should not be working up TO the starting salary you were hoping for.
What is the job worth?
To start with you have to know what the job is worth. If the going rate for the position is $40K then no one is going to offer you $60K no matter how exceptional you are.
Your first job is to figure out what that job is worth. If you know people in the industry ask them. Best not to say, “Hey Jan, so how much do you make in that job of yours?” Better to try, “Jan, can you tell me about current market trends for a person in your position?” Use the Internet to research salaries in the industry – sometimes the Internet needs a break from showcasing cute cat pictures. As well as online salary calculators you can check out websites and directories of professional associations.
What are your expectations?
You are going to be giving a huge chunk of your time and commitment to this job. What is that worth to you? If that number isn’t in the same vicinity as the amount people are earning for the job you’re applying for, then either the job or your expectations are going to have to re-locate.
If you were buying a house you’d have a top number you couldn’t go beyond, a bottom most happy number and a number in the middle. For salary expectations it’s like buying a house, but the numbers are upside down. The lowest, bottom number is the one you could get by on, the top number the one where you would dance all the way to work everyday, and a middle Goldilocks number.
By having clear expectations going into the interview, when the time comes to start negotiations you’ve got a number to start with.