It's a catch-22 when it comes to salary talks with a potential employer. Ask for too much and you might be dropped from consideration; ask for too little and you could be earning less than what your employer is willing to pay.
The way to escape this seesaw is to do your research and find out exactly what the position your vying for earns in the industry you're seeking. This way, when it comes to talking cash, you have facts to back yourself up, not just the need to feed your shopping addiction.
How do you find out whether your salary is at market value for your profession, position and location? You can turn to your friends, but they may embellish their salaries, so reliability is suspect. Your dad's input as to what people make may be outdated. Finding good sources is not easy, but here are some tips for assembling information that might lead you to the answer.
Determine your needs
First, figure out what you'll need to make each month to make ends meet. Draw up a budget for your necessities including rent, credit card bills, school loans, cell phone, car insurance and food. You'll probably also want to factor in extra money for going out with friends, clothes and savings. That's what your minimum take home pay should be ideally each month .
Check out a Web site that specializes in salary information, like CBsalary.com. You can search by job title and metro area. Ad hoc searches on search engines can sometimes direct you to fruitful results. A search engine query for "salary information" and "salary guides" can lead down various paths and you might get a little lost. Even better is to narrow the search by profession, say, to "accounting salaries" or "accounting salary guides."
Occupational Outlook Handbook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides comprehensive occupation information for specific jobs. Pick your industry and then your job title -- median earnings are given for a range of roles per job description. This information is based on national figures, though, and might not reflect median earnings in your geographic location.
Trade publications and professional associations
Association sites for a particular profession might be one of the most reliable sources of salary information. Some sites do not have salary surveys listed among their menus, but a call or e-mail to the site administrator might reveal how that information can be obtained. Trade publications often run their own salary surveys, so search their Web sites. For example, Ad Age features salary information that is fairly detailed. One pitfall about trade and association Web sites: you often need to be a subscriber to access information.