Ensuring Your Expectations Are Set Correctly: Using tools such as salary and cost of living calculators

You have been on the job search for months and you feel that you rocked your interview last week, but why haven’t they called? Did they not like you? Did they offer the position to someone else? The possibilities are making your head spin.

Then all the sudden your phone rings. It’s the long awaited call you have been hoping would come and you hear those magical words, “We would like to offer you the position!” You jump up and down unable to contain your excitement. So many emotions are rushing through you….what a GREAT feeling!

Then your future employer tells you the salary they are going to offer you and PANIC sets in. Is that a good salary? Should I take it? Should I ask for more? How much do others make? All the sudden instead of being excited, you are more nervous than ever and have no clue what to say.

BREATHE! If you are worried this may happen to you, HAVE NO FEAR!

All you have to do is follow TWO simple steps!


Before any interview make sure you do salary and cost of living research. You never know when an employer will bring up salary and it is important to be prepared. It is crucial to know what people in the field you are planning to work in get paid. It is also important to research the cost of living and salaries in the specific area of the country that you will be living. For example, an engineer who works in a rural town in Minnesota with a low cost of living may make less than an engineer who works in an urban area with a more expensive cost of living such as Minneapolis.

Starting off at the right salary is important as the first salary that you receive will often play into the future raises you receive in that organization as well as your starting salary if you move to another company.

Below are a few great links that may help you as you conduct your research:


After researching salary and cost of living, make sure you prepare for the salary and benefit conversation itself. Here are a few tips:

  • Do not be the first person to mention a salary figure. If an employer asks about salary requirements or expectations, simply ask them first “what is the salary range for the position?”
  • Be respectful in your negotiations and approach the negotiation process with an open mind.
  • Have a range in mind based upon your research that we discussed above. Your range should start with the minimum figure acceptable to you and go somewhat higher than your desired figure.
  • Always start with a figure higher than your ideal. This gives you room to negotiate down and still result in the number you were hoping for.
  • Know your bottom line! At what point are you willing to walk away?
  • Remember to be creative in your negotiations. Keep in mind when negotiating that it is not all about the salary. Negotiate other benefits too, such as retirement and healthcare options, vacation time, childcare coverage, company vehicles and equipment, reimbursement programs for professional development, moving expenses, gym memberships, parking permits, education refunds, etc. All of these things add up and can really boost you financially!

Having worked in the Financial Aid Office here at MSU for the past three plus years I cannot stress to you enough how important it is to make sure that you are receiving a fair income. Always remember when negotiating salary to really prepare yourself and do the research, so that when that amazing opportunity arises and you get offered that dream job you will know exactly what to do!

Sources: http://www.mnsu.edu/cdc/students/jobs_and_internships/negotiating_salary.html

– Amanda Dolfin, Interim Financial Aid Advisor, Student Financial Services (former Career Development Center Intern)



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