By Sarah Landrum
Military personnel don’t have to negotiate salary. If they want a better one, they stay in and move up the ranks, and expect to be compensated accordingly. But not everyone stays for their entire career – many people choose to serve for a portion of their lives and then move back into the private sector.
Now, they’re faced with the challenge of negotiating – sometimes for the first time. It can be a tricky situation, and definitely requires creating a plan. Here’s what you need to know to do so successfully.
Remember That Benefits Will Be Different
When entering the private sector, things are going to change. Your boss isn’t always going to give you good healthcare; they’ll want you to pay for it. And you may find yourself suddenly overwhelmed with the choices.
In the military, you didn’t have many options for doctors or benefits. The private sector, however, has a wide variety. Company benefits are extended to include options like 401K, vacation and sick days, medical insurance, school reimbursements, company sponsored contests and other perks.
Remember to ask as many questions as you need to about benefits, and to do your research before accepting any deals.
Know Your Value
A military lifestyle taught you unique skills. You know how to work with people, be a leader and act independently, along with the specialties you learned. Don’t leave an interview without making sure your potential employer knows your value.
It’s also important to understand that you may be fighting an uphill battle. Most hiring managers aren’t interested in your military history – all they want to know is if you have a degree or not.
If you do, you may be a dream hire. But if you don’t, you could express interest in obtaining one. Many jobs offer tuition reimbursement, which you could get in addition to the GI Bill.
Learn the Industry
You’ll suddenly be dealing with a much larger pool of competition, so learn how to stand out. Get in touch with a professional resume writer, ask for feedback when you get turned down for jobs, and network to see who’s hiring off the radar.
Find out what the company made last year, what their average employee makes, what others in that industry make, and always consider location. Use online tools, such as Glassdoor.com or CareerOneStop’s Occupation Profile, to help you research companies and determine salary ranges.
Consider the Level
If you’re going into another federal job, or a job that is similar to what you did in the military, then your background may hold more weight. But if you’re planning to go in a different direction, you may very well be starting at an entry-level position.
This means you’re going to have to come to terms with the salary, benefits, grace period, and responsibilities that come with entry-level territory.
Thoroughly Understand the Position
Dig deep when inquiring what your day will look like. Ask for specific answers, so you can get a clear picture of your responsibilities. This will give you a better idea of the value of that position. Additionally, you should know the industry standard pay rate for the job.
Be Firm on Relocation
You might be willing to relocate after so much travel throughout your military career. But if you aren’t, you need to make that absolutely clear during the interview. Additionally, if you’re going to continue living near a military installation, remember that much of your competition is going to have many of the same experiences and background, so you’ll have to work extra hard to highlight your attributes.
Pretend You’re Buying a Car
While going about your negotiation, think of it like you’re shopping for a car. But, instead, you’re shopping for a job. And instead of negotiating a price, you’re negotiating a salary.
There are two key elements to car buying and finding a job:
- Preventing yourself from getting taken advantage of
Be like the ninety percent of people who research a car online before going to a car lot, and do your research about an employer before going to the interview. At the same time, remember that you’re not actually getting a car. Don’t try to “win” the negotiation by milking the employer for all you can. Focus on the job first, and the salary second.
Yes, the purpose of an interview is to get a job. But it’s also to determine if you’ll be a good fit. Your employer wants you to be happy and fit in. Statistically speaking, you’ll make a better employee if you do, and you’ll stay longer. Of course that’s what they want.
But you’ll likely know early on if the company won’t be a good fit for you, and it can be hard to admit that. Whatever you do, stay honest with yourself and your potential employer. It’s the right thing to do.
As you navigate the process of the interview and learn how to negotiate salary as a veteran, remember to keep these tips in mind. Good luck!
Check out the Online Transition Guide to learn more about negotiating salary!
About the Author
Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and the founder of Punched Clocks. Having grown up in a military family, Sarah is passionate about helping veterans reach their potential and realize their dreams. She shares advice on all aspects of the job search and career development on her career advice blog and on Twitter @SarahLandrum