Careers

4 tips for negotiating your first salary when you have zero industry experience

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Just 38 percent of recent graduates negotiate their salary upon receiving a job offer, according to personal finance site NerdWallet. That's despite three-quarters of employers saying they typically have room to increase their first salary offer by 5 to 10 percent.

College and career coach Kat Cohen says that despite fear around negotiations, recent graduates must do a better job at confidently asking for the pay they deserve. After all, 84 percent of employers say an entry-level candidate will not be putting their job offer at risk by negotiating their pay, according to NerdWallet.

Below, Cohen, along with financial journalist and author Jennifer Streaks, share with CNBC Make It four tips that can help young professionals negotiate their first salary.

1. Do your research

In addition to using sites like PayScale and Salary.com, Cohen and Streaks say recent graduates should use their friends, mentors and colleagues as resources for determining their pay.

"If you have friends in a similar industry, use them," says Cohen, who is the CEO and founder of educational consulting firm IvyWise. "You don't have to ask them exactly what their salary is, but you can ask something like, 'What's a competitive salary for an entry level graphic designer position in New York?'"

Aside from using your peers as a resource, Cohen says your college career center can provide guidance because it often has useful data on entry-level jobs in various industries.

Streaks says once you've exhausted these resources and gathered an idea of what your pay range should be, you want to be sure to negotiate a salary that is at least in the middle of the two figures.

"If the range is $50,000-$70,000 you don't want to be at $52,000," says Streaks, "because that can set the tone for how much you get paid down the road."

2. Look beyond salary

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that benefits account for roughly 31 percent of your compensation package. That's why Cohen and Streaks say you should look at more than just your salary when entering a negotiation.

"You should look at compensation holistically," says Cohen. "This means reviewing the retirement savings, paid time off, commuter benefits and whatever other benefits are offered."

She says that in some cases, such as with tuition reimbursement, your benefits can actually help to cut down your monthly payments on a bill. In this situation, Cohen says, it should not be a deal breaker if a company can't increase its salary offer.

3. Don't undervalue your past experiences

No one expects a recent graduate to come out of college with years of professional work experience. But, employers are looking for candidates who hold a certain level of skills, expertise and knowledge. Cohen says that's why it's important for young professionals to not undervalue the work they did in school.

"If you had internships or volunteer experiences, then you need to explain them," says Cohen. "Make sure that every component of your job application, from the resume to the interview, is highlighting those experiences and be as specific as possible when referencing your skills and abilities."

Before an interview, young people should write out the things that set them apart from their competition, she says. Brainstorming these qualities, she says, will help you answer confidently. Those lines will also "serve as a reminder of what you're bringing to the table."

4. Don't make it personal

Before your negotiation meeting, Cohen says, you should practice your approach in the mirror or with a friend so that you're better equipped for the real conversation.

"Rehearse what you will say and how you will say it," she says. "And be sure to avoid discussing any personal financial concerns like student loan payments and rent. Instead, focus on the professional aspects that make you worth the salary you're asking for."

Cohen and Streaks agree that negotiations are never easy, but they say it's important for you to know that employers are eager to hire you so the ball is in your court once an offer is made.

"When you come to a company, everything like raises and bonuses are based off what you negotiate so that is why the beginning is so important," says Streaks, author of "Thrive Affordably." "You help set that up. So, while you may not have five or six years of work experience, there are other things that you may bring to the company that you need to emphasize."

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