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Negotiating Salary after a Traineeship

Looking for a job when the economy is going into recession isn’t going to be easy for this year’s graduates. But that’s precisely why the SGUnited Traineeship Programme was launched—to actively help new job seekers tide through this economic downturn and help them find traineeships on the path to a full-time.

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The next step might be even more daunting: negotiating a salary.

After the traineeship, hopefully you’ll be able to find a full-time job. And when that happens, you’ll have to talk numbers whether you like it or not. But just remember that salary is an essential aspect of your career and you always want to be paid a fair amount—but what exactly is a “fair amount” and how do you go about asking for it?  

Here are some tips on how to do it in acceptable and appropriate ways.

Know your value

Think about your experience—your performance at university, your extracurricular activities, your awards and recognitions. All of those things act as a basis for your proposed starting salary.

And once you go through a traineeship, you’ll acquire job experience to boot.

Ask yourself: how can you contribute to your potential job with everything that you’ve learnt so far? Employers want to know what you can offer their company, and that will also play a part in the level of compensation you deserve.

Here are some things to consider when negotiating your salary:

•    Education level
•    Hard and soft skills acquired during traineeship
•    Job requirements and fit

During your traineeship period, take the chance to pick up as many relevant skills as you can. All the things listed above can increase both your chances of a full-time employment and determine how well your employer should pay you.

If you already have an idea of your goals and company's requirements before you start your traineeship, make a list of skills and projects you could work on during your traineeship and be proactive about building your skill set and experience.

If you haven’t been actively keeping track of the projects that you’re involved in during your traineeship so far,  you can always refer to your Traineeship Development Plan that was given to you by your host company to find out the industry-relevant experiences that you’ve gained.

Assess your skills by writing down exactly how you have contributed to your host company as this can help you to negotiate your salary better when it comes to getting a full-time position. Let the hiring manager know all of the things you can offer to the job and why you deserve your desired pay.

Do your research on the general range of salary

As a fresh graduate, this is going to be your very first full-time job, and perhaps you haven’t got an idea of an expected salary for an entry-level position.

Every industry has a market average for specific job positions. Do your research on the median wage or basic salary for the industry that you’re pursuing your job in. It will give you a better idea of whether the compensation offered to you is too low.

Trainees get approximately 50% to 70% of the median starting salary of a novice full-time employee, depending on your academic qualifications as well as your experiences that you offer to the table. You can use your current training allowance and your performance as a trainee as a measure to determine your expected salary once you land a full-time job.

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Ask yourself these questions:

•    What are the other companies paying for similar job positions?
•    Does the job description match up to the salary being offered compared to the other roles in a similar industry?

Learn more about the company that has offered you the job and read through the job description so that you will be able to gauge for yourself the type of job requirements you are expected to fulfil.

Going for online career fairs or networking with other professionals in your desired industry can also help you to know better about the general range for an entry-level position. Keep up with industry trends so that you know the latest change in expected salary for various industries.

Even during the interview for a full-time job, the hiring manager may ask you about your expected salary. Giving a good range will also show how much you understand your desired industry and that you have done your homework.

Knowing the market average before negotiating your salary will make sure that you won’t overestimate how much the company should pay you as it could leave a negative impression on your potential employer.

Acknowledge the current financial climate

Other than researching the market range for your company and specific industry, it’s also vital to understand Singapore’s job market and financial climate as a whole.

As you already know, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the economy. Negotiating a salary during this period can be extra sensitive, but it’s definitely possible to ask.

Research on how well your potential company is doing and if they have been experiencing retrenchments or a budget constraint before you start negotiating. If your current host company has offered you a full-time position, you can also take note of how they’re doing during this recession to help you with the negotiation process.

After you’ve done your research, think about other reasonable compensations that you can ask for. For instance, it's still possible to ask for non-monetary benefits such as extra leave or allowance instead of an increase in the offered salary.

Remember to be tactful when asking and be understanding of your employer’s circumstances too.

Set a higher bar for yourself

After doing plenty of research on the general range of salaries for your desired job position, think about how much you want to negotiate your salary—how much more do you want to raise the salary after knowing what the company is offering you?

A good number would be about 10% to 15% higher than the offered salary. But of course, this is just a general recommendation. How high you want to raise the number would also depend on the skills you have or potential abilities specific to the job role.

Use the list of your hard and soft skills to negotiate—don’t let the list you’ve compiled previously go to waste.

For example, if you’re looking to be a graphic designer, and you’re confident of your proficiency in Photoshop or Illustrator, you can possibly ask for more than a 10% increase in the offered salary.

Don’t be afraid to set a higher number.

One basic rule that you should also follow, is to give your employer a number that’s slightly higher than your desired salary. If you’re still unsure about the exact number, you can always provide a range.

The chances are that they may negotiate that number down or decide on the lower end of your range, but it will still be a salary that you’re agreeable to.

Check your benefits

Every job will come with employee benefits on top of their salary—things like annual and sick leave, healthcare, or personal allowance.

You may know by now that employee benefits or CPF contributions are not included in your traineeship contract. But when you do land a full-time job, there are several benefits that you are entitled to as an official employee.

All these benefits are not part of your salary but are just as important in considering.

When negotiating your salary, always be flexible and open to other forms of compensation. Let them know that you can also compromise on other benefits, for example, more annual leave, medical insurance plans, or transport allowance.

If the hiring manager is not willing to increase your offered salary, maybe they’re more comfortable with increasing employee benefits.

Don’t shy away from asking about what benefits you’re entitled to. After all, both employee benefits and salary contribute to one’s level of job satisfaction.  

Be willing to give up the job

You may not end up with a favourable outcome when negotiating your salary. Many times, an employer may not be willing to budge on increasing your offered salary or offer additional employee benefits.

If so, you have to ask yourself if the job is worth the salary. Is there a potential promotion? Does the job description and offered salary match up?

Every decision you make has an opportunity cost. If you give up this job, you may or may not find another one that pays well. And if you do accept the current offer with lower pay, the things you learn could also create more job opportunities with better pay in future.

Don’t be afraid to reject an offer if you think that it doesn’t match up with your desired salary. But of course, you have to be realistic and practical about this.

Be confident

Negotiating your salary can be intimidating. You may be afraid of losing the job offer, coming off as snobbish, or feeling awkward about bringing up the issue of money.

But remember, be confident when you’re negotiating. After all, a salary is a measurement and appreciation of your abilities and skills (but of course, not a limiting factor). Think about how much you’ve grown throughout this traineeship and what are some of the things you can put forth to your employer to make them feel like you deserve a higher pay.
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If they present you with a job offer, it means that they know that you will be of value to the company.

So think carefully about what to say when negotiating your salary and always be polite when asking. Ask yourself questions and jot down a few pointers about why you think you deserve a higher pay. Maintain a neutral tone and be specific when negotiating.

No matter the outcome, every negotiation process is a practise for the next time, and you will definitely get better at it in time.

Everyone wants a high salary for sure. Who wouldn’t want a good-paying job?

But this is just the beginning of your career. Your first full-time job is when you’re just starting your career and is probably a job where your pay is the lowest. But it will always be an upward journey from here on out.

Be brave and good luck!

Stay connected!

There are so many things to learn about when it comes to job opportunities. With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting everyone, one way or another, be rest assured that you’re not alone in this traineeship journey.

If you are a fresh graduate of 2019/ 2020, or currently a trainee under the SGUnited Traineeship Programme, join Young NTUC’s LIT XChange Facebook Group community  to connect and exchange experiences with fellow graduates and trainees; get first-hand updates on career programmes including mentorship opportunities, jobs, career resources and more!

Be sure to follow the other Young NTUC’s social accounts including Instagram, Telegram and LinkedIn accounts to ensure you’re always up-to-date on the latest career-related contents to guide you on your journey!