- Have you tried negotiating? You should always negotiate your salary when you’re looking for a new job -- understand that prospective employers expect that you will counter an initial offer. If the company suggests a rate that’s below what you’re currently making, be sure to let them know, and fight for them to at least match your current salary. Reiterate your current worth as well as market value for the job. If it’s a large company, they should have the budget to match your salary -- and if they can’t, run away from the offer. By not meeting your ask, the company is indicating it doesn’t value its employees, and you're likely to encounter this problem again if you take the job and try to grow within the organization. If it’s a smaller company that may not have the budget to match your previous salary, see if you can negotiate other benefits, like extra vacation, flex time, or stock options. You may be able to make up some of the lost paycheck value in other ways. If the gap is small and the company agrees to your terms, great. If they won’t budge, you should probably walk away. Not caving at all during a negotiation, especially when a candidate isn’t asking for more than they’re worth, is a huge red flag.
- How will this affect you down the line? If you’re transitioning from another career to entertainment, you may have to start at the bottom, and that will likely mean a pay cut. You can’t expect the salary from your consulting job to carry over to an agency assistant position. If you truly want to start over, a pay cut may be inevitable. But do your best to negotiate a slightly higher wage than the standard pay -- your previous professional experience makes you more valuable than someone straight out of college. However, if you’re staying in the same career path -- one side of entertainment to another, or simply a company transition, your salary history should follow you. If you low-ball yourself now, you’ll have a hard time justifying a larger pay increase down the line. Remember that most raises are determined by a percentage increase. If your salary drops from $60k to $50k, a performance raise of 10% wouldn’t even get you back up to the scale you started at. Consider if the opportunity is really worth the long-term sacrifice.
- Are there other positives of this new job? If the new job requires a pay cut, it absolutely needs to make up for it in other ways. Maybe it’s in another city where the cost-of-living is lower, and you’ll be able to afford to buy a home even in a lower income bracket. Maybe you’re tapped out of growth in your current line of work and a pay cut for a new job will set you up for a long-term career where you can thrive. Maybe your personal circumstances have changed, and you need something part-time or less intense so you can manage other aspects of your life, like health or parenthood. You’re the only one who can determine if a pay cut will create new opportunities. Just be sure that you’re thinking with your logical brain and not your desperate brain. It may help to sit down with a trusted partner or friend and weigh the pros and cons -- someone who isn’t desperate for a new job may be able to think more rationally and assess if your reasons/positives are real or excuses.
Often, when you’re applying for jobs, you can get desperate. If you’ve been looking for a while -- whether you’re unemployed or just plain bored -- you might start considering sacrificing some elements of your dream career just to find something now. You may even be considering a job that would require you to take a pay cut. But is that really a good idea? Before you say yes, you need to CAREFULLY consider the following:
Figuring out your salary is the most awkward part of the job application process, and arguably, it's the most important. You don’t want to lose out on a job because you aimed too high with ridiculous salary demands, but a low salary sets you up for lower earnings for years down the line. Remember, most raises are calculated on a percentage basis, and 10% of nothing is, well, nothing.
In entertainment, there’s very little you can do about your salary in your first entry-level position -- assistants are typically offered a certain rate, especially at agencies, and that’s that. But just because you don’t have much power to negotiate when you start your career doesn’t mean you should hold on to that bad habit forever! Before long, you’ll start getting a version of the question, “What are your salary requirements?” By the time you've gotten an offer for your second job, you should be ready to negotiate. So, how should you answer the question?
One big tip: Do your best to avoid throwing out a number first. Try to force them to show their cards, so you know what you have to work with. If HR asks about your salary requirements, pivot with, “Well, I’m actually curious, what is the salary range you anticipated for this position?” If you get an answer that’s way higher than you expected/wanted, that’s great! It gives you room to bring up other types of negotiations -- maybe for flex time or more benefits.
If the hiring manager doesn’t let you get away with the pivot technique, offer a range. The range should start at the lowest number you’re willing to take and go up $10-$15k from there, or whatever’s reasonable based on your research (hint: Glassdoor is a great resource for figuring out average salaries in your industry). They might only offer your minimum, but there's always a chance you'll get lucky with an offer that's in the middle or top of your range. What you’re trying to avoid here is giving a number that's lower than what they had in mind -- if you say you were thinking $60k, and they were going to offer $75k, they will probably accept your low standard, costing you a ton of money!
It's also hard to pivot when you're asked to enter your salary requirements in an online application. However, in some cases you can leave this section blank -- if the rest of your application is great, HR will ask when you get a screening call. If you must write something, write a range or a number in the middle of your range with “(negotiable)” or “(flexible)” next to it. Even better, skip the online application entirely, use LinkedIn to find a person in the hiring department, and email them directly (you'll have far more success in your applications if you can get your resume into the hands of an actual human).
Now sometimes, regardless of how you handle the salary question, HR will offer a lowball number, and you should counter with your demands, backing them up by reinforcing your qualifications and citing some research. If the company can't meet at least your current salary, you have to decide if you're willing to take a pay cut. And if you do, we hope you have a really good reason -- after all, you're not running a charity. In this case, it’s worth asking for non-monetary benefits that may make up for the salary gap. But a better option might be to wait for something that pays appropriately -- don't shortchange yourself.
The biggest thing to remember is to go in unafraid. If a company doesn’t hire you because you’re too expensive, you probably wouldn’t want to work there anyway. Decide what you're worth beforehand, and stick to your guns -- you'll thank yourself in the long run.