In classrooms across campus, students spend thousands of dollars each year learning under distinguished professors and developing the professional tools needed to thrive in their industries. During their final semesters, soon-to-be graduates brush up their resumes and brave the job search — a process that oftentimes raises more questions than answers when it comes to searching for post-graduate opportunities.
According to Cordell Zalenski, a recent Harding accounting graduate, those entering the job market should have a solid idea of their market and know their financial worth beforehand in order to feel confident going into the workforce.
“Do your research and make sure you know how much the people in similar companies or industries get paid, and if that’s in the ballpark and feels fair to you,” Zalenski said. “Know what you are willing to get paid to do that job and know how much you are going to work.”
While researching the company and industry is a critical part of having a satisfactory salary, financial compensation is not the only critical element of the negotiation process. Jessica Counts, a Harding alumna and senior director of financial planning and analysis at Walmart, emphasized the importance of viewing a job offer in the context of location and cost of living.
“If I’m looking across different geographies, it’s about being able to think ahead and almost know how that fits into the budget,” Counts said. “Make sure the offer fits for the different places and, a lot of times, it is not as simple as putting two numbers side by side.”
Brian Harrington, director of the Center for Professional Excellence, often works alongside job recruiters who expect and anticipate job applicants to negotiate not just their salary, but their terms for employment.
“Negotiation is not all about the money,” Harrington said. “You can ask for tuition reimbursement, you could ask for more vacation time, you can ask for a different start date … If you want a moving expense — there are lots of things you can negotiate.”
Overall, professionals of all ages echo the importance of company culture and doing research to ensure prospective companies seek similar values and goals. One of the best ways to understand what a company offers is to ask them directly, according to alumnus Chandler Davis,
“Be very blunt and honest and transparent with the questions you ask when you are meeting and interviewing, whether it is formal or informal,” Davis said. “If you know other people in the company that are contacts and you know on a more personal level, ask them. Don’t be afraid to be transparent with them.”
Harrington said employers typically welcome questions about their culture and brand.
“Do your own research online. What does their brand say about them and then contact people you may know that work at that company,” Harrington said. “Or look at glassdoor.com. Their information will describe the culture.”