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Get your salary to accurately reflect your value

Negotiating your first salary can be tricky if you don’t know what moves to make. Last Tuesday the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW) hosted a panel that focused on the understated importance of negotiating your first salary. The panel consisted of Alexandra Carter, an award-winning negotiation trainer, a professor at Columbia Law School and the author of “Ask For More: 10 Questions to Negotiate Anything,” John Yearwood, the editorial director for diversity and culture at POLITICO, and the director of our center, Dr. Jeffrey Timmermans.

Here is a snippet of what the panelists had to say. You can also read the full recap here.

Start building where you are

Negotiating your salary is not just about the numbers on your paycheck: it’s also an important aspect of showcasing your value to the organization you’re interviewing with and that you know how to take charge, according to Carter.

Yearwood noted that journalists should reiterate their accomplishments on a previous job, even if it was their college paper. Whether it be getting a big scoop or working on a successful collaborative project, you don’t need to work at a major publication to prove your abilities.

“One of the things many of us have been reading about over the last few days is the story coming out of Northwestern, where the student newspaper there has really been kicking butt on the story about the coach,” Yearwood said. “So if you come to POLITICO with those kinds of stories and say you were deeply involved in breaking those stories, that’s something we would really want. So it’s really important to make those points clear when you’re negotiating.”

Crafting a connection

According to Carter, the first step in any salary negotiation is to do your research and not to focus only on the salary range for the position. Figuring out if the organization values years of experience, the quality or quantity of previous work, the ability to break stories, or a candidate having an entrepreneurial spirit can give you leverage when asking for a specific range.

Echoing Carter’s sentiments, Timmermans noted that before initiating talks about money, you should make a case for yourself and invest time in researching the company you’re interviewing with. 

“Show you care, show you’re interested, show you’re curious,” Timmermans said. “And maybe give some ideas, or just even compliment something you saw in the paper or publication in the last few days that you thought was really good, and say why you thought it was good. That means so much because this is a negotiation, but it’s also creating a personal connection with somebody who could be your boss.”

Putting your best foot forward

It’s also no secret that a number of media companies are facing economic headwinds and cutting staff, which can make negotiating a salary even more daunting. But Carter suggests using “and instead of but” in order to continue advocating for yourself.

“So instead of ‘I know times are tough and we’ve had job losses, but I also need to be valued appropriately,’ it could be … ‘I know that things have been tough and I also know that in this position I’m poised to bring a tremendous amount of value,’” Carter said.

“You also want to research yourself,” Carter said. “That may sound strange. But you want to think about how you’re packaging your strengths.”

See more of what the panelists had to say here.


  • Sam Ellefson

    Sam holds dual degrees in journalism and film studies, along with a political science minor, from ASU. During his undergrad, he served as the editor-in-chief of State Press Magazine, ASU’s independent, student-led print and digital magazine. Starting...

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