This question was recently asked on an episode of Office Hours:
“After finishing my apprenticeship, my employer is ready to bring me on full time. They’ve asked me to make a salary requirement. I have absolutely no experience with this question. I don’t know what else to say besides ‘uh, I’d like all the money you can give me, thanks?’ Aside from not knowing what number to throw out, I also don’t know the etiquette and conventions around it. Any advice?”
1. Get an estimate.
Do a few Google searches for the salary people with similar jobs and similar experience make. This will give you an idea of what range is normal.
2. Know what you want.
Ask yourself a few questions. What amount would it take for you to survive? What would it take for you to be happy in this job? Don’t worry about nickel and diming every single bit that you can get if you like the job. The opportunities for more pay will continue to come.
Be honest with yourself. A simple way to make sure these numbers are accurate is to imagine presenting an amount to your company. What would you do if they come back and say that they’d rather not have you work there for the amount you want? If you find yourself saying that you’d rather not work there for anything less, then you’ve found a good number. But if you’re saying that you would still work there, but just wish you could get that much — you’re bluffing.
Finally, once you’ve determined the amount you’d be happy to work there for, a good rule of thumb is to add $5000 to it. They may say no or go lower, but they may say yes.
To put all that into a concrete example, say you’ve done the research and your job would typically pay anywhere from $25k-$45k. You’ve determined that you would be happy with $30k. Present $35k as your salary requirement.
3. Don’t worry about the etiquette and conventions.
In most roles, there aren’t any conventions. It isn’t like the dramatic meetings in movies where they write a number on a piece of paper and slide it back and forth across the table. It can be done over email or in person, whichever you feel the most comfortable with.