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Use these ideas to polish up your negotiating skill set.

Earning a solid first salary is important. Each subsequent raise you earn will be based on the previous amount you made — so the higher you start out, the more you stand to take home over time.

Yet almost half (49 percent) of U.S. workers accept the first offer they’re given, even though 45 percent of employers expect them to negotiate, according to a CareerBuilder survey.

Negotiating-salaryIf you’re currently fielding offers for your first-ever job, the following 6 tips can help you successfully negotiate the best possible pay:

  1. Do your homework: An employer may ask what salary range you have in mind, so do your research. Being unprepared may prompt you to give a spur-of-the-moment, way-too-low (or too high) response. Get a sense of what other companies pay for the position on job information sites like Salary.com and PayScale.com. Small companies may not pay the industry average, according to The Wall Street Journal, but knowing a general range can help you determine the lowest amount you’d feel comfortable accepting.
  2. Have a numbers strategy: If you feel the offer is too low, you can consider asking if the salary is negotiable or suggesting a higher amount — within reason — than what the employer suggested. Just be prepared to back up the amount with your research and prove your case, as highlighted in number 3 below.
  3. Proving your case: Sell your proposed salary by illustrating the reasons you should earn that amount. For example, highlight unique skills you possess that will help make the hiring manager’s job easier. For tips on how to effectively get your point across, check out U.S. News & World Report’s The Exact Words to Use When Negotiating Salary blog post.
  4. Try to discuss offers in-person or on the phone: Email negotiations may come off as impersonal and overly direct, according to The New York Times. Face-to-face, you may get a better sense of how your potential employer reacts to your request — and whether or not they are open to negotiating.
  5. Don’t try to counter if the company accepts what you asked for: If the amount you cited was $50,000, and the employer okays it, it probably won’t look good to ask for more, according to CBS News.
  6. Consider other job perks: Salary is an important factor, but it isn’t everything. Compensation packages can also include things like health care, vacation time and tuition reimbursement. So if the job looks like an interesting, rewarding position, but the pay isn’t quite as high as you’d like, consider asking for some extras to sweeten the deal — 33 percent of employers said they’d be willing to provide a flexible schedule if they couldn’t meet a job candidate’s salary requirements, according to CareerBuilder data, and 19 percent said they’d offer additional vacation time.

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