It’s Job-Hunting Season: How to Get the Salary You Deserve 1

It’s Job-Hunting Season: How to Get the Salary You Deserve

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at May 10 2021 02:10 PM

One tweet about a salary offer made to a fresh graduate from a private university caused so much buzz over Labor Day weekend, with people taking sides and arguing for the many shades of gray in between.

In case you missed it, the tweet came from the prospective employer who was scratching his head why his offer of a P37,000 monthly pay was turned down by a graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University. According to the tweeter @DearKume, she said no because she expects at least P60,000 in starting salary due to her educational background.

The ensuing comments were quite colorful, and not only gave @DearKume social media fame but even media coverage from various news sources. 

One comment caught my attention from a netizen: is there a polite way to ask for better pay? She was reacting to what many felt was an arrogant response from the fresh graduate to a six-figure annual salary offer that almost came to half a million pesos.

The answer is yes. There is always a polite way to do things, regardless of whether your answer is a yes or a no. But politeness should not get in the way of honesty, and you have to give the fresh graduate points for that. Many others will likely offer less truthful reasons, or simply ghost @DearKume after getting what to her was a disappointing offer.

You can be polite and honest, and while you may not get the salary you deserve, the chances of you being the subject of a passive-aggressive tweet could be much, much less. 

Job-hunting season should have started back in February for this year’s graduating batch, but with all things pandemic, timelines have become so fluid so there are those who just started. If you are negotiating for your first salary, let me share my life lessons on being robbed of better pay.

#1 Project pay versus monthly pay

Some companies, mostly consulting firms, will offer a project term pay versus monthly salary. The amount looks bigger – say P100,000 – until you look at the project length, which usually starts at 6 months. If you do the math, that means a monthly pay of about P16,670, which is just a teeny weeny bit higher than the minimum wage today. Worse, some contracts will state that you will work on the project, and any projects borne out of the main contract for the designated period. This means if your project finishes early, you have to keep working until the end of 6th month. Some contract even states that you have to finish the project and if it exceeds 6 months, no more extra pay for you.

#2 Commission pay on top of basic pay

Sales jobs tend to be focused on how much you sell and for fresh graduates, offers could come in a combination of pretty low basic pay and incentives or commissions for booked sales. If sales is not your skill, this could be waste of your time and your employer may only be taking advantage of your immediate contacts which include families and friends who cannot say no to you. Worse, you may be fired for not delivering on a sales quota and that’s a black mark on your resume. A real sales person can close a sale with strangers, and if the idea of doing this causes you to break out in hives, best to walk away.

#3 Low monthly pay but expect huge year-end bonus

You could be offered a low basic pay with a huge year-end bonus by some employers. The key word here is bonus, and that number is usually determined by how well the company did. Some years may be good, some years may be bad, and some years may be so-so. The bottom line here is that you cannot count on the bonus – so that just leaves the low monthly pay. If it’s not enough to cover your food and transportation costs to go to work every day, think hard.

#4 Paying a tuition, this time to your new employer.

I received an offer that was quite disappointing, considering I had already worked by then for a leading newspaper and for a high profile Senator. The employer explained that I should look at the difference in their offer and my expected salary as tuition paid to them, as I will have a steep learning curve if I join their company. That did not sit well with me, and unfortunately I accepted it. That feeling of being shortchanged stayed with me for the years I was with the company, and in part because my pay did not move as fast as the amount of work they piled on me and the many unpaid overtime hours I put in.

#5 Your first pay determines your future pay.

Part of the reason my decision in #4 haunted me was because your first pay or the pay you have when you start at a company will determine your pay from that time forward. After all, increases are pegged on current pay, and no employer will double your pay in the following year even if they realize that you are worth so much more. Thanks to the Asian Financial Crisis and the Global Financial Crisis and the market volatility in between, my employers had plenty of reasons to not give salary increases, or to promote with no salary increase or to give salary adjustments at rates lower than inflation (think 2 percent to 3 percent). 

Of course, landing your first job is not just about getting a high pay. It’s about being part of the right company, one that will be your second home for what we hope will be many good years. There’s also the skilled people in their team that can be your mentors and your peers. Plus the exposure the company can offer which may include travel around the country, the region or even across the world, when this pandemic passes. 

So my final advice is look for a career, not a job or great pay. Know what you want and go after it. If you like marketing, don’t work as a teller in a bank. If you like writing, don’t apply for a sales job. If you love what you do, it will make waking up early and going to work so much easier. And if the pay is not what you want and deserve, learn to say no now while you are not married, have no children to support, and your parents are likely still working and do not need your support. Good luck with job-hunting!

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Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.