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Get the Salary You Deserve

As you seek to transition from your current military assignment into the civilian working world, you are likely experiencing a vast array of emotions. You are probably excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. Maybe you are a bit anxious as you narrow your job search to accommodate your geographical preferences or nervous about finding the right fit for your skill set in the current competitive marketplace.

Whatever you are feeling, know you are not alone – every individual, whether transitioning from the military or simply from one civilian job to another, experiences these same emotions. However, the key to a successful transition is to manage these emotions during the interview process in order to set yourself up for future success.

Let’s face it, most of us are employed because it is an economic necessity. Your paycheck is important to you. During this transition period, ensure that you don’t get caught up in the excitement and trepidation of the job search and simply say yes to the first promising opportunity. Otherwise, several months down the road, while standing around the water cooler, you might realize that your co-worker Tom, who is doing the same job you are, makes $5,000 more a year.

Prior to accepting any offer, ensure that you are asking to be paid what you are worth by following these steps: 

  • Understand what you are worth. Before you interview, survey the scene and find out what the going rate is for the position. Resources on the web, military career centers and other organizations (such as your alma mater’s career counseling office) offer data on salaries relating to specific professions and geographic areas. Once you know the salary range for positions similar to yours, you’ll have an idea of what you can realistically expect to earn on the job.
  • Raise the issue. Do not just instantly accept an offer when an employer presents you with a new opportunity. Recognize that employers expect you to negotiate your salary and ask questions regarding benefits and perks. A good rule of thumb is to ask for an additional 10% of the original salary offer. If your prospective employer is unwilling to budge on the salary, attempt to negotiate other aspects of the offer. You might be able to get additional vacation days, or your company might agree to fund your advanced degree. Consider alternate means of compensation.
  • Do not be afraid of “no. ”  In your efforts to negotiate a better offer or larger salary, the worst that can happen is the employer says no. If the company’s representative holds firm on the original offer, you can still chose to accept the position. And you’ll be doing so with more information. You’ll never have to wonder what might have been if you had had the courage to ask for more. Most companies have an acceptable range of salaries for each position. As long as your request for an increase in the offer is reasonable, you’ll likely get what you ask for.
  • Be decisive. If the offer does not add up to the dollars you deserve, be prepared to walk away. Before you begin salary negotiations, know what the minimum salary you will accept is. If an employer can’t meet your reasonable salary requirements, move on.

Whether you are retiring from the military or simply looking for an alternative life path, a new career outside of the military is something to celebrate. You will have an extra reason to acknowledge your accomplishments when you negotiate the best deal possible. We wish you a very successful transition!

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Angie Morgan and Courtney Lynch

Lead Star, LLC was founded by Angie Morgan and Courtney Lynch, best-selling authors of the business book Leading from the Front (McGraw-Hill), who made a commitment to provide practical, relevant, and inspiring ways to grow and develop leaders. Lead Star teaches leadership based on Angie's and Courtney's experiences as Marine Corps officers, private sector professionals, and entrepreneurs. Lead Star's leadership expertise has been highlighted by FOX News, CNBC, and CNN and its efforts to spark a national dialogue on the topic of leadership have been noted in publications ranging from Inc. Magazine to The New York Times.

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