an entry-level candidate with no job history wants more money for their “experience”

A reader writes:

I have a question for you as to whether or not this is a red flag for a potential new hire. I am hiring someone for an entry-level position. It is meant for someone straight out of college and new to the field who is interested in learning a lot, meeting loads of highly connected people, and launching a potentially awesome career. I’ve set the salary to be a little above what other orgs our size do for this position to make it more competitive and retain staff. This seems to have worked well over the years.

I recently offered the position to a candidate and they came back to me with a counteroffer on the salary. I get this periodically, so this doesn’t bother me — I’m glad people are advocating for themselves. The issue is the way that they asked. First they said that other employers pay significantly more and quoted a salary that is really meant for someone with several years of experience. Believe me when I say that I have done the research and the number they were citing is not for entry-level employees. Then they cited their experience as the reason why they would be paid this amount. But Alison — they just graduated college and have never held a job before. The only thing I could think of on their resume that they might have been referring to as “experience” was having graduated from a prestigious college. This position does not require a prestigious college degree and they were not hired based on this background.

My alarm bells started going off and now I’m very worried that I’ve made a terrible decision. They haven’t yet accepted the position and I’m wondering what I should do. Advice I have gotten has ranged from this indicating really bad judgement and I should revoke the offer, to they are just getting bad advice from their college’s career center and I should ignore it. In theory this person was following basic rules of engaging with a potential employer: give a counteroffer on salary and cite competing salaries and your experience when you do so. But you actually do need something to back that up, which this person lacked and therein lies my concern. Your thoughts?

There is a ton of terrible guidance out there for people just entering the workforce (and everyone else, for that matter) — from parents, friends, campus career centers, books, and otherwise reputable mainstream publications.

There’s also a lot of advice that, as you note, makes sense for someone with more experience and leverage, but not for someone at the very start of their career. And very rarely do you see caveats that say “wait, don’t do this if you’re brand new to working.”

So it’s very likely that someone told this candidate to approach the job offer this way … or that they read one of the many “always negotiate” articles out there and didn’t apply critical thinking skills to realize that “cite your experience!” doesn’t apply when you don’t have experience.

Because they’re young and new to all this, and because there’s such awful advice out there, I’d cut them some slack unless you’ve seen other worrying signs from them. If this is the only troubling thing you’ve seen and everything else is great, this isn’t something to pull the offer over. (But do look back and see if anything else from the hiring process now reads differently to you.)

But you can absolutely make the points you want to make to this person — and you should, because it’s useful information for them and because it sets the boundaries in the right place from the start.

Ideally when the candidate said that other employers pay $X, you would have said, “Those salaries are typically for people with several years of experience. Our offer is actually on the high end for entry-level work in this field.” And when they said their experience warrants more, you’d ask point-blank, “What experience are you referring to? My understanding is that this would be your first job.” (Maybe you did say those things!)

But absent other red flags, I’d put this in the category of “people brand new to the work world often stumble in weird ways.” And I’d also be very quick to address any additional signs of cluelessness about norms once they start working for you.

{ 377 comments… read them below }

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      As a fresh grad, how is she to tell the difference between someone who says an offer in non-negotiable and someone who uses that bit as their initial negotiating tactic. But a lot of people do do that.

      1. Coder von Frankenstein*

        It’s fine that she tried to negotiate, OP says as much. The problem is citing your experience when you haven’t got any.

        1. Scarlet2*

          Yeah, trying to negotiate a higher salary on the basis of your “experience” for your first job is just ridiculous…

  1. Polymer Phil*

    I agree with Alison. It’s likely this kid is just following bad advice and isn’t necessarily going to be a problem employee.

    1. Mayflower*

      Normally I would agree but in this case my money is on the candidate “having graduated from a prestigious college”. This candidate has just spent four years being told over and over how special they are compared to the general population. They have also “just graduated college and have never held a job before” which is typical for someone whose parents are paying for everything so they don’t need to work during summer months. Combined with the ham-fisted negotiation tactics, I would say these are red flags.

      1. Airy*

        They’re not traits that are fixed in the person forever and guaranteed to make them a pain in the bum. It may be possible to resolve the worst of this with a clear conversation.

      2. Mephyle*

        Good points to Airy, too. These are traits that are the product of circumstance, not of innate character, and can potentially be changed with guidance and experience.

      3. Carterwhal*

        By first job they may just mean first adult job. They may have just left the work they did previously off if it was in no way related to their chosen profession. Either way how they paid for college is not relevant to the negotiation.

        I agree the negotation tactic was not great, but not anything I would consider that egregious. It sounds like a young kid got bad advice and may look back in 6 months sheepishly at this when they understand the industry better.

      4. give em a break*

        I’m not sure what you are basing “being told over and over again how special they are” on, other than just simple distaste for such schools and the people who attend them. It’s not as if Bio 101 at some schools is about bio, and at others you spend a bit of time on dissecting frogs and the other half the professor just tells you over and over again how truly better than everyone else you are.

        There are plenty of people at “prestigious” schools who are from disadvantaged backgrounds (a sizable fraction of kids at Harvard come from families make under $20k a year and 2/3 of undergrads work during the year according to their financial aid site) so I’d second guess the preconceived notion that everyone at those schools is from very wealthy backgrounds and are all entitled brats.

        If anything going to a competitive school is more likely to make you insecure and nervous about your ability to succeed in the workplace since you just spent four years surrounded by people with similar or greater levels of drive and talent. I think the advice is spot on. If candidate threw other flags, be concerned, but otherwise assume this is from bad career center/internet advice.

        1. serenity*

          I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that, IMO, when AAM community members comment on higher-ed issues there is almost always hyperbole, preconceived notions, and lack of knowledge of the field apparent in the overwhelming majority of comments.

          Also, IMO, the top-tier schools are *more* cognizant than most that today’s job markets are highly competitive regardless of your degree background, and they try to inculcate this into their students. And, as you say, some of the biggest Ivy League schools now have need-blind admissions and many undergraduates are from underprivileged backgrounds. If your awareness of higher-ed stopped at 1997 you probably wouldn’t know this, but here we are.

          The canard that “all college career centers are BS purveyors” and “elite schools are out-of-touch ivory towers” is not fair or accurate, and I wish Alison did a better job at being alert to this. Again, IMO.

          1. serenity*

            And, for what’s it worth, there’s a definite double standard when it comes to hearing from people working in this field.

            When commentators with science/engineering backgrounds weigh in on letters related to those industries, everyone (rightfully) tends to defer to their lived experiences and what they have to say. When people in higher ed do the same, commentators tend to dismiss them with “Oh, I heard otherwise from my neighbor’s cousin’s former boyfriend who used to work in a university in 2002 and clearly he knows better”.

        2. Kathleen Becker*

          I rarely comment, but actually there is a HUGE gap in academic standards and quality of programs at different institutions. And I’m a community college grad myself. I’m a lot more impressed with someone who has a degree in Bio from MIT than from Western Illinois University. Likewise, much more impressed by a sociology degree from UChicago than pretty much any other school in the country.

      5. leighanneg*

        I seem to recall a previous article where someone wanted to use their college experience as relevant work experience. It’s possible they are looking at it that way (or were told to) .

  2. Ops manager*

    I do a lot of hiring of entry level workers.

    This is absolutely become a thing in the last year or so. I think it’s a combination of the economy being relatively good in my area and all the dumb ‘always negotiate’ articles, which seem to be geared toward woman in particular. Literally I explained to a candidate that the salary was set and isn’t negoatiable, and she responded she thought companies would always give you a little more, and seemed super insulted.

    I would like to just put the salary on the job ad, but that got vetoed by HR. I’m happy people we advocating for themselves, I am not happy they are doing it poorly without critical thinking. I don’t think you should pull the offer, just watch her. She will either be fine or be like one of mine who after 6 months wanted a raise.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      I would view it as a red flag if the compensation package was not negotiable in any way. It would definitely make me question what the person would be like to work for.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s such a difficult situation to assess from a hiring perspective, because how could the candidate know it wasn’t negotiable in any way unless that was disclosed? And given how often certain candidates are low-balled (POC, women, etc.), combined with the asymmetry in information, it’s so difficult for a candidate to know when to go to bat or when to stand down.

        1. RUKidding*

          Agreed 10000%! Especially women and POC should at least *try* to negotiate or at least ask if it’s set in stone. Too many, many, MANY times they don’t because…old white guys’ club and end up screwed over.

          1. Namelesscommentator*

            The only exception to this is when they’ve asked your range and meet/exceed it.

            I’m a woman and was just offered a position where the salary/benefits exceeded what I had given as my range. I wasn’t about to negotiate on principle as some form of activism.

            I also think we need to back of the idea that women/POC owe any form of activism to society. Here, it is so easily translated to victim blaming “they get paid less because they didn’t negotiate.” No. They got paid less because an asshole employer lowballed them.

            1. Jasnah*

              Agree so hard to your last paragraph. Women/POC are the ones who would leave a bad impression if the negotiations go badly (“she was pushy/bossy”). So it’s up to companies to start paying them what they’re worth, not individuals to start gambling with their employment (ie always being aggressive with salary).

              1. Namelesscommentator*

                Of course.

                But you don’t have to be a POC or woman to share that moral burden. And all too often it’s assumed that the people harmed by discrimination have some obligation to make it better, even when that puts them in the line of fire. They don’t.

          2. MsSolo*

            Actually, current research suggests women do ask, but they don’t get, not nearly as much or as often as men (see link in name). It’s a bit of a myth that the gender pay gap is down to lack of gumption; though there are some demographic shifts that make it more credible in some groups that others, it’s ultimately a victim blaming tactic that allows businesses to justify their paygaps without examining them.

        2. Gum tree*

          Fully agree with PCBH. If OP were a man, no one would be batting an eyelash if he tried to negotiate.

          Ops manager, you are being sexist for faulting women from negotiating. And in fact I agree with Trout Weaver, too: a company that says “nothing is negotiable” is a red flag (for men and women both).

          1. Marthooh*

            Weird. The candidate’s gender isn’t mentioned, nor is OP’s. Nobody’s batting their eyelashes. I too agree with PCBH that it can be hard to know when to negotiate. Accusing Ops manager of sexism because they offer non-negotiable entry level salaries seems pretty extreme.

            1. biobotb*

              Ops manager explicity refers to “she” in their comment. Why are you saying the candidate’s gender wasn’t mentioned?

          2. Drago Cucina*

            Having just hired 4 new people this past week I would do a whole lot of eyelash batting. I don’t know the gender of the OP or applicant. In my hiring it wouldn’t make a world of difference in my offers or expectation of behavior.

            Sometimes things are non-negotiable. I have x number of dollars for the position. Policies control benefits. It’s not helpful to read sexism where there is none.

          3. Ops manager*

            The whole reason I don’t negotiate with entry level candidates is to avoid sexism.

            When I did, men would negotiate and get more. So I stopped, and gave everyone the same, and wouldn’t negotiate with anyone. My thinking is they all have no experience and the salary offer is fair based on competitors.

            1. Ops manager*

              I also don’t fault anyone for negotiating.

              I fault people for having a bad attitude when I explain that we don’t negotiate with any entry level candidates.

      2. CeeDee*

        Even as a new grad with none, to little, to limited experience? I would agree that salary is negotiable if you have experience. But its also on the candidate to know what a reasonable starting salary is, even fresh out of college. I know it was 20 years ago, but my career center helped us understand when to negotiate. It might also be said that if a college grad DID have experience, then they would know how much they are worth and would know if the salary was too low. The company would also, HOPEFULLY, offer an experienced graduate more than the starting salary of someone with NO experience.

        1. Not in US*

          Here’s the thing, I had paid internships in uni – and when I graduated, I expected I would make at least even to what I did on my internship. I got laughed out of interviews – well no, actually, I didn’t get laughed out because no one was that honest, that might have been better. In hindsight I didn’t get jobs because when asked salary expectations I told them what I expected which was not realistic but it took be 7-8 in person interviews to figure it out. I ended up accepting a contract that made almost 8K less than I did as an intern. Why? Because there are government subsidies in my country for the internships (at least there were when I was a student – I’ve been out a long time). So yes, the grad should know, but sometimes there are reasons for the disconnect that new grads don’t figure out right away. I also didn’t get great advice from parents, etc.

          1. CeeDee*

            That can make a WORLD of difference, being not in the US. And that all makes sense. It really does suck that normal “adult” things aren’t taught at some point before being told “ok, you’re ready here’s a kick in the pants figure it out!”

            I also realize that things change. When I interned and worked summers in jobs where it was more of a pre-entry level job, I made like $15/hour (in the early 2000s) for co-op position. I paid for basically everything myself. At my company and others in the past, interns (like 3 month interns) make $35/hour, have their housing, internet, cable, utilities all paid for. I wonder if that makes a difference in the skew too.

            1. MayLou*

              I was wondering how much this is a US thing, because here in the UK (at least for the sorts of jobs I and my wife have – both public sector, she’s in healthcare and I’m in education), negotiating salary is just not a thing. I’ve got an interview tomorrow and it said on the advert that the position, a temporary role to evaluate a project, would pay a set amount to cover expenses including travel. I wouldn’t even dream of trying to negotiate. I’ve never been asked to suggest a salary either. Perhaps it’s a public sector/private sector thing, but when I worked in retail it also didn’t seem like a situation where I could negotiate.

              1. Caoimhe*

                Having worked primarily in the UK, I’ve always negotiated salaries, and have worked for both commercial companies and charities (although in the publishing sector). Whilst there has typically been a set salary band for the role, I have had some success in negotiating the salary up significantly within that band so that I sit on the higher end of the band. I think it only works in areas where a. you have experience and b. you know what a reasonable wage is, considering the role as a whole. However, absolutely agree that this is likely different from in the public sector!

              2. CeeDee*

                I have quite a few friends in the education realm. From what they tell me, their salaries are more standardized (based on employer) for meeting certain criteria. Like a fresh out of school teacher has a fairly well known starting salary, and then it increases based on experience, additional degrees/trainings/certifications, and additional “jobs” through the school. I know some healthcare, but not all, is very similar as well, it just depends on who is actually footing the bill from an ownership standpoint.

                1. Marion Ravenwood*

                  NHS and the civil service were pretty similar in my experience – you came in at the bottom of the pay band for your role, and then your salary would move up the pay scale depending on time in the job. It’s eight and five years respectively since I left those jobs though, so happy to be corrected if things have changed since!

                2. Anonymeece*

                  I work in higher ed and staff positions are non-negotiable. Faculty positions are.

                  Even then, though, if there’s no experience, what on earth could you negotiate with?

              3. Marzipan*

                Yeah, I’ve also worked in the types of UK jobs where there’s a fixed payscale. You could maaaaybe negotiate to start at a higher point on the spine, if you had lots of relevant experience, but otherwise it’s very much ‘your salary will be X and then at this date it will go up to Y and then a year later to Z’ kind of thing.

              4. londonedit*

                In the UK I think it’s definitely a public/private sector thing. I’ve only ever worked in the private sector, in publishing, and there’s no such thing as pay grades or pay scales or set salaries. There are vague notions that a junior editor gets paid around X, a commissioning editor gets paid about Y, but nothing is set in stone and most companies are happy to negotiate. Most will have a salary band, depending on experience, and it’s totally possible to say that you’re looking for a salary towards the top end, or even to ask for a little more – there’s never any harm in asking, as long as you’re not asking for something way above the norm!

              5. Lucy*

                I am UK and have always worked in the private legal sector, and I have always negotiated salary. Public sector with banding (or when I worked retail with standard hourly rate) is a completely different thing.

                Often there isn’t much wriggle room, but once I negotiated an early entry into the pension scheme instead.

                1. Lucy*

                  (realise my first sentence doesn’t make sense. As long as I have been working in the legal field, so say six months from graduation to now, it has been in private practice rather than public sector or non-profit)

            2. GreatLakesGal*

              $35/hour and all expenses paid? I’ll intern for you! That’s a better deal than I have now after 30 years in my profession.

        2. n*

          This stuff is so hit or miss. And when you are a woman or poc or a woman of color (as I am), there are all these issues of self-worth that go into this stuff.

          I was a non-traditional student, so I had some work experience, went back to college, and decided on a career change. So, even though I had more experience on my resume, the recent grad date made me look like I was fresh out of school. I applied for entry-level jobs in a new field, and received very strong messages of, “this is our range, no negotiation.” It didn’t occur to me to ask for more, because while I had experience, it wasn’t directly related to the roles I was applying for.

          I recently found out that my predecessor, who was 20 years old when she started, negotiated her offer to $3,000 more than mine, based on her “experience,” which was 8 months at another job.

          So, naive gumption paid off in her case. And my awareness of norms (and lack of self-confidence) held me back.

          Lesson learned. I’d rather come off as a whippersnapper full of gumption next time than lose out on thousands of dollars.

          1. Yes Viriginia*

            Gumption often pays off. The reason it gets dissed on this site is that (1) the blogger is a quasi-celebrity, and she doesn’t appreciate the need for non-celebrities to differentiate themselves, and (2) members of the commentariat who bemoan “gumption” are either jealous or very timid personalities.

            1. thankful for AAM.*

              I think I have learned here that gumption too often means asking for unreasonable things or taking over projects when you are told not to. It has nothing to do with working hard to earn a reputation that distinguishes you from others.

            2. Drago Cucina*

              No, “gumption” also means not following the directions/instructions for the application. Following the directions is actually part of the hiring process.

            3. Long-time lurker*

              I think the hiring managers in the commentariat have long ago confirmed that ‘gumption’ wasn’t a consideration in their decisions. The advice from AAM is the real-world advice that ISN’T given elsewhere.

              More often than not, AAM includes caveats that spell out (in plain language) when, where and why a little initiative (within reason) from a candidate might have an impact. That ‘within reason’ and ‘might’ is key and frequently misunderstood.

              The gumption of our parents’ generation is no longer applicable to the vast majority of jobs… and, that kinda sucks. But, it’s also the truth.

            4. Ask a Manager* Post author

              The blogger is not a quasi-celebrity (??). The reason gumption gets dissed on this site is that it will hurt you far more often than it will help. In the rare cases where it works, you’ve just screened for a manager who responds to gimmicks and flash rather than merit, and those managers are really not good to work for.

              The way you differentiate yourself is having a strong resume that shows a track record of achievement in ways that are relevant to the job and writing a cover letter that’s personalized and adds something beyond what’s on your resume. That right there will take you into the top 3-5% of applicants for most jobs.

      3. Sarah N*

        This is so common in certain industries though, and often has nothing to do with the working atmosphere in that particular job. For example, a lot of government work has really set pay schedules and they basically plug you into a formula, and that’s that. Now, there are other reasons you might not want to sign up to work for the federal government right now, but I don’t think this is one of them. The non-negotiable thing can also be common in union workplaces. Obviously if “totally non-negotiable” is weird for a certain industry, that could be more of a red flag. But as a job candidate, I think you do need to do your research in terms of what is normal for the type of job you’re applying for.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Yeha, for mine, the salary is negotiable, as are schedules, but none of the benefits are. Things like PTO are set on a scale based on years of service to the company, and our insurance types and coverage are what they are.

        2. Call me St. Vincent*

          You can negotiate for federal government jobs–usually what step on the scale they bring you in at. There is flexibility generally component by component.

        3. Brett*

          > For example, a lot of government work has really set pay schedules and they basically plug you into a formula, and that’s that.

          Just as a note, when you run into this, what is plugged into the formula can be negotiable.

          One of my co-workers at old job (local government) negotiated:
          Counting his uncompleted undergrad degree from 15 years ago as a graduate degree (because he was working on an combined bs/ms and had to drop out due to a personal issue).
          Counting his undergraduate education as four years of work experience.
          Counting a team lead position for a team of 4 as a managerial position for a team of 200 (because he made high level technical decisions, even though he had no employee management responsibility).
          Counting 4 years of experience at one company as 8 years, because he worked a lot of 80 hour weeks.

      4. Colette*

        My last 2 jobs (if not more) had standard vacation and benefits – you could not negotiate for more. These are large employers who generally treat their employees well. You do negate salary – but that’s it. But salary is only negotiable if they’ve offere you less than they’re willing to pay. If they’ve offered you a salary that’s inline with market rates and their internal guidelines, you’re not gong to to get more. In other words, nothing would be negotiable – even though they’re great places to work.

        1. abba1942981*

          if the vacation is set to number of years of service, doesn’t that cut against hiring experienced applicants, who will find their vacation time reset to entry level?

          1. Hillary*

            At most companies I’ve worked for the vacation is tied to the grade level. Someone coming in entry level starts with x, someone coming in mid-career starts x+y, someone senior might be x+y+z.

          2. katelyn*

            I’ve worked companies where the vacation is set to years of service, but have successfully negotiated that to be interpreted as my years of service in the industry and not just at that company. I’m not going back to entry level vacation entitlement after getting my family used to my current allotment at 20+ years of service. It’s never been an issue…

            1. Yes Viriginia*

              I’ve worked companies where the vacation is set to years of service, but have successfully negotiated that to be interpreted as my years of service in the industry and not just at that company.

              Exactly. Everything is negotiable. (MAYBE excepting some union contracts or government jobs.)

              1. Long-time lurker*

                “Everything is negotiable” is factually wrong based on the comments in this thread alone.

          3. Polymer Phil*

            A lot of companies are starting experienced hires at 3 weeks in order to be competitive with the jobs they’re trying to lure the person away from. Everyone wants 30-year-olds, and no one wants to train new grads. I suspect the recent implosion of rural America and growth of coastal cities may also be a part of this – a young professional married couple in 2019 needs a week to visit the husband’s family, a week to visit the wife’s family, and a week to go on an actual vacation.

            I’ve been advised that an extra week of vacation is often an easier thing for a hiring manager to grant during a negotiation than a higher salary, which may be set in stone by company policy. It’s worth asking for, especially if they want to start you at one or two weeks.

          4. Emily K*

            At my company we have job tiers. If you’re in the bottom half of the bands, you start with 3 weeks, then you get 4 at 5 years of service, then you get 5 at 10 years of service. If you’re in the top half of the bands, you just start with 4, and still get bumped to 5 at 10 years of service. So after 5 years tenure everyone has the same amount of vacation regardless of seniority, but if you’re in your first 5 years senior employees get a week more than junior ones.

      5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        + a lot.

        I get it that a candidate should have an objective picture in their head of what they are worth, and negotiate based on that, not on “companies will always give you a little more if you ask” or whatever. But a lot of us did get screwed on pay at some time or another in the past; women in particular. A dearly beloved OldJob pulled a bait and switch on me when they first hired me. They’d told the recruiter, before he’d sent them any candidates, that the pay would be X. Then when they made me an offer, the pay was suddenly “X minus 14% and not negotiable”, but wait, it gets better. My boss told me he realized it that they’d given me significantly less than they’d promised, and that he’d make up the difference come the next pay raise. At the next pay raise though, I was greeted with a 2% COL increase and a “the HR will never approve the kind of raise you’re asking for”. I really enjoyed working there and still have friends from there 13 years after I left, but we definitely did not start on the right foot.

      6. Mystery Bookworm*

        I think it depends what you’re bringing to the table. If you have a lot of info about the market and the job expectations don’t seem aligned with the market salary they’re offering, then I think it’s a really fair topic for conversation

        That said, I do know of companies that are great to work for and don’t (or very rarely) negociate on salary. One of the main justifications for this is that instead of rewarding people based on the market rate for their work, you can start rewarding people for their negociating skills – and those really aren’t the same thing.

        If a company is offering competitive rates, and you as a candidate aren’t bringing any particular extras that would merit more, then I think it’s not a bad sign for the company to stand firm on an offer.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yep, and some companies are doing less negotiating than they used to because they want to ensure internal salary equity along race and gender lines.

          1. Jamey*

            That’s exactly why we don’t negotiate, at my company where I run the hiring for my team. We’re very clear with people that we don’t negotiate and that the reason is because we’ve made a decision about how much the role is worth, that’s how much we pay our current employees at that role and level, and we don’t want to reward people just for being good at negotiating or penalize them for not being, for reasons of pay equity.

            1. Triplestep*

              I hope you give the salary up front in that case! Seems like a no-brainer but I had a company make me an offer without having mentioned the salary, then pull the offer when I tried to negotiate.

              My daughter negotiated in her first job after college (and used this blog to for interview and negotiation tips). They did not mention salary at all during the interview process, then offered something that was low even for entry-level. She countered and they told her “oh no, that’s the salary.” She then asked if she could have a stipend because she was still on her parent’s health insurance and would not be availing herself of the employer’s. The director took that question to the exec director who gave her a little salary bump.

              So it all worked out, but wouldn’t it have been better to discuss salary before the offer?

            2. Yes Viriginia*

              That’s exactly why we don’t negotiate, at my company where I run the hiring for my team.

              In a good economy, if enough people turn down your offers, you’ll either (1) negotiate directly, or (2) up the stated salary (which is just an indirect form of negotiating), or (3) really settle for the dregs of the applicant pool with no other options.

          2. Phony Genius*


            It would interesting if you could do a column on this. Is it possible to balance pay equity and salary negotiations?

      7. Czhorat*

        One of my first jobs was a with the phone company; the union contract gave exact salaries for pretty much every position based on seniority. Whatever negotiation existed was done collectively with each new contract.

        Different industries are different, but there is no blanket rule “salary must be negotiable” or “salary must be fixed”.

      8. Best cat in the world*

        I think it depends massively on the job, my pay and benefits is completely and utterly non-negotiable, but I work for the NHS in the UK so there is a set salary for each role and a set salary progression for that role.

      9. LawBee*

        My salary is totally negotiable – I’m coming to the table with years of experience and subject matter knowledge, etc etc. My legal admin’s salary was not. She came to us fresh out of college, no office work experience whatsoever, and honestly was barely able to work the computer. (I honestly don’t know what’s going on in undergrad institutions these days.) There was no basis for paying her the same as a two- or three-year employee.

        When she eventually leaves us to work somewhere else, she’ll be in a position to negotiate for more pay.

          1. Falling Slowly*

            LawBee is stating their viewpoint based on their experience, as we all are. There’s no need for making personal attacks, if you believe there’s another angle to consider you could simply say so without your first sentence.

      10. Hobbert*

        That’s so dependent on industry, though. I’m in local law enforcement and we don’t negotiate at all. You qualify for a certain salary based on language skills, college, experience, etc. but you can’t negotiate your way to more without qualify for one of our incentives. I can retire in a few years and I’m really nervous about potentially negotiating a salary for myself because I’ve never worked anywhere but public safety and we just don’t do that.

      11. snowglobe*

        I actually can see that being a positive sign IF the salary they offer is competitive for that job and with that level of experience. When companies are willing to negotiate, they often end up with salary disparities, and that can often negatively impact certain groups of people. If the company does their research and offers a competitive salary with no negotiation, that can mean that the salary is fair, and you don’t have to worry that the person sitting next to you with the same experience is earning 30% more because they negotiated better.

      12. Robm*

        The bit that raises a red flag for me is less the salary not being negotiable but the combo of that plus not publishing it in the job advert.

      13. I'm Not Phyllis*

        For a lot of positions in my work place, salary is non-negotiable. Jobs are evaluated every three years, union does stuff, you’re put in a grid and boom – there’s your salary. It’s set, and there is no wiggle room. And it BAFFLES me that this is the practice and yet we still don’t put salaries on job ads.

        That being said, management positions are negotiable, based on experience.

      14. Middle School Teacher*

        Well, teachers in my province are all on a pay grid and there is no negotiation. There is a government body that assessed education and you are placed on the grid depending on education x experience. No negotiating. Same with benefits package; the board sets the package, and you either get the full package, or a prorated version if you’re part time.

        I’m guessing you’ve mainly worked in the private sector? There seems to be more room there (a friend recently negotiated herself a $35000 raise).

        1. Yes Viriginia*

          This is a great example of why the private sector is still better than the public sector, and non-union is better than union. Merit gets rewarded, people who take risks get rewarded.

          1. LCL*

            It’s not that simple. My experience has been, in regard to how the employees are treated overall (I’m not a fed) the government and union jobs are much better. I will say that private companies are much more susceptible to building peer relationships and calling it a merit system.

          2. Middle School Teacher*

            Cool. I’ll remember that when I’m drawing my (very generous) government pension, in addition to CPP. Personally I would rather have safety and security.

          3. Dust Bunny*

            Never mind that the influence of unions made jobs better more or less across the board. Overtime? Workman’s comp? Yes, please.

          4. Decima Dewey*

            And in the public sector with union protections, it’s possible to take a risk on a promotion. Decades ago, I accepted a promotion. I failed as a supervisor. But, thanks to union protections, I was able to reclaim my old spot as a subordinate librarian. In a non-union place, I probably would have been fired.

      15. FTW*

        I don’t think it is automatically a red flag. For entry level roles, my firm does not negotiate. At all. Our salary offers are very competitive, and we have absolutely fantastic benefits.

        The upside is that everyone starts out on equal terms; there is no opportunity to pay any demographic more/less for any reason. This makes sense because there is not a lot of differentiation and experience when you’re just out of college.

        It also says the firm time of not negotiating with a large volume of entry-level hires.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I am similarly situated – we do not negotiate entry-level offers, though we will take into account objective factors like advanced or specialized degrees or prior, on-point experience (like interships) in making the non-negotiable offer. My HR department checks the numbers against the market every year and adjusts both new-hire offers and pay for existing staff. There is also a decent pay bump offered once specific skills (checklist provided at orientation) have been mastered. Benefits are also entirely non-negotiable (god help HR if they had to track individual packages for 500 people) but generous to begin with (hell, they even offer discounted pet insurance).

          Experienced candidates/roles are an entirely different beast, in large part because it’s unusual to find a candidate who ticks all the boxes. Those folks represent maybe 5% of candidates I’ve hired, and we pay a premium for them.

          Public sector and union jobs also tend not to be open to negotiation. My spouse is a federal employee, and the offer was “you’re grade X, step Y on this salary table”, full stop. It’s not a red flag, it’s just bureaucracy in action.

      16. wittyrepartee*

        I’m in city government, and my salary is totally non-negotiable (except by my union). However, I also know that I’m getting a raise in April. So, it’s just industry dependent. Sometimes there’s no negotiation.

    2. WMM*

      Considering that many parties are still, to this day, blaming women for making less money because they don’t negotiate, there is not a single situation I would fault a new-to-the-workforce person for negotiating. Clearly, there are wrong ways to negotiate, and how someone handles that can indeed be insight into reasons not to hire someone. However, as a woman in engineering, I can’t see how people won’t internalize these cultural messages. We are told that men will always negotiate, and if we’re paid less, it is because we’re willing to work for less. Don’t blame the woman who has learned she has to stand up for herself because companies don’t care about her.

    3. Grouchy 2 cents*

      Argh what is WITH not putting salaries in want ads?! It’s frustrating on both ends- if the salary doesn’t work for the candidate it’s a waste of everyone’s time! (I’m not talking about being a bit off but there are positions – especially admin ones where some pay $35k and some pay $80k and the descriptions can be maddeningly vague so how can you tell?)

      1. MassMatt*

        I remember a company I worked for had a meeting to announce that they were hiring internally for several positions on a particular team. Long speech about the many requirements, licensing, high standards, etc. Someone finally asked what the compensation was. The answer was “it’s grade 12”. No one knew what this meant. I actually called our HR, and was initially told they didn’t use salary grades. Finally I got an answer—annual salaries for grade 12 ranged from $24,000 to $96,000. Thanks, that’s very helpful. This position could either halve or double my current salary, hmmm. And this was for internal candidates!

        1. LeahS*

          I don’t know why, but this is cracking me up. Why even have pay grades??? That must have been so frustrating.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I had a five-minute back and forth at the end of an interview once – the hiring manager kept asking “what are you looking at in terms of salary?” and I was “depends, what are you willing to pay for this position?” – “no you first” and we just went around until I caved and said “okay, I make X, I cannot accept less than Y”. In a panel interview with several other people, some of whom would’ve been my peers! Seven years have passed, the company, from what I hear, has shut down, and I still do not know what they were willing to pay. Could’ve said it up front and saved everyone time. I even came to him through a recruiter. I tried going the “we should discuss this through RecruiterName” route, but he was having none of it.

      3. DarlaMushrooms*

        I also loathe this. Sometimes it feels like you’re entering a silent auction for the position.
        This practice also makes me worry a bit about discrimination and fair pay.

      4. Marion Ravenwood*

        Agreed. It’s why, when I was actively job-hunting, I refused on principle to apply for anything that said ‘competitive salary’ or similar. Even if it’s only a ballpark figure, I need you to give me a number so I can work out if I can actually afford to live on what you’re offering!

    4. Rebecca*

      In the world I work in, it is very very hard to guess when salary will be negotiable unless you ask, especially if one is new to the industry. I guess there are industries where that sort of thing would be known, but everywhere I’ve worked it’s been a real guessing game. I once got 10% more than I was offered because I was confused by something unrelated and hesitated to accept–they took my silence for wanting more money. The lesson I took from that is that I have NO idea what’s available to me and it doesn’t hurt to ask once, politely, if there might be anything else nice I could have at my level and experience. Sometimes the answer is no, and then I back off, but sometimes it’s yes, and sometimes it’s tell me why–that’s where the person mentioned in the post went wrong, because they don’t have a why, but the asking wasn’t what they did wrong.

    5. media monkey*

      everywhere i have worked (media/ advertising industry , UK) entry level salaries are fixed and often the first 12-18 month salary increases are set out ahead of time. after that you can negotiate if you want. i would consider it to be very odd for someone to negotiate based on experience they didn’t have. wouldn’t pull the offer for an otherwise good candidate and wouldn’t make a big deal of it (in case it puts them off negotiating forever!) but i’d probably keep an eye on it.

  3. GoodDawn*

    We’re seeing this A LOT with interviewees and new hires recently. My personal take is the Internet makes it easy to research what others make without taking into account what “experience” really entails. People brand new to the workforce, with a bachelor’s degree and nothing more, are expecting very healthy salaries that can support a family of four. (In a state with no income tax and relatively low cost of living.) Good luck with that.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I don’t think it’s a lack of critical thinking—I think it’s naivete and a lack of understanding about how employment works.

      I suspect a lot of the mismatch in expectations is because people are told that their bachelor’s degree is a source of upward mobility, and some are told that it’s a substitute for work experience. How many letters have we seen where someone asks if they can treat their time in school as if it were equivalent to a job? And many new grads with no prior work experience have no idea that a great deal of salary data is based on single-earner families of four, so their expectations are skewed.

      The problem is that for many jobs (particularly entry-level), it’s not necessarily true that your degree is (1) required for the job, or (2) a substitute for experience. And if you took on debt to finance your degree and have no other work experience, you may not understand that your greater financial need does not justify higher pay.

      1. Catsonakeyboard*

        I’m confused by this remark:
        “a great deal of salary data is based on single-earner families of four”

        I’ve never heard of salary data based on everything but the job (in the relevant industry, experience level, etc.) – not the status of the worker outside of the job.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I apologize—I should have been more specific.

          In my experience, entry-level people conflate income data (which is often reported by the BLS) with salary data. Poverty and income data is typically reported with the prevailing assumption that it covers a single income-earner household with a family of four. You can find it at the individual level, but you usually have to do a little more navigating.

          So if an entry-level person is looking at government statistics about income, they could easily confuse that with industry-specific salary data (which is typically reported at the individual level based on years of experience and/or education). GoodDawn mentioned that candidates are quoting figures that support a family of four, and I was trying to indicate that someone who doesn’t know how to pull salary data is likely taking their data from governmental labor statistics without understanding how that data is organized (and why it may not be applicable).

      2. Ulf*

        See, I’d say that naivete comes from an inability to think critically.

        You can’t think critically if you don’t have the proper information, and naivete is often not knowing that you don’t have the proper information.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          People go with what they are told by sources that sound knowledgeable.

          This is why I say Alison has helped so many people. She is a real source of accurate information. Not dreamworld stuff stated by someone who has not job hunted in a decade or three.

          It was a few years of working before I realized I needed to use the advice of people who were actually succeeding in the work world. I was not very discerning about the sources of advice I used at first. They don’t teach you that in school. I remember in my 20s one employment counselor advised me that women in this area could become teachers, nurses or secretaries, that was it. (This was the 1980s.) Instead of realizing that this person could not help me, I kept going back for advice. What a waste of time.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          Eh, I don’t agree with this. Thinking critically is taking the information available to you, assessing it for completeness and validity, and drawing a conclusion. The problem with people who are naïve at salary negotiation is that they are often receiving information from sources they judge to be complete and valid (e.g., parents or college career centers vetted against the non-AAM crap that passes for career advice on the internet) and draw erroneous conclusions because they may be thinking critically about bad data.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That’s because years ago, they told kids to get a degree and you’re going to be sailing high right out of the gate.

      My friend’s cousin graduated years ago and decided he would only accept a management position because I quote “I’ve got a degree, I earned skipping the entry level and get to go straight to manager!” mentality.

      He is still currently unemployed. That’s the extreme but it’s drilled into heads a degree is going to triple your worth but they don’t realize it’s tripling life long earning not on day one!

      1. Mazzy*

        Yeah but that was many years ago. This year’s college graduates don’t even remember the 90s, so I doubt they were tainted with that older view of a college degree.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think The Man, Becky Lynch’s description is still the common view of a college degree in many regions. Current undergrad students seem to be aware that a degree does not promise economic stability (or even higher earning ability for one’s first post-grad job). But as recently as 5 years ago, there was still a great deal of misinformation about the ROI of a college degree.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            College costs have zoomed up since then also.
            I have read sad articles that said some employers were using a college degree as proof a person could read and write. If that is an employer’s attitude then they do not see value in a degree and they are not going to pay extra for a person having a degree. There goes the ROI, bye-bye.

            Fortunately in my area there are a lot of returning students. These are middle aged people, who see that a bachelors gets you a 3ok per year job here. So, slowly society is changing their perspective.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I just read a story on regional unemployment that showed that unemployment was higher for college grads than folks with a high school diploma. With the ever-rising rate of tuition and student debt, it was very discouraging.

            2. MsChanandlerBong*

              If that’s their attitude, they are going to be very surprised. I have hired people with master’s degrees who turn out to be atrocious writers. Sure, a degree shows that you can stick with something, but it doesn’t tell you if the person paid someone to edit/write their papers or took easy classes or didn’t have to do much writing b/c they picked a major that isn’t writing-intensive.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                I hear ya.
                I sat next to a person who asked me, “how does Excel work?”. This was the night before a big paper was due. This was a paper that took weeks of work and we had to put it into Excel. I could barely figure it out and I threw something on paper.
                So I was just putting my coat on, it’s a cold blustery night and I had a 25 mile drive over dark curvy roads ahead of me. Shamefully, I admit did not really answer her. I left.

                But yeah, the profs’ attitude was “they will pick it up as they go along”. However when TPTB spoke that way to the profs about an online class, “you will pick it up as you go along” the profs were ANGRY. This disconnected dual thinking is how people can get through four years of college and still not know some basic computer stuff and other basic things.

                In this case, I tried not to feel bad about not helping her. Later I learned I used all the wrong data, all the wrong formulas and arrived at an answer. I did not like my answer. I found a website that said, “take your answer and cut it in half”. So I did and I arrived within range for the correct answer. I got an A minus for all that bad work. If I had helped her I would have told her the wrong things. The whole situation was not right.

        2. LeahS*

          I was a substitute teacher (so, in and out of a lot of different high schools) fairly recently and there is definitely a push to educate students about the cost and reality of attaining a college degree. I graduated in 2007 and we were still being told that a degree would more than pay for itself in future earnings- and that we had to get one to amount to anything. You’re right, it really is a whole different ball game now.

          1. Drago Cucina*

            Unfortunately they are still being told that by some high school counselors, parents, and college professors. I very recently was at a lunch with a well known southern writer. He also teaches at a major university. He shared that he told his son, a history major, that a BA would open employment worlds. Since he was our guest I bit my tongue.

            1. LeahS*

              Oh no. That is very unfortunate. I was teaching in a very blue collar area and I think that made somewhat of a difference, too.

            2. Entry Level Marcus*

              Last I checked a person with a 4-year college degree still earned significantly more right out of college than a high school grad, even with rising costs of tuition, and the degree would still more than pay for itself. Going to an out-of-state school or a non-elite private school might be a mistake if someone else isn’t paying for it, but going to an in-state school still seems like a smart decision for many non-wealthy high schoolers.

              The reality is that so many white collar jobs require a 4-year degree to even be considered, and in many fields internship opportunities are only available to college students.

        3. Marthooh*

          Grads from a generation back who couldn’t get hired elsewhere got jobs at their old colleges, including PR and employment counseling. Academia can be delightfully old-fashioned that way.

        4. panic at places other than discos*

          Yeah, but their parents might be. My first post-grad-school job, I got paid less than half of what my dad assumed I would be paid. “You have a masters!” “Yeah, so does everybody else.”

          1. Marion Ravenwood*

            When I graduated (a year after the financial crisis), my dad (first in his family to go to uni, at a time when most people didn’t) was absolutely astonished that I wasn’t making £25k a year right off the bat. I had to explain to him that given the circumstances, and the fact that even relatively low-level jobs were asking for degrees as a minimum, it didn’t work like that any more. And I didn’t make £25k until towards the end of my last job…

          2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

            The British Government seems to think this as well. I have a PhD, all of my colleagues have at least BAs and many have MAs or PhDs. We all make significantly less than £20k.

        5. Steve*

          Their parents sometimes are.

          I have family who tried very hard to influence my opinions on the job market (of the ‘apply in person’, ‘it’s easy to get a job, you aren’t trying hard enough’, and ‘university is the only valid option’ type). Thankfully I also had other family members who were kind enough to point out that this person was at the start of the baby boomer wave, and never realized that their ease in getting a job was almost all luck (they were also the optimal gender and skin colour)

    3. AnotherAlison*

      Well, fields do vary, and there are entry-level jobs that can support a family.

      If I heard a new grad say they wanted more for their experience, I may think that experience in their mind is equal to their college experience and being a top candidate compared to their peers. If you graduate at the top of your class, you don’t want to take a job at a salary below what the middle of your class is being offered. As the hiring manager, one probably thinks that’s factored in because it’s already a top offer, but the student wouldn’t know that unless the OP said it.

    4. Genny*

      I think it’s also due to the fact that titles can mask a wide array of experience levels. It’s possible to google average salary for a program associate and not realize that the company you got an offer from considers a program associate an entry-level position while other companies consider it a step above program assistant.

      1. Amylou*

        Oh yes title inflation. Also irritating if you’re job hunting and realise after reading the entire job description of a ‘associate’ or ‘manager’ job it is actually an entry level one, and poorly paid at that.

        My current job is a lower sounding title (you could think entry level even) but it has a lot of autonomy, very interesting projects and new skills to learn, and still well-compensated.

        But that detail could all be lost to someone new on the job market. Or it could be they are basing their ‘asks’ on what other grads got offered.

        I would just tell them your reasoning (which sounds fair) and say: this is it. If they are willing to walk away over a bit of salary as opposed to great experience while still well-compensated, then they are out of touch.

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          I recently found a job for a Recycling Program Coordinator at Local University. I was halfway down the page, past all of the mission-driven “implement and support environmental cleanliness targets on Campus,” before I got to the core job description: Drive around campus and empty the recycling barrels.

      2. Karo*

        This especially. I’ve been at various times a coordinator, a specialist and an associate, all of which can be very different levels at different organizations. If a salary range doesn’t include information on years of experience, it’s useless to me – it could be the highest non-managerial level or the lowest.

    5. irene adler*

      I think there’s also the notion that one will lose out on a lot of money- over the years- if their first post-grad salary isn’t as high as possible. And this is a true phenomenon. But let’s put it in its place. One should not expect to be paid beyond what the market says one is worth. It’s up to the individual to acquire those skills to garner the larger salary. Don’t expect the employer to hand out extra dollars for nothing in return.

    6. Maria Lopez*

      This is nothing new. I remember my sister hiring new people just out of college in 1975! who thought they should have her job or something close to it with no experience. This was her company she and her partner had started from the ground up and she had a PhD in the field.

  4. Falling Diphthong*

    I could totally see this young person, 5 years on, sharing this as a story of a clueless gumptiony thing they tried when they were fresh out of school. A topic on which we have had threads.

  5. It's mce*

    Allison – not sure if you’ve covered this topic aside from AAM. It would make a great story. Case in point: I’ve had someone connect me with a soon-to-graduate student majoring in journalism who told him that I could get him a job at the paper. Granted, I couldn’t. I was a minor section editor and we were having financial troubles. I felt put on the spot.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      I hope you talked to the person who connected you, to tell them not to make promises on your behalf?

  6. Jessica*

    Unless they come back and cite their experience sitting and listening to their professors as relevant to the salary, I’d put this in the category of dumb, misguided, but not a deal breaker

  7. Sarah N*

    If it’s not too late, I think I’d have a conversation with the person about all of this (comparable salaries, lack of experience, etc.) and see how they react. If they are able to acknowledge the error, that’s a good sign. If they double down and do something like insist their prestigious university makes them inherently better than other hires, I’d be more inclined to pull the offer. I think you could also talk to them about what DID attract you about their application — it sounds like it wasn’t the name of the university they went to, but presumably there were positive things you liked about this candidate and you could say, for example “At our business, we really don’t care about the name of where you went to school, but we do highly value attention to detail, which you demonstrated very well in the sample task you did during your interview.” (or whatever the case may be).

    1. Tiara Wearing Princess*

      I agree. A conversation should happen and what they say would determine whether I pulled the offer.

    2. Marthooh*

      “The only thing I could think of on their resume that they might have been referring to as “experience” was having graduated from a prestigious college.”

      This is pure speculation on the OP’s part, so at the very least, find out for sure what they meant. As others have said, they may have been blindly following a script.

    3. irene adler*

      At my university (UCxx), they constantly touted how they are ranked as one of the best in the USA in STEM subjects. Then they totally lied about starting salaries we should expect.

      I had enough ‘horse sense’ to understand it’s what someone is willing to pay you, not what some university says you are worth.

      About two years out of university, I receive a fund-raising call from said university. The gal gets to chatting about my biochem degree (we’re the same major!) and how I’m making $40 K or more as that is entry level salary. Certainly I could donate a grand to help students. Um, no. I explained that my whopping $19K salary was just enough to live on.

      She about swallowed her tongue. But the professor, the career center counselors, all said salaries of $40K -or more. I had to explain that maybe, after 10 years, that would be true. Suggested that she think about when the last time these folks actually worked in private industry.

      Guess I crushed some dreams that day.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        I once crushed one, she called asking for an alumni donation and I told her I hadn’t had full-time work in three years thanks to the recession.

        I blocked their phone number shortly after.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        It is really self-defeating. If people cannot earn a decent wage they cannot donate to their college. This is a pretty simple idea: get the people the skills they actually need to get a job. Our capstone course was to run a company. This is nice to spend some time thinking about what CEOs face, but totally impractical for employment purposes. The course could have been left to the MBAs. And from what I saw at least half the class really struggled HARD with the course. It did not make sense.

      3. Biotech person*

        @Sarah N, are you in academia? Because I am a SVP at a mid-cap biotech company, and I can tell you that $19K/year for an entry-level technical role and a STEM bachelor’s degree is woefully low (especially in California). And recent CS grads in Silicon Valley are getting six figures, yes.

    4. Falling Slowly*

      I really like this approach, Sarah N.
      It sets up an excellent frame for a positive conversation. If the applicant is at all reasonable, there’s a good chance of getting all parties in agreement, and if they are not, well it’s entirely on them, not on the OP.

  8. Laura H.*

    How can they have absolutely no work experience though??

    Even when I graduated I had stuff that I could definitely spin in leiu of experience- though I would not have spun it for a shot at more pay unless it REALLY did work well. (Which it wouldn’t have.)

    I didn’t get my first job till I was 22- a student workstudy desk gig. I’ve only had one job after that one.

    As a result, volunteer work takes a chunk of my resume, and even now while job hunting, I still have the volunteer gig. Helps keep me from going completely stir crazy.

    1. Les G*

      It feels like we go over this every time. Some folks don’t work in high school or college. No, not even an unpaid internship or volunteering. Yes, it’s bad and schools shouldn’t allow it. No, we probably don’t need everyone to weigh in on why they did or didn’t work as a young person.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        My parents did not allow me to work during the school year, because that was for studying. And they also did not allow me to do an unpaid internship, because “you don’t work for free!”

        So I graduated into the recession with a few summer’s lifeguarding experience and promptly got yelled at for “not having a real job!” because “we made sure you got a good education so you’d get a good job!” Thank God flip phones were sturdy enough to withstand being thrown in anger, or I’d have never made it out of 2008.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Oy, that sounds awful. Were your parents able to dictate your work because they were supporting you financially?

          1. Works in IT*

            Mine were!

            It’s really awkward trying to start out a career in order to become not financially dependent on people who are not in touch with reality, while financially dependent on people who are not in touch with reality. Now I am financially independent (mostly, I still visit my parents’ house regularly for my weekly dose of cat therapy since I can’t get pets until I buy a place), and can laugh about it, but before I was free of that environment…

          2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            Yes, I had scholarships and other funds that covered 70% of the sticker price, but they were helping out with the rest (and they tracked every. tiny. incidental. cent. they gave me.) They also had my birth certificate and social security card in their safe deposit box at the bank, so I literally could not get a job without their permission.

              1. Laura H.*

                My first thought was ordering new parents, not new Birth Certificates and Social Security cards.

                Thanks for the smile!

                1. John B Public*

                  That actually sounds more rational. But maybe I read too many posts on r/raisedbynarcissists.

              2. NotAnotherManager!*

                Yes, my mother (not maliciously) could always manage to find everyone’s birth certificate except for mine, and we had to order one when I went to get my passport in before high school and another one when I went to college. I was also the only person in my family born in a state halfway across the country, and this was pre-internet and we actually had to handle this via phone/mail. This is so, so much easier now, as I found when we had to order a copy of my spouse’s – forms and payment online! faxing of identity documents! God, I love technology.

                My mother sponsored my college education and insisted that I not work during the school year. At the time, I was too much of an idiot to realize that I didn’t actually have to listen to her; however, she did expect me to work during the summers, so I was able to gain experience then (with an organization that ended up launching my career).

            1. Observer*


              By the way, it’s too late for you but I want to highlight what Bopper said for anyone else who is reading this and who is in a similar situation or knows someone:


              1. Artemesia*

                This. Adults can get official copies of their birth certificates and their social security cards themselves directly from the appropriate government offices.

            2. Cafe au Lait*

              Oooof. There’s a term for that: Identification Abuse. I’m sorry you went through that, and it’s not your fault.

            3. Biotech person*

              Duplicate birth certificates and social security cards are easily available. The bottom line is that as a young adult, you don’t *have* to do everything your parents tell you. I hope you will take that as a life lesson.

        2. Works in IT*

          With my parents, it was encouragement to help teach tae kwon do after school every day, for which responsibilities I was not paid, but it looked great to colleges. Then when I was in college it was “if you’re going to get a job you have to use the strategies we tell you to use to get a job”. And even as a brand new to the work force eighteen year old, I knew that the things they wanted me to do to get a job/internship were…. not useful.

          1. Amber Rose*

            Apparently that kind of thing is really important to medical schools though. A friend who teaches a martial art says that’s one of the reasons he was able to get in, because they look at all your extras.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Medicinal schools love to see you give up free labor since the first 5-6 years out of school may as well be volunteer work given their pitiful treatment of residents.

              1. Perpal*

                As much as medical residency has some issues, the pay is close to the average median household income (in the US at least); so I feel a little silly complaining about that for what is essentially a hybrid between further professional training and a starting job

                1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                  What? A lot of first years make around 40k, naturally programs will differ and depend on your specialty. With over a quarter million in debt that eats your pay, heaven forbid other debts you may have.

                  You’re feeding into the residential issues by justifying it as further training. It’s mandated training and 70-80hrs a week.

                2. Artemesia*

                  This. The days when residents and interns were totally financially abused is long past. Yes it is rough long hard labor But it is well compensated if not as well as provides that jaguar the new doc feels is his due.

                3. Perpal*

                  both of ya’ll are on the extreme end I went through both. I was paid around 50K throughout residency and I keep reading the median household income in the USA is around 50-60K. With my spouse working a decent job too the money was fine for someone starting out. Assuming 80 hr work week and 50 weeks/year work (Yes I only had 2 weeks vacation first year) at 50K (it was slightly more than that) came out to around $12.50 per hour; not a good professional salary but, well, at the time it was the most I’d earned so it didn’t feel horrible. What felt horrible was things like not being able to call in sick because there was no coverage despite spiking a fever to 102 and feeling vaguely delirious by the end of a 12hr call shift, wondering if I’d @#$@#ed up any orders, fantisizing about sharing a one of those nice nebulizers as I tried to get a little sleep between coughing jags. There was someone new coming on at the end and I think things were changing for the better and once I got to resident status you bet I would work in place of an intern who was sick or having an obvious crisis if there was no back up. But to the other person who thinks doctors are all driving jags instead of trying to pay off tons of school debt and raise a family, wtf. Anyway, end of derail I just wanted to stress at this point I think it’s more about the working conditions in residency (and they vary widely; I went to one that was probably more brutal; my fellowship at a different institution was a far cry and all the residents don’t seem to get that kind of treatment) than the finances; med school is at least one of the few degrees you can expect to get a good enough salary whatever you do after wards to pay it off. But it’s a ticket to a solid upper-middle class income, not really to excessive luxury without some other gig going on (ie, TV shows, own practice, etc).

        3. Former Hotel Worker*

          I had this as well. No part time jobs in school or uni because “we want you to be able to focus on school!!” even though it was blatantly obvious that I was coasting through both with minimal effort and still getting good grades. They were of the opinion that a degree was enough to show that you were intelligent enough for a nice white collar professional job (arguably once semi-true, I guess) and were shocked and appalled when I graduated and was told I was virtually unemployable and told to apply to McDonald’s. They were though (fortunately) sympathetic to the situation and to the nine page application forms and ludicrous personality tests and impractical scenario questions. They have continued to support me for several years since my graduation from university and I couldn’t be more grateful. I’m one of the lucky ones in that regard. I hope your situation has improved in the past 11 years!

          1. PhyllisB*

            Yes, we made that mistake with our son (school is for studying, not working.)Our girls didn’t go to college. (Their choice.) He was going into Chemical Engineering, and we were afraid trying to work and study would be too stressful. However, I did encourage him to do work study for a semester to be sure this is really what he wanted to do. Any of you who have read my posts in the past know how well that worked.
            When the grands start college I’m going to encourage work and study. I have one headed that way next year and she’s already working so hopefully she’ll keep it up.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              I sometimes wonder how *anyone* can simultaneously do a full-time college courseload and still field a part-time job without dropping anything. Then I remember that I tried to do college at one of the top ten universities in the country, a school notorious for its extreme workload, while working through a severe undiagnosed pain/fatigue disorder. Right. That would be it.

              1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

                My experience was the same, with part time school and part time work. I still say there is no way I’d be able to be such a strong person as to hold a full time job and school, like I know other people do. It would be part time school and work, or full time school or full time work. Or like, short courses and full time work.
                But I’ve multiple barriers, and last time was going to school with multiple undiagnosed/treated disorders. Life is much better with treatment, but I still want to keep my stress level as low as reasonably possible.

                1. RUKidding*

                  Undergrad was easy but back then I was young and naturally only slept about 4 hours a day anyway. By the time I hit grad school at the ripe old age of 22 it was eirher/or. No way could I do both.

                2. Engineer Girl*

                  Hey, I was a 4 hours of sleep person too! Sleep 4 hours for about two weeks. Then the migraine would hit and I’d have to sleep 12 hours. Repeat. For years on end.
                  I was so happy when I graduated.

              2. Former lifeguard*

                I worked part-time while I was in graduate school full time. Admittedly, my part-time job wasn’t very stressful (data entry). I was in a humanities/liberal arts program at an Ivy League; there wasn’t a lot of homework other than reading. So much reading – on topics like semiotics and post-modernism and deconstructivist philosophy…. And maybe two papers a semester per course. It was *not* easy; I wanted to quit during the first semester but forced myself to keep going (and it got better). There were times I didn’t finish all the optional readings — I was usually able to get through all the required readings prior to class. But I turned in all my papers on time, never missed a class, never pulled an all-nighter, and graduated in two years. It can be done. I actually find I do better if I have more to do than less — it motivates me more to get it all done.

              3. Shad*

                I’m currently a low full time student (taking 12-13 hours so I’m full time by DoE standards, but don’t have quite so many hours of school work), and working 25 hours a week at a law firm.
                It’s kind of hell but better than the alternatives. Thanks to depression, I’m already “behind”, so I just want to get school finished already. As for work, I need the money; it’s a part time paralegal position, so it’s entirely a subset of the standard office hours, which also restricts when I can take classes.
                Anything other than school and work does start to fall through the cracks, but breaks offer time to catch up.

              4. Not to humble brag, but*

                I paid for my own college and graduate education. I did get very nice scholarships and cheap loans (late 70s/early 80s) from the federal govt, which I was able to defer in grad school. In college, during the school year I worked around 30 hours a week, carried an overload every semester except the 6 months I did study abroad and two months of travel, grad school was about the same until I got a dissertation fellowship (I worked about 15 hr a week after that). I worked full-time (two part times, actually) in the summers.
                I didn’t drop anything. I was young and full of energy! I worked very hard, and I was determined not to be beholden to my dad, who I really love but who has unbearable control issues with money.
                My point being, it’s possible to do it, and lots of people (especially people without money and nontraditional aged students, students) have to do it. Students who don’t work in college are very privileged.
                We have a child in college now — college savings account and my MIL = kid does not have to work. Kid DOES work, however — both our expectation and the kid’s preference, as well.

                1. ChimericalOne*

                  That’s not humble-bragging — that’s just bragging. And a lot of it is beside the point. E.g., You paid for your own college in the late 70’s? That’s a lot different from paying for college in the year 2019, considering that the cost of college has risen about 8 times faster than wages have. You worked 30 hours per week and went to school full time and didn’t drop anything? Great, good for you. That doesn’t mean it’s doable for everyone. I think we’re all aware that *some* people are able to do this successfully. That really says nothing about what most people are able to do. Plenty of people *try* to do exactly that (whether they have to, because of poverty, or they simply choose to) and fail, too.

                2. Gazebo Slayer*

                  Being able-bodied, free of any mental illnesses, full of energy, and able to get by on almost no sleep is also a privilege.

              5. NotAnotherManager!*

                I had a friend whose parents basically kicked him out at 18 and who did a full-time engineering courseload along side a full-time job. I have no idea how he did it, other than really paring back on the fun side of college and doing only one extracurricular. He was an exceptionally hard worker and found an employer willing to work with this course schedule (probably because he was very bright and an exceptionally hard worker. Very few people I know (present company included) could have managed it.

                Most people I went to school with, though, had some sort of part-time job, usually work-study, as a part of their financial aid package. Most worked 10-20 hours per week on top of school, which was more manageable.

                I also went to a school with a very strong cooperative education program where the school would place you in a semester-long work assignment 1-3 times during your undergraduate program. It did tend to push out graduation timetables, but people graduated with real experience, and I know several who were hired by their co-op company post graduation.

            2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              I advised both of mine to concentrate on school (and internships) and not to take any jobs outside of that. My reasoning was that no part-time minimum-wage job would compensate for the loss of their merit scholarships. The oldest followed my advice, kept the scholarship, graduated early etc. The youngest worked, pursued a million hobbies at once (I remember him playing in two bands at one point), lost the scholarship. Both had internships while in school. Both have now graduated. It is what it is. Hopefully none of that will matter for their professional lives in the long term. I was basing my advice on my own experience, when I almost failed out of college altogether because of a job I had. Of course, I had the infinite wisdom to get a full-time, second-shift job, on the shop floor at a manufacturing plant, that overlapped with some of my later classes, and also got in the way of me attending the early-morning classes and doing homework, because I got home from work at one AM every day. Thankfully my sons both knew not to do anything that drastic.

          2. Not Australian*

            ‘No part time jobs in school or uni because “we want you to be able to focus on school!!”’

            A nice contrast to my experience: “No, you need a part-time job (that we’ll choose) because we’re sick of paying for everything.” So they got me a job that conflicted with my school work, and then gave me hell for not getting top marks in my exams.

        4. TexanInExile*

          Lifeguarding and teaching swimming were my summer jobs in high school and college. They were real jobs! What other sort of jobs were we supposed to get?

          1. CupcakeCounter*

            I did this for a decade (although I was considered full time for a large chuck of it since I worked at a health club pool) and it has come up in every job interview I’ve ever had as a resounding positive. Even 12+ years after I left my last pool job I still pull some examples from that time in interviews because it is actually more relevant than what I do in my actual career for some of the “tell me about a time” questions.

          2. Former lifeguard*

            Lifeguarding is absolutely a real job! I was a lifeguard in high school as well as throughout college – both work study and summer gigs that paid a couple dollars more than minimum wage. I think lifeguarding shows initiative (you have to keep current on multiple certifications; I got my WSI so I could earn more) and you have to be responsible because people could literally die if you don’t do your job correctly. I hated teaching swimming lessons but I could put developing lesson plans and meeting goals on my resume. When I think back to being 15/16 and having that much responsibility it’s kind of insane. I got to college and automatically skipped the crappy cafeteria work-study jobs because I was already certified. It was a great job and am glad I never had to work retail or food service.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think my view might be skewed because I did not receive significant parental financial support when I went to college (and I started working at 14). Here are the kinds of jobs I worked:

            * Retail (full-time during “breaks” and part-time during the academic year)
            * Food service (barista, waitress, bartender)
            * Bonner Leaders AmeriCorps (service-learning program that offers a partial scholarship for tuition)
            * Campus work-study and other jobs (“security attendant” for the dorms, resident assistant for campus housing, paid research assistant my last year)
            * At the very end (senior year of undergrad), I was a paid intern for a well-funded nonprofit think tank, which was by far the best money I made at the hourly level.

            1. TardyTardis*

              I was a nurse’s aide nearly 20 hours a week while carrying 19 hours (fortunately a bunch of it was history, which I took whenever I wanted easy A’s), but I was a lot younger, more energetic, and we (married to another student) had a *very* flexible attitude towards cleaning our trailer. But the nursing home was dependent on students, and we posted our finals schedule in the break room, which was piled high with textbooks.

          4. Hallowflame*

            As a fellow former lifeguard, I agree that this position can add a lot to an entry-level resume. However, many hiring managers want to see internships or summer work related to the field they’re hiring in. YMMV, depending on field.

        5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          WTF WTF I’m sorry you dealt with parents who did that.

          My friends all graduated in 08 and 09, no jobs available for them, not even retail would hire them despite having worked at grocery stores during school. Their parents welcomed them home and didn’t pull this nonsense because they also understand economics *face palm*

        6. Karen from Finance*

          The only reason my parents allowed me to take paid internships in college was because the first job I took (my big act of rebellion) was as a research assistant at the college itself. They were scared my grades would fall once I started to work, and they were right, but the work experience was more useful in the long run.

        7. sunny-dee*

          I also wasn’t allowed to work during the school year in high school, and in college, I had a full ride, and I was afraid to work then because if my GPA dropped to 3.8 or lower, I would lose it — a single B would cost me. So I had really light summer jobs, college club positions, and stuff like tutoring when I first started job searching. It really doesn’t affect you that long — once you get that first job, you’re set. You have history.

          Of course, I wouldn’t have tried negotiating for a higher salary at the first job, either.

        8. Minocho*

          Are you me? Are your parents my parents? I guess not, since I was the class of 2000…but yeah.

          Oh, and I was not allowed to have a job, but I got no money for college, and my parents wouldn’t co-sign a loan either.

      2. Laura H.*

        I get that… I wasn’t meaning to be snobby.

        It is ridiculous, so flabbergastingly backward, as That Girl From Quinn’s House sort of demonstrates below strand- why does it still happen? (Short Answer is that we are a strange and varied species with varying cultural and social norms)

        Again, sorry for coming off as snobbish- that wasn’t my intent.

        1. Elspeth*

          Some kids also aren’t able to work as well as attend college. My daughter has trouble with executive function and has ADHD as well as anxiety. She tried working at college but had to drop the job because she was floundering with her school work.

          1. Laura H.*

            That too…

            I should really think more before I start typing.

            Hope the daughter has figured out her groove and is excelling!

            1. Elspeth*

              Oh no, I mean, I knew where you were coming from! I do think it’s a good thing for most people to work while in college, just that my daughter wasn’t able to handle it. Daughter has a good job (doesn’t pay very well, but a lot better than minimum wage) and she’s hoping to get a promotion in the next year. She still struggles with her ADHD, executive function and anxiety though – she’s had a very difficult time finding a psychiatrist and I think she’s not had any meds for over a year now.

        2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          My parents grew up working class Boomers. My dad worked through college and got poor grades, and then as you did if you were a Boomer with a degree, you could get all the good jobs, just because you had a degree that shows you can think and learn!

          Not so much in 2008.

          1. RUKidding*

            If it makes anyone feel better it wasn’t that great for gen x-ers graduating back in the dark ages of ‘84. Better than ‘08, no recession to speak of, but it was kinda bad for a while.

            1. LawBee*

              Honestly, I don’t know if there’s ever been a good job market for recent grads. Definitely not in the past 40 or so years, I’d say.

            2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

              Yeah, 1990 had a recession and we Xers had little to no hope.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                +1 My spouse is class of ’91 and worked three part-time jobs immediately following graduation to make ends meet. It took quite some time to get a full-time job with benefits, and that was by having the work experience from the part-time jobs and then a temping stint.

                I only got my first job (after months of looking) because I’d interned for a couple of summers and had experience and a good reputation. And because someone on staff was moving cross-country and they suddenly had an open spot. Absent those strokes of luck, I’d have had an awful time finding work. I couldn’t even get a wait-staff job at local restaurants.

          2. TardyTardis*

            Ah, you must thinking of *different* Boomers–where I lived, having a degree just meant you got hired over a dropout for entry level jobs. There have always been so many of us that we had it ground into us that there were five replacements for us any time we faltered or wanted more money.

        3. Former Hotel Worker*

          I think schools and universities also over emphasise the power of education in the eyes of employers. Parents might not know otherwise, might think the industry hasn’t changed in the past 20 years, but academia also seems to be labouring under the opinion that education is everything. I considered taking a short vocational course at night school after my degree (a course specifically asked for in many entry level office jobs) and had a Professor tell me not to do it because it would “distract from” and “undermine” my (useless) degree. Sadly, I’ve reached the conclusion that, in terms of the world of work, the only thing academics know anything about is… academia.

          1. Works in IT*

            I think that was the one truly good thing about getting a degree at a for profit college. The professors they hired were people with day jobs actually IN THE INDUSTRY THEY WERE TEACHING (/shock), and the professors were able to answer all my questions about what, exactly, I needed to do to get my dream job. I graduated with a master’s degree that is probably mostly useless, and a clear plan of what I needed to do, after taking classes which involved learning how to write documentation that I am in fact using for my job now. That was so much more useful than my not for profit degree, because the not for profit professors kept saying all I needed was a degree…

            1. Liza*

              YES to teachers with vocational experience! I too am in the Most Likely Useless Masters Degree Club and am doing professional training with an organisation run solely by people who are industry veterans. They are FANTASTIC at advice on career trajectory info and job related concerns.

              My university lecturers? Basically admitted that they didn’t know anything about professional qualifications – or even the professional doctorate routes – because they all did PhDs and went into research!

            2. Jane*

              I didn’t do a for-profit college, but I did do a certificate program with the same situation–the instructors all had day jobs in the field. It was IMMENSELY helpful. I learned what I actually needed to know to get an entry-level job, which was mostly the jargon, how different parts of the field worked, what specific jobs actually did all day, how the product got from point a to point b. And most importantly, one of the instructors gave a short lecture on “things to say in your interview that will get you the job.”

              I went into that program with a BA and and MA, with which I’d been able to get exactly 0 relevant jobs. I only had a job at all because I had a connection that helped me. I finished the 10 month certificate program and had a job in two months.

          2. Need a Beach*

            No Child Left Behind –> teaching to the test –> memorization as education –> graduates who can’t problem solve.

            Everyone I know who is trying to hire keeps saying things like “Entry level applicants don’t know how to think.”

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              Some of that has to do with what they try to pay entry level applicants… which necessarily limits the range of entry level applicants those companies are likely to get.

              I know a lot of people in high school and college. They know how to think. They won’t work at jobs which expect them to think for the same price they’d be paid for doing part time dog-walking, because they’ve done their thinking and concluded that the dog-walking is more fun for the price.

            2. Drago Cucina*

              When I was a school librarian in a K-8 school the curriculum in the upper grades transitioned to including more critical thinking skills. The engineer/rocket scientist parents would have a melt down at the beginning of every year because the answers weren’t easily found. Their 5th grader had a B on the progress report!

              I had parents argue with me that the middle school grades didn’t need to learn how to do basic research (read 3 basic encyclopedia entries instead of 1 Wikipedia entry). We had to bring in the principal of the local high school to explain that she wished all the middle schools did the same.

            3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              I know that gifted programs do not get a lot of love on this forum, but back in the NCLB days, I heard from many friends in public school districts (thankfully not ours) who had the gifted programs in their districts shut down. Reason being “they are a waste of time and money, because these kids are going to pass the tests anyway”. They were basically advanced programs. I’m still mad that they were shut down for this reason.

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                Why do gifted programs get dissed here? I’ve never seen it, but don’t always read the comments. I was fortunate enough to go to high school in such a program and it was amazing. I’d love to see similar programs expanded to be available to any student who wants to do that kind of intense academic work, but in the meantime, why take it away from those who are benefiting from it? I don’t get it.

          3. It's mce*

            Same. I am now taking courses where I can directly learn software (video editing, photoshop, etc.). I actually quit a master’s degree course because it was too much theory and I didn’t want to risk not being considered for entry-level jobs. I was out of work for almost two years at that time and trying to get any kind of job back into my field.

          4. Rock Prof*

            Lots of programs now require or highly suggest some sort of work or internship relevant to the degree. The environmental program at my school is very, very flexible in what can count toward meeting this requirement. We even back date internship credit for actual paid work (even if it wasn’t technically an internship but still relevant to something environmental), so we’re not disadvantaging anyone who can’t do an unpaid internship. Environmental, and other STEM, programs probably can have a bit of an advantage, since environmental problems are everywhere and its pretty easy to connect with community groups (in the US).
            I’m the first to admit I don’t have a lot of outside-academic experience. However, as someone who knew they wanted to be a professor since middle school, I also knew I’d need relevant experience, so all my internships and college work, were to that end. I worked for pay in 3 different labs (sequentially, not at once) for about 20 hours a week (making $10 an hour in the early 2000s). My parents wouldn’t let me work during the school year in high school, however, but college was different.

        4. Asenath*

          There was a very strong feeling locally when I was in high school – and for quite a few years later, maybe even now – that some students who worked during the school year did so at the expense of their academic work. It wasn’t unusual for parents (like mine) to insist on no paid work during the school year, at least for a while. In my case, it was until I got through first year at university, and then they strongly suggested I work on campus and no more hours per week (10, I think) than the university recommended. I did work during the summers, starting in high school, but I don’t think that counted as “experience” in anything I’ve done since. Well, maybe in the “showing up on time” and “doing extremely tedious work properly because that was the job you accepted” sense. Volunteering wasn’t a bit thing back then, although I did some. There weren’t many opportunities. I think kids today have to do some kind of compulsory community service to graduate from high school, but I don’t understand the concept of compulsory volunteer work.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Les G: “No, we probably don’t need everyone to weigh in on why they did or didn’t work as a young person.”

        You jinxed it!

        In seriousness, though, this comes up repeatedly because commenters aren’t one static group, and people come and go, and not everyone reads the comments every time, or reads every single one when they do. (If you’re a regular comment reader, it can be easy to forget that and to get annoyed when it seems like some concepts don’t “stick” — but that will create an environment that doesn’t welcome new comment readers.)

      4. ElspethGC*

        And some of us just don’t live in places where jobs are available. Being able to say “just get a job!” is really quite unrealistic for a lot of people.

        I worked in a cafe for a couple of years when I was 16/17, got abruptly dropped (it was a cash-in-hand, we’ll call you for weekly shifts as and when, situation) before I turned 18 so they wouldn’t have to pay me a higher minimum wage, and wasn’t able to get a job again after that. No-one wants to hire teenagers. I volunteered for a couple of summers but they prioritised jobseeking adults and didn’t want weekend volunteers, just weekday ones, so I wasn’t able to do it outside of the holidays.

        I’m in my final year of university and have actively jobhunted every Christmas, Easter and summer holiday for temp jobs, and never got a call back. I’m managing to get a couple of days this summer as a student ambassador for the university, but that’s hardly enough.

        1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

          My current employer only hires people above legal age, so they can work graveyards and don’t have to worry about other age related legislation (like if they can sell certain products). We also have laws on the books about whether or not people under age can serve alcoholic drinks, which reduces jobs available to teens.

          I’m personally on the side of “don’t expect job/volunteering in high school” because of my experience in rural Canada, few jobs were available, I was poor, and lived out of town. I was also not connected to any social orginization and didn’t hear about them. So in my experience, the people who could volunteer were those whose parents already had a decent income, and free time. And when all the scholarships require volunteer work/community involvement, that means it’s the poor people who don’t make the cut.

      5. Jasnah*

        In an ideal world, I don’t think it’s wrong in theory to graduate hs/college without having held a job. I think it’s perfectly fine to spend one’s adolescence learning, playing sports, doing hobbies, hanging with friends, etc. because ideally once you left hs/college, you’d go to an entry level job where you would be trained in office basics or whatever field you joined. I don’t like the idea that you must work before you work to gain the privilege of working–that’s some weird capitalist “your life value is your productivity” bs.

        Nowadays work experience is more valuable than a college degree, almost, so I agree that in practice, it’s really important for students to get a leg up through part-time work and internships, because college/entry-level jobs are not what they used to be.

  9. Kristine*

    I get the feeling some bad advice has lead this candidate astray. I graduated mid-recession from a prestigious university and my relatives were shocked! shocked! that I wasn’t getting offers for $50k+ based simply on the name on my degree. At the time I was lucky enough to get an office job making $2 an hour more than minimum wage.

    I think a lot of prestigious university grads are lead to believe the name means more than it really does. That’s how the school sells itself to them and the people in their lives assume it carries a lot of weight.

    1. pope suburban*

      Also, in a variation on that theme, if this graduate is the first or one of the first in their family to complete college, there might not be anyone who could have taught them white-collar professional norms. Between that and the quality of many college career-services offices (No shade toward anyone reading this; if you’re here on AAM, you’re probably not setting kids up to fail), this sounds like an easy mistake to make.

      1. Gerald*

        Counter-offers and salary comparisons are often mentioned on this site, so the advice could potentially be from a reliably good source. It could be that they read it here, and then applied it badly.

    2. Drax*

      This is really it. I do believe that the prestigious universities lead them to believe it carries more weight then it does. There are some fields that this is true (think Harvard Law – thanks legally blonde) but a lot of careers the name means nothing and the universities aren’t rushing to fix that impression they give new grads.

      Fun mildly off topic story – I once went to an interview where the guy had graduated from Harvard. He spent literally the entire interview talking about his education and how it made him an Entrepreneur. This was literally his first job out of school, and he didn’t own even a portion of the company but he was still an entrepreneur thanks to Harvard. Obviously I asked for clarification on that which is why I did not get the job. It was also not a Harvard Law or business degree where it could carry weight in a business context, but like an Arts degree.

      1. MRK*

        Also some schools/programs are highly respected in a very particular field. Once you exit that specific area the name can lose a lot of that perceived value.
        Personally, I have a BFA from a well respected/competitive fine arts college. However outside of the fine art/design communities, most people have not heard of the school, and if they have they don’t tend to be aware of the school’s reputation within the field (since it’s a specialty school so most ranking stuff fully ignores it.)

        1. Need a Beach*

          Saw this in action…impressive grad from RiSD applied for an industrial design internship, and the engineering department had no idea what that was…lost her to a company that had their act together. So disappointing.

        2. MM*

          Absolutely. I went to very well-known, prestigious schools for my BA and MA. I am now at a university in a large city that has several other universities, for my PhD; my school is a lot less prestigious than several others here *overall*, but a very big deal in the particular field I’m in. I find that people in my life (people who are close to me, who definitely should know where I go to school) repeatedly will carelessly say the name of one of these other, fancier (overall) schools in conversation without realizing it. They can’t get it through their heads that I’m at X because X isn’t “a great school” (though it is).

          Of course none of this would matter if I weren’t planning on going into academia (with the exception of law and medical schools). It’s just funny to watch it happen in real time.

      2. Crimson*

        @Drax: please reconsider your attitude.

        First, yes, all things being equal, HBS will carry more weight in the business world than a Harvard College degree, but the latter (or an Ivy or Ivy equivalent) degree still does carry weight. Moreover, the reality is that a lot these universities have huge, and more importantly, influential alumni networks.

        I say this as someone with an undergrad degree from Harvard (which directly got me my first job; I wrote to the head of the Harvard Club in the city I wanted to live in, which I guess would be dismissed as “gumption” round these parts) and an MBA from another top-ten business school. And yes, I have been willing to meet with any Harvard College student or alum who contacts me through the alumni network.

        Second, “intrapreneurship” is a thing. Please don’t dismiss the utility of entrepreneurial skills within a larger organization.

        1. Drax*

          In this particular situation he had worked there for about a month, and literally spent more time describing Harvard campus and how that made him an entrepreneur then anything else. He had zero experience (and an unrelated degree), and wasn’t able to say anything other than buzz words when asked at all for any type of clarification. I’m not even kidding, he literally said synergy multiple times. In his particular case, he put unrealistic weight on his school over any skill (he was fired a few weeks later as he couldn’t do anything he told them he could) Very charismatic, lacking all technical skill required. This also wasn’t a large organization.

          I don’t believe all degrees from Ivy schools are useless or anything like that which I think I could have clarified better. But you do have to realize there are some fields where going to an Ivy school doesn’t mean anything. There are some where it does, but especially out side of the United States (which I am) the names do not always carry the weight you think it does. A business degree is a business degree in my industry and having one from any school will carry more weight than an Arts degree at an Ivy school. I’ve yet to run across someone with an Ivy business degree but I’m sure it would carry more weight than the standard business degree.

            1. Drax*

              I automatically start really listening to what people are saying / watching what they are doing the moment they utter that word. 90% of the time I’ve found they’re not really actually saying anything but it sure sounds like they are.

    3. NeonFireworks*

      This happened to me as well. My relatives all said, “You’re graduating from _______. Everyone’s impressed by _______. You can have any job you want.” Unfortunately, this led to my acting really cocky for a while, and in one case I burned a bridge to the point of disintegration.

        1. NeonFireworks*

          Haha! I did, quickly and brutally. Totally ruined my chances with Company A, apologised for being entitled and presumptuous, took a random job with Company Q instead, had manipulative and misogynistic boss, quit, took a chance by reading out to Company B. It paid off; I got my foot in the door for an entry-level position and got hired. Ten years later I’m still here and really happy. (And bizarrely, I dodged a bullet. Company A was the more prestigious, but it’s still in the middle of a horrendous scandal over someone whose name is getting to be pretty well-known by now. So only by misbehaving did I keep myself out of that place where someone else has been misbehaving for far longer. This is the strangest moral of the story ever.)

    4. Artemesia*

      The role of internships is also a fairly new generation thing. I doubt my daughter would have gotten her first job in DC except that she had been an intern with the firm that hired her; she graduated into a terrible market — not as bad as 2008, but still pretty bad. Many older people simply had an entirely different experience and gumption used to work. That is how Bob Woodward with no journalistic experience weasled his way into the Post and look how well that turned out for everyone including the Post.

      1. Yes Virginia*

        The dirty little secret is that gumption still “works.” Obviously much depends on how you go about it, and that is not to say it will work 100% of the time, but there is still such a thing as a risk-reward tradeoff. I can guarantee you there are cub reporters at the Post today who followed the Woodward model.

        1. Oh No Virginia*

          The REAL truth is that those who depend on “gumption” get exactly what they deserve – jobs working for the kind of people who respect gumption! Who are, generally speaking, not good managers (to put it mildly!).

          Far better to select for managers who respect experience, skill and ability.

    5. Ele4phant*

      Honestly I sometimes look at those new grads with a degree from a fancy institution with a certain degree of wariness. Not to generalize, but sometimes these kids come in with a certain degree of entitlement and think they are God’s gift to the industry. I’ve had new hires that act like entry level tasks are beneath them, and act like they deserve a cookie for meeting the minimum bar. Whereas it’s sometimes kids from a no name second tier state school that come in with no sense of ego, are open to leaning, and are ready to prove themselves and do what needs to get done.

      I’m not going to pass over any great candidate based on where they were educated, but a degree from a prestigious school isn’t a plus for me.

      1. LawBee*

        “a degree from a prestigious school isn’t a plus for me.”
        It falls near the bottom of the list of Things That Impress Me – at least without context.

      2. Jana*

        I’m sometimes surprised by how pervasive the “prestigious school=great candidate” notion is… Once I was among a group of interns meeting with the organization’s president and he explained to us that he didn’t care about whether a job candidate went to a well-known or prestigious school. He later asked us all where we went to school and, when one intern announced an impressive university name, he interjected, “Oh, that’s a very good school!”

      3. TexanInExile*

        That was actually the recruiting strategy of my former employer, a lumber company. They deliberately looked for students who were the first ones in their families to go to college and they recruited from the land-grant schools and other state schools. They knew those people would know how to work and would not turn their noses up at living in small mill towns.

      4. wittyrepartee*

        I work with a lot of people with degrees from fancier schools than I. It’s interesting, our base of knowledge is pretty similar, but they do tend to color in the lines more closely than me.

    6. Fried Eggs*

      Beyond just the name of the school, I’m sure this applicant has just spent four years being told left and right how their quality education has taught them to think analytically, write well, etc. and that these are skills employers value. It’s not a crazy leap then to think university education counts as “experience.”

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s like looking for an apartment or house, and your relatives have these highly fanciful ideas of what houses/apartments cost in your geographic area in this current year.

  10. Jennifer Juniper*

    Thank you for your advice, Alison! Until I read your answer, I thought that the candidate reeked of arrogance and entitlement and hated them. Hopefully OP will tell the candidate how their actions are appearing.

  11. Could be Anyone*

    I feel that some extra leeway should be given to candidates when hiring for entry level jobs. They really don’t teach you this stuff in college! Hopefully this can turn into a teaching moment.

  12. Kate*

    Unless you’ve had other red flags, I wouldn’t read too much into it. I hire a lot of new grads. When they negotiate and cite “their experience,” it’s usually a sign that they’re nervous and following a script. Did they also seem more formal in negotiating than in other aspects of the interviewing process? That’s another tell.

    They may also be comparing their experience other new grads’, not the candidate pool’s industry-wide, and overestimating the value of their extracurricular experience.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, I am thinking this all hangs on the word “experience”. What is their definition of experience vs what the company values as experience. We all have experiences but not all experiences are relevant.

      1. Yes Virginia*

        I also think many things other than formal work experience can be important in showing leadership. Did you set up a charity? Start your own company? Do ground-breaking research? Run for elective office at a young age.

        I have a bit of advice for OP and people similarly situated. There are companies that seek out “jagged resumes” rather than conventional ones. Their theory, and I agree with it, is that they may be taking a chance on the jagged resume but there is a lot more upside in terms of hiring a stellar employee who shows leadership (and really prestigious companies hire for leadership skills).

        1. Senior Manager in Fortune 100 Company*

          Did your charity succeed, and thrive? If so, why are you applying for this job instead of running your charity? If not, what exactly do you think about this shows effective leadership skills?

          Did your company succeed and thrive? If so, why are you applying for this job instead of running your company? If not, what exactly do you think about this shows effective leadership skills?

          Did your research lead to anything productive? What impact has it had? What are you doing with that research now? How does that fit with this role? Why are you applying for this job instead of working in academia doing more ground-breaking research?

          Did you get elected? If so, what did you accomplish in that role? If not, what did you learn about your leadership skills and why you failed from this experience? What does that experience add to your application for this role? Why do you think this matters to me?

          Also, LOL at “really prestigious companies hire for leadership skills”! Cite your sources, please? In my experience, “really prestigious companies” (I’d LOVE to know exactly what you consider prestigious!) hire the people they need for the roles they have. Sometimes these require leadership skills, sometimes they don’t. It’s certainly not the number one consideration!

  13. Engineer Girl*

    I don’t know. I would reach out to find out their thought process. In my mind, their answer would be key to how hard they are to work with.

    I was pretty clueless when I started and even I knew my internships (within my major) didn’t count as “real” experience. I knew that I was receiving easier assignments than the experienced engineers that I worked with.

    And that’s the point. Does this person have the personal awareness to know the difference in the types of work experiences? Are they acting entitled? Hoe do they act when you push back and correct them? How they respond to your questions is important.

    1. CeeDee*

      As a fellow engineer, I’m curious about your internships in your major and how they weren’t helpful? were you working on campus within your department? I realized really quickly at my school that a percentage of how you get jobs is who you know. I got an internship because I was good friends with the person two cycles before me and she put in a good word, and that was while I was in college. It did help that my career center was centered around people who worked in STEM more than anything else.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        My internship was actually in design engineering at one of the big 3 auto makers. It was extremely relevant. But I also knew that the problems I was dealing with were technically way below what a full engineer was dealing with.
        The internships got me interviews where others in my class got no call backs. They got me a slightly higher salary ($2800/year in today’s dollars)But I knew they weren’t equivalent to someone with 1-2 years experience.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      See, I read it as this person didn’t do internships for some reason or another – I absolutely consider internships to be relevant experience (dependant on what the internship involved) and (it at least seemed like) the companies I interviewed with right after college did as well.

    3. Marty*

      “I don’t know. I would reach out to find out their thought process. In my mind, their answer would be key to how hard they are to work with.”

      I agree and I think this is the best way to approach entry-level applicants right out of school. This could be one of two things: taking bad advice or an inflated sense of worth (which is also a concern, especially with people who have no work experience and can’t quite grasp the concept of how work value is evaluated by employers).

      When dealing with young graduates, it’s also worth giving them the benefit of the doubt to converse about it (not just to hire them, that’s going to far). It comes with the territory of hiring NOOBS.

    4. EngineerGirlToo*

      Another engineer here… I definitely see what you mean. But I wonder for new grads, what is the point of taking 8 month co-ops if not to say that you are gaining real experience? Many programs now require one, sometimes two, 8 month co-op rotations. This is in addition to one or two other internships. These co-op programs delay you from getting a full time position, so surely, the additional year of experience should be considered?

      I’m not saying it is the same as being a full time engineer – I do agree that often co-op projects as simpler. But generally, the point of a co-op is a to bring you up to speed as a full time employee by the end of the 8 months. That must count for something when negotiating right?

      1. cheese please*

        I commented way below, but I would certainly agree that co-op or work experience (in your field) can count as experience. Sometimes in engineering, employers want to know if you are familiar with Teapot Data Sets or Teapot CAD software, and doing so for a “real-world” project for 3 – 6 months is better than doing it once in class

  14. Czhorat*

    Yeah, it’s a little weird and could perhaps come across as entitled, but it is – at most – a yellow flag. The applicant might be overvaluing their prestigious school, might misunderstand the market and think you’re lowballing them, might just be looking for an excuse to ask for a bit more.

    You offered, they counteroffered. If you say “I’m very sorry, given your experience the initial offer is the best I can do” then the proverbial ball in their court; I’d not have this be the thing that costs them the opportunity.

    1. sometimeswhy*

      Yep. I’d go with yellow flag.

      If you bring them on and they recalibrate their expectations and otherwise perform well: Great! Dunzo. Chalked up to being green. Everyone has to learn somehow.

      If you bring them on and right away they want unreasonable things that demonstrate further entitlement like work from home privileges or a nonstandard schedule or to cross train into something higher-level and more prestigious when they aren’t even fully trained on their entry level tasks maybe start eyeing the red one and re-familiarizing yourself with your probation processes.

  15. Amber Rose*

    I had so many silly preconceptions the first few times I applied for jobs. I know I definitely said things or gave answers that caused interviewers to raise their eyebrows. I also thought I had experience because I’d worked as a cashier for a summer.*

    Inexperience isn’t just a work term, it’s a life term. Definitely talk this one out and put out feelers for other flags, but there’s a solid chance this is just naivety and bad advice.

    *Slight side track: I worked at a deli for a year making hundreds of sandwiches a day, and was told that didn’t count as experience making sandwiches at Subway because it wasn’t Subway experience. The word apparently has different definitions from company to company too, so it’s not as easy as just knowing the dictionary definition.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Deli experience isn’t considered experience at Subway…I can’t. It’s not customer service experience or made to order service but to throw it out completely, mind is blown.

      I’m going to go crawl back into my hole now since I’ve never been in service so maybe I’m just crazypants with my logic.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Yeah, that blew my mind too. I was hoping that if I had to get a crappy fast food job, I could at least make slightly more than minimum wage, but the manager straight up told me the only experience they count is working at their company. I walked out. I was desperate, but not that desperate yet.

        Even Walmart gave me extra money for having previously worked as a cashier at a hardware store.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It sounds like a deranged franchisee or whomever they have as a hiring person. I bet they complain how hard it is to find workers. Bless their hearts.

          I imagine a manager who takes the brand way too seriously. They take “sandwich artist” to the limit.

        2. Episkey*

          LOL, I have seen the reverse…I knew this guy that owned a coffee shop (non-chain) and he wouldn’t consider anyone who had worked at Starbucks as having barista experience because it was Starbucks. That guy was a douche, though.

          1. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

            To be fair to him… it’s really not the same thing at Starbucks as at literally any other coffee shop. Starbucks baristas don’t know how to pull shots because their machines do it for them. They might know how to steam milk, but it’s the shot pulling that’s the really important bit and is a lot more difficult than people on the other side of the bar realize. You have to know how much to grind, exactly how much pressure to put on the tamp, how long to count the pull, at what temp.. and you have to be able to do it in a matter of seconds.
            He would absolutely have had to train them on how to make espresso, as if they had zero barista experience.

            He’s probably still a douche – Starbucks baristas would have every other skill he’d be looking for and generally have great attitudes about it too. So they would probably be great hires if he was just willing to train them on the shots.

    2. Birch*

      Yeah, this exactly. In a lot of fields, “experience” can mean experience with a particular tool or method, which some people do learn whether in a class at university, continued learning programmes, or self-taught. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve applied it in a work setting. OP should clarify what the applicant means and then proceed from there explaining what kind of experience would get the applicant that salary.

    3. AwkwardTurtle2.0*

      I want to say that apparently it varies from Subway to Subway – I got a job at Subway after working at a general food court restaurant that made burgers, sandwiches, etc. So you just had an unusual manager, it’s not a company thing.

    4. LawBee*

      The fact that it was Subway casting shade on delis is hilarious. Their sandwiches are formulaic – how could it be so very different? I mean. It’s SUBWAY.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I know right. I had all the food safety training and experience with cutting and ingredients and everything but it didn’t count. I mean, she still offered me a job, but since I was “inexperienced” it was minimum wage, without the bonus money experienced workers get. And that was so insulting to me that I just walked out.

        In hindsight it was so dumb, the bonus was only a dollar an hour or something, but I deserved it damnit.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Leaving was the right answer. She found a way to negate your experience so she could pay you less, that’s all.

          I remember I was 19 and applied at a place that served Asian (?) food. I knew I had no orientation to the menu so the curve would be a little steep at first. They wanted me to work several days for free to learn the business. I said, “Good luck with your employee search.” They were surprised. That was radical at that time, the norm was to do whatever the employer asked.

    5. Drago Cucina*

      Unless it’s specialized knowledge for the Subway in the Burbank Buy More that’s wacky. You do have to answer to “Greta.”

  16. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Do they have a relevant degree at least? I could see this coming from someone who has a degree within the field instead of say a general degree? Or a BA when you’re only requiring an Associates? But still that’s all I can stretch my mind around. I’m thinking they’re reading bad advice or have been coached by someone who isn’t going to get them as far in the business world as they think.

    Worse case they don’t work out and they’ll have the experience of being fired or quitting to put in their experience bank. I wouldn’t revoke the offer over just this but I’d be on high alert for other things that show them as lacking critical thinking skills.

  17. Anon Anon*

    I think it’s the candidate being naive about what experience they really have. I remember being fresh out of school thinking I had a lot more experience than I really had, because I had had some internships and served as the editor of my college newspaper. I really didn’t, and I didn’t appreciate the difference between professional work experience and internship experience.

  18. Former Hotel Worker*

    Excellent advice from Alison. I always had trouble balancing the self-aggrandizing, hard sell, gumption approach of careers advice with being honest about my lack of experience. I remember being told at 16 that “there is no such thing as no work experience!!” and filling my (hypothetical, purely for careers advice class) resume with my “experience” as a dog walker for elderly neighbour and school library assistant. A few years on and I’m at council employability workshops being told about all my “transferable skills” (seems to be the current buzz word) and having to explain that the office work I’m applying for really does not class working bar and waiting tables as “relevant experience” no matter how much I try and twist it.

    1. Ok_Fortune*

      That’s too bad. I work at an office and I love people with restaurant experience. They tend to be hard workers who have learned not to turn up their nose at any task.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        I agree. I’ve waitressed. A friend of mine was a waitress for 10 years at her family business before getting a corporate job. It’s invaluable experience.

  19. HereKittyKitty*

    I’m curious, could the candidate have no work experience, but might be citing experience with volunteer work, clubs, freelance, etc? For example, in my current job I came in with no /actual/ work experience for this field, but a lot of external experiences that could “count” and was accepted by my employer as “experience.”

    1. fposte*

      They may count as experience when people are considering your fitness for the job, but they won’t usually count as experience when it comes to salary bands.

      1. HereKittyKitty*

        Ah yes, I should clarify that I wouldn’t use that experience to negotiate a higher salary, but it seems like with everyone having different standards of what “experience” means, it doesn’t seem like too much of a red flag a young candidate would try it.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Yes, it’s experience to get you a firmer foot in the door but adds nothing that’s worth additional pay! So if the candidate was making a pitch for a job, thumbs up. Sadly they were using it to get more pay, thumbs down.

  20. Mazzy*

    OP, why do you fear you’ve made a bad decision? Did you cave in to their counter offer? Or do you just regret the initial offer?

    This letter gave me flashbacks to interviewing for entry level jobs despite having 5 years of experience when I wanted to switch industries. Even though I’d been working real jobs for years, some companies treated me like I had absolutely no history and nothing to offer. I compensated for this by exaggerating my experience and transferable skills, more of as a defense mechanism, I guess.

    My point is, if the message isn’t clear that it’s OK to be entry level with no experience, maybe they’re going to feel pressure to exaggerate what they have done, even if it’s not real experience.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I asked for $x at one interview. X was not too unreasonable, except it was above the range for the job with this company. Considering the distance I would drive and several other factors I was unwilling to work for less. The HR lady was GREAT. She settled back in her chair as if to signal, “I am taking off my HR hat for a minute”. She went on to encourage me to hold out for X, she said, “You will get it. Just not from us. But keep going.” She said she admired the way I presented myself and the way I presented what I was willing to do.

      It was one of the few interviews where I did not get the job but I walked out feeling great about my choices and my determination to advocate for myself. It was a while, but the next place I interviewed for I got the $x I was seeking. My conversation with her was a little sunlight in an otherwise daunting path. I think she was sincere and she found a way to encourage me without compromising her beliefs or her job.

  21. M. Albertine*

    I successfully negotiated a signing bonus (I had asked for a little higher salary, and they came back with the bonus as counteroffer) right out of college, because I had already studied for and passed the CPA exam, while the majority of my fellow entry-level employees still needed to pass that hurdle. That’s a specialized example (and not quite “experience”), but a good example of something that was of value to the company and thus a negotiating point.

  22. leah*

    I’ve seen something similar with an entry-level candidate before (just graduated from college). They asked for 10-20K more than the offer with no reason for countering that much (just “I was hoping for….). I told them that the offer was commensurate with their level of experience and the position, and I didn’t offer more. They accepted. At the time, I figured they were inexperienced and that’s why they made such an odd counter. However, they turned out to be a terrible employee: openly insubordinate, no understanding of office norms (especially those regarding idle chit-chat) even after being given clear and direct feedback, spreading gossip, etc. I wasn’t the most experienced interviewer at the time, and thinking back, there were other red flags and more questions I should have asked. But after that experience, I really dig in when I hear something weird with a counteroffer. That, and I wised up and started posting the salary range with the job ad.

  23. Jennifer*

    I bet he went to school in New Haven.

    It smacks more of entitlement than cluelessness to me but perhaps Alison is right. If you do hire him, I hope you update us.

  24. AwkwardTurtle2.0*

    Eh… I think you’re overreacting unless this email came across more aggressive than you tell it. I mean, of course it’s fair that you aren’t willing to raise the salary, but the reality is that a lot of people leave money on the table in salary negotiations, and it’s hard to blame someone for wanting to get paid more. It’s one thing to ask for more money, and use vague terms like “experience”… it’s just as possible that they’re trying to make sure they didn’t leave money on the table. I have literally gotten thousands more a year just by asking for it, so I can’t blame anyone for thinking “Well, let me see if they’ll give me more.” It’s almost always easier to negotiate more money to start than to rely on raises later (and many places are setup with specific pay increases so this is the case).

    I think how they respond to you saying no is the most important part here. If they are understanding, that’s fine, but right now you’re penalizing someone effectively for asking for more money… because the fact that they raised it poorly isn’t that unusual (lots of people are awkward when negotiating salary). Not to mention, it’s really hard to sort out how much money one can get… I’ve had to do the “who will name a number” game of chicken more than makes any sense.

    1. AwkwardTurtle2.0*

      And I will add that I know people who’ve done this and been great employees – you really can’t tell either way from this.

    2. In Progress Couch Potato*

      I agree… I don’t understand how the person writing in would rather write to an internet advice column (a great one! of course) than go back to the candidate to ask for more detail. even if it is a “have I missed something in your work experience” leading question. It would be vastly quicker and would not drag the internet into it, too. I don’t get it, unless this is a pattern that the LW has been seeing (but they have not said that this has happened repeatedly to them with new college grads).

      1. Kiki*

        I don’t know the LW’s mindset but I would guess it’s because in their mind there are only two options: treat it as a red flag and rescind the offer or ignore the potential flag and hire them. The middle option is definitely the way to go, but sometimes the pressure of making a decision makes people lose sight of other options.

    3. AnonyMouse*

      Especially since it’s clear that this is a brand new grad, I think it’s safe to assume that this was their first time negotiating salary ever. Why are we expecting them to be an expert? I give them props for trying!

      I do agree with the follow up question suggestions that Allison brings up, but I’d also add to make sure that your tone isn’t annoyed or aggressive (even if having the conversation is annoying for you). There’s no need to scar this candidate over a small mistake.

    4. Triceratops*


      OP, I think it would be a realllly bad look to pull an offer over something so innocuous! Literally thousands of articles on the internet tell us all that we MUST negotiate EVERY offer because we have EXPERIENCE that makes us WORTH IT! Honestly? Even including Ask A Manager. I’m coming to realize that most of that advice is mainly applicable to more mid-career folks, but when you’re just starting out and don’t know how much you should get paid and what ~experience~ really means, it is not at all obvious that you shouldn’t ask for more from your first job using that language!

  25. SK*

    My partner was the first person in her family to go to a four year college and the first to be paid a salary that wasn’t part of a city employee pay schedule. No one taught her how to negotiate or not negotiate a salary offer. Everything she’s learned about navigating the corporate world has come from internet research.
    Be frank in explaining that the salary bounds are what they are, but yanking an opportunity because an otherwise qualified young person made a faux pas just replicates inequality.

    1. UK Civil Servant*

      I was the first in my family to go to uni.
      My father’s side of the family were at least in professional jobs, where salary negotiations were a thing, but my father had a weird attitude to not giving us advice or any leg up in the professional realm. (My father’s advice was uniformly dreadful when he gave it, so I probably didn’t lose too much there anyway. But it really stung my brother who wanted to enter a similar field, and got zero help.)
      My mother and her parents were public servants of various flavours… my user name tells you how that worked out!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Why do parents do this, why, why.
        I can only conclude that their parents did not help my parents so in turn my parents saw no need to help me.

        The alternative explanation is that they felt they had to struggle therefore I should struggle also.

        With no proof for either theory, I am going with the former theory as the latter theory stings a bit.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is such a weak excuse and playing into stereotypes about people who rise above their parents standards. We’re not country mice dropped into the city. There are a ton of resources available, even in the early 2000s, I was able to cobble together how to poke around and follow leads to learn professional norms.

      I’m pretty tired of seeing it flung around and disregarding the ability to adapt for us folks with uneducated families.

    3. AnonyMouse*

      Agreed! I feel like a lot of the advice geared toward new/early career individuals assumes that they don’t know what negotiation is (which is some cases can be true) and focuses more on explaining why you should negotiate without the how you should negotiate piece. Coming out of my graduate program, there was a lot of pressure from our faculty to always negotiate an offer.

      What the LW described sounds more like the candidate was given a script by someone and was too nervous to stray from it. I don’t really see why this is cause for concern, especially since I’m assuming they are otherwise a good candidate for the position. I actually feel like the LW may have overreacted a little bit in seeing this as a red flag, and if they are a regular reader of AAM they know this is hardly the most bizarre thing a job candidate has done.

  26. Bee*

    Oh, no, this makes me worry that I did something like this back when I got my current job. When I interviewed for the position, the interviewer acknowledged that I had some management experience at my previous job, but they could only offer me an entry-level position because I didn’t have hands-on experience in this particular field. That’s fair, I would not have been able to do any management without knowing the hands-on aspect, but I definitely got the impression that they intended to have me use some of my management experience while in the entry-level position and would only pay the entry-level rate. So I did some research on the field and position and similar companies in the region, spoke to the career counseling office at my college, and asked for a couple of dollars more than the rate the company had offered. The hiring staff seemed somewhat taken aback by this, I suppose because they only knew they were hiring for an entry-level position and not that I had prior management experience. After some negotiation we settled on one dollar more than the original offer, which I’m not certain was an accomplishment for either party.

  27. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I worry that so many times, people are quick to end the conversation after they get a request they don’t like. Putting the cart a little bit before the horse, if you will. I think the candidate was fine to try to negotiate, but the OP is also fine saying, “No, $X [or $X+$100] is the best we can do. The offer still stands, though, are you interested?” I think the response to that says far more about the candidate than the initial negotiation question. It’s like, “I can’t believe Julie asked if she could bring her boyfriend to my girls’ night!” and getting really irritated at Julie, when Julie is really just asking and will definitely accept no for an answer.

    1. Drax*

      …this is actually a fantastic way of looking at this that I would have never considered. I get annoyed by some of the requests I get at work but I’m going to have to try and look at it like that vs ‘I WANT GIVE ME’ which causes instant annoyance.

    2. Kiki*

      Yes! When I ask people for their reasoning for doing something (or asking for something in this case), I find that most people have good/understandable reasons, even for annoying behaviors/questions. It also helps people feel satisfied with the answer, even if it’s no, because they’ve been heard.

      If LW gets back to the potential employee and asks more about her experience/ reason for asking, there’s a high chance they’ll both feel satisfied moving forward.

      Additionally, negotiating is always kind of awkward. I give her a lot of credit for going for it, albeit clumsily

    3. Close Bracket*

      It’s Ask vs Guess culture. Julie is an Asker. Jaime is a Guesser. Guessers don’t ask until they are sure the answer is yes. When Julie asked Jaime whether she could bring her boyfriend to girls night, Jaime projected her own Guessing tendencies and thought that Julie only asked assuming the answer would be yes. Guessers think Askers are pretty audacious, thinking they will get that $X+100 when they offered $X.

      1. Owler*

        This is a great comment. I am a Guesser. I wish I had seen the ask/guess dynamic laid out so plainly much earlier in my career (and life).

  28. MissDisplaced*

    I mean, it’s possible they held several internships or co-ops while in college that might warrent it, but then I’d think it would’ve been on their resume.

  29. Beth*

    I agree that this is probably bad advice the candidate has gotten. Or, not even bad advice–as a general rule, negotiating is a good thing! But advice lacking in nuance, which didn’t acknowledge that it’s not relevant for your very first job ever.

    I wouldn’t hold it against them. It’s easy to say that it should be obvious you can’t negotiate for more because of your experience when you don’t actually have a work history, but I don’t think it’s actually that intuitive for many kids. You have to know what counts as experience, for one thing. Employers don’t generally include things like going to college or taking part in a student organization or participating in a sport, but college career centers and internet articles still tell students to put stuff like this on their resume as ‘experience’–it’s very easy for even a kid who’s really trying to do their due diligence on figuring out norms to get led astray. I’d chalk it up to a kid who isn’t very familiar with the norms of the working world (which you already knew from his lack of work experience).

    1. IndoorCat*

      I remember a different letter (I think here?) about recent college grads not knowing what a “project manager” was, and the grads said they had project management experience because they’d led group projects in school. It might not of been that extreme, but iirc, it was genuine ignorance, to such an extent that they didn’t even know they were ignorant. Still, it wasn’t like they were trying to pull a fast one; they just misunderstood the term in a work context.

      Which is to say, I agree with you. I think it happens a lot.

  30. LaDeeDa*

    I once interviewed a candidate who was given some really bad negotiation advice from her husband. At the end of the interview when I asked if she had any questions, she asked about the salary. I told her that if an offer was made the recruiter would let her know the offer but it was around $X (she had been given the range in the phone interview by the recruiter), she said “My husband told me that since we live 1.5 hours away I should ask for $10,000 more than that.” I said “Negotiations of salary don’t happen in the interview, however, if you decide to take a job that is outside your community radius that is your responsibility, not the company’s.”

    1. Ginger*

      That doesn’t even make any sense. So she lives farther away and that’s somehow your responsibility to pay her higher for that? Gosh people are dumb sometimes. And don’t get me started on her quoting her husband AT THE INTERVIEW. Gah.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Right? I mean, years ago my dad encouraged me to negotiate vacation time as well as salary, but I would never say out loud that “My dad said I should get more vacation time” because common sense.

    2. Yes Virginia*

      Her mistake was not negotiating salary. It was offering a poor rationale and bringing her husband into it. Is she going to be able to take any important decision at work without ringing up her hubby?

  31. Ginger*

    I earned my MBA through an evening program at a great school. A large number of the full time students, many of whom had very little work experience, truly believed they would be getting top dollar salaries because of class projects, papers and grades. They seemed to think writing a paper and giving a 20 min presentation on a topic counted as experience. Education =/= experience. Both are needed (and I don’t mean degrees necessarily, just education in general whether it be prestigious university or self taught) but having a degree alone doesn’t make up for years of experience.

    I blame the schools and career counselors that feed into these delusions.

    1. LaDeeDa*

      Parents are to blame too!!! Baby boomer parents give the WORST advice to their kids. I run a new-grad and intern program at my company, and the things they tell me their boomer parents tell them is laughable. Most baby boomers have no idea how different it is now. Going to a good school, and your paper are no longer enough.

      1. only acting normal*

        Surely most new grads now have Gen X parents? We can totally give awful advice too: we learnt how from our Boomer parents. ;)

        1. LaDeeDa*

          LOL! So true, but usually it is young Boomers, the Gen X parents tend to be a little more practical and less optimistic. My favorite thing ever is when Boomers and Gen Xers (I am Gen X) are complaining about millennials, I like to remind them they were the first generation of helicopter parents and they created this madness, then I hit them with the fact that Millennials will be the first generation to “leap frog” and they will be on our bosses in 5 years…. I LOVE my Millenials and love them as leaders.

      1. Beth*

        I don’t know Ginger’s reasons, but I think it’s possible to acknowledge the value of education without pretending it’s an equal substitute for experience.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        There are a lot of occupations where you have to have certain educational qualifications on paper even if what you’re doing could be learned through experience. I don’t know about MBA’s but I work in an historical archive and there is nothing my bosses do that I couldn’t learn through an apprenticeship, but I would still have to get an MLIS and CA to have their jobs. And there are more applicants out there than jobs so there is zero incentive to hire people without them.

      3. Pibble*

        “Education =/= experience. Both are needed”

        Not seeing any conflict with Ginger’s position and getting an MBA.

  32. Lilo*

    This honestly might just come from pure ignorance. I was recently going through files on my computer and came across one of the first cover letters i ever wrote for a communications internship. i had put that my summmer job serving at a dive bar (my only job experience at that point) helped me gain experience in marketing?! as an actual professional in marketing now, i wonder how the hell i made that connection! needless to say, i did not get the internship, but i’ve since recovered in my career.

    1. LaDeeDa*

      I constantly draw on the fact that when I was a new grad student graduate and was so confident and naive and had no clue what was really happening in the bigger picture. I knew what I knew, and had no clue I didn’t know all the things I didn’t know. I love the coaching opportunities and don’t hold it against them, if they are open to feedback and coaching… I have one fairly new grad who responds to my request like they are suggestions… and when I coach him, he responds like he has been working here 35 years and says things like “I showed up. I am just getting a paycheck. This weekend I am going to my parents’ lake house (an area that has $5 million properties)”

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I mean…if your marketing the jello shots right, you are doing darn good marketing as a bartender.

      I’m so mad when I find out there are jello shots the hard way. “Where did these come from?! WHY ARE GETTING THEM ONLY NOW?”.

      So I can see the connection ;)

  33. Myrna M*

    Jeez, I think it’s pretty harsh to hold this against her. She’s only asking, like basically everyone is counseled to do, and to hold that against her is unreasonable at best. The “lack of critical thinking skills” seems like a pretext for “I just don’t want her thinking she’s entitled to get more than what I offered.” It seems like you’re reading entitlement into what is a pretty standard, and reasonable part of the negotiation process: asking if a higher salary is available.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The issue isn’t that the person negotiated; it’s absolutely fine to do that. The issue is citing “experience” when you don’t have any.

      1. Myrna M*

        Whoops, I didn’t see your clarification before my next comment. I can see that. Perhaps it’s experience volunteering, or a particular kind of class or something. Without those, yes, I can see why it could be problematic, but certainly not enough to withdraw an offer.

        1. Someone Else*

          If they’re already at the offer stage though, presumably OP has seen the person’s resume and had some number of conversations with her. If she had actual relevant experience it should have come up. Even going beyond taking OP at her word that this person has no experience, if they got this far and OP wanted to hire the candidate in the first place, but is also under the impression the candidate has no relevant experience, either the candidate has no relevant experience…or she managed to get really far in this process without clearly communicating what that relevant experience is. If she had enough experience to justify the salary of someone with 5 years experience, it should not have been possible to get this far without it being known what exactly constitutes said experience.

  34. Myrna M*

    And I should add – it’s not just experience that gives candidates leverage, is it? If that was the case, there would be no point in conducting interviews. I imagine if you offered her a position then you appreciated what she offered in the interview, whether it’s intelligence, ability to answer questions well, generally being personable…various qualities that might indicate fitness for a job. At this point, if you’ve decided she’s the candidate for you, then if I were in her shoes I’d think I was bringing something to the table that you want, and that you might pay more than what was initially offered because HR often gives a range for just that reason — to give you wiggle room in making an offer. Much of the advice I’ve gotten is that if you just ask, you’ll get it — and that’s often been the case for me.

    1. Karen from Finance*

      Well, up to a point. The person making the interview has decided the candidate is worth hiring, given their qualifications, and offered a salary. Sometimes companies have some wiggle room, sometimes they don’t (as in OP’s case). If you want to go back to the company and say “I think I should earn more than this on these grounds”, those grounds better hold up. This person presented two arguments that are invalid: the market rate is not the one for an entry-level position but for an experienced hire, and the person cited experience that they do not have. It would have even been best if the person had said “I think I would be more comfortable with a rate of X” with no reasons, rather than give arguments that hold no grounds.

      At best, this person is just repeating advice they heard somewhere and didn’t think it through, else they would’ve seen they didn’t have grounds to make their argument. At worst, they are delusional and entitled. I don’t blame OP for being nervous as either way it doesn’t look good.

    2. Jane*

      The OP’s concern wasn’t that the candidate made a counter-offer, it was that the candidate cited two things that didn’t apply.

      And you can’t really couch a counter offer in “I deserve more money because I have the best personality” or “I deserve more money because I’m really smart.” Experience and market value are two highly cited reasons for giving in a counter offer, so that’s probably why the candidate did it.

      The request probably would have been taken better if it was a “I was hoping for X amount. Is that something you can offer?” rather than claiming experience. But the candidate didn’t do that.

      1. Yes Virginia*

        And you can’t really couch a counter offer in “I deserve more money because I have the best personality” or “I deserve more money because I’m really smart.”

        But some jobs require personality. And if the candidate really is smart? Well, there are a lot of dumb people out there. If your workplace values “smart people working alongside other smart people” spending a bit more to hire the right person might be appropriate.

  35. Perpal*

    OP – please talk to the candidate more as Allison outlined above then tell us all about it! I am curious if this is just a case of a new person having some really misguided notions or if it does all turn out that it’s really part of a bunch of proper red flags.

  36. Kenneth*

    There are a couple things coming to mind on this based on my own “experience”.

    Flashing back to the end of 2004, I’d just finished college and would start looking for work as a software developer. Now when I was actually hired by someone, they offered me well what, at the time, was considered an entry level salary for a software developer in the Des Moines area, despite having never worked professionally as a software engineer. And the reason is the experience I had on the side that, with assistance from my father, I figured out how to put on my resume. It wasn’t experience with an employer, but software projects I created and published online or contributed to. And that was something that was also readily discussed in the interview as well since it was prominently on the resume.

    So I’m wondering 1. what type of LW is talking about, and 2. whether this person mentioned other “experience” during the interview they may or may not have figured out how to document on their resume. They may feel they have other experience to offer that they may not have been properly guided on how to document on their resume. So rather than jumping to the conclusion they think college alone is “experience”, you may want to talk to the interviewers (if you weren’t among them) and see what was discussed during the interview and whether the person came with an updated resume that may have documented additional, verifiable experience.

  37. YourEthicsConfuseMe*

    Do you think maybe they researched average salary for the position, not realizing things like Glassdoor salaries are from a range of companies, locations, and experience levels? Maybe the salary range was 25-55k a year and the average was like 45k a year but realistically those are from people with 25 years of experience that retired, so entry is closer to 30k? That’s how I saw it.

    1. Anon Anon Anon*

      I think that’s a strong possibility. There are some misleading stats about salaries out there.

  38. The Imperfect Hellebore*

    OP, you’ve said that you already set the salary as slightly higher than usual. I’d ask yourself how much you want this candidate? If they’re absolutely brilliant, and you think it’s unlikely you’ll meet such a stellar candidate again, I’d consider offering slightly more than your original offer, and see if they bite. I’d also pay very close attention to how they communicate.

    My instinct, though, is to consider other candidates. If you originally had others in your pool that are equally skilled, but a bit less cocky, I’d interview them again before offering the job to GreatSchool McCocky Pants. It’s very possible that they’re using advice, and coming off a bit strong, in which case I’d cut them some slack. It’s also possible that they genuinely believe that their “superior” education puts them above them above the herd.

    Can you interview everyone who was originally on your shortlist again?

  39. chickaletta*

    I’m fine with her negotiating, but her reasons, like Alison said, lack critical thinking. You mentioned that she graduated from a prestigious college which makes this more concerning, not less…aren’t critical thinking skills, like, a basic asset at those universities? If she had graduated from a local community college then sure, I can see this happening and cut her slack. But the fact that she graduated from the big leagues and still doesn’t realize that she used an excuse that makes absolutely no sense is a little alarming.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      Depending on the school and its culture, “critical thinking” can sometimes be a thing students expect to put on like a hat when they’re doing schoolwork, but not necessarily apply to activities of daily living. The best schools (as distinguished from the most prestigious — there is overlap, but not a 1-1 correlation) do expect you to keep your brain on at all times and try to create a culture where that will be enforced by the peers around you. But it’s definitely not universal practice at “top” universities.

      1. chickaletta*

        If there are top universities out there that are not teaching their students to use the skills they’ve been taught in all aspects of their lives, ESPECIALLY outside of the classroom, then they are failing. After all, if a student leaves their learning behind in the classroom, then what is the point?

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Critical thinking skills still rely on adequate knowledge of the topic at hand, and a new grad still won’t have much/any experience in the professional world to use as reference points. You could ask me to think critically about . . . advance economics or something and I’d blow it because I don’t have enough information about the subject.

    2. LCL*

      Her actions make sense to me. All of us, if we are honest about it, went into our first jobs with what we thought was a well thought out understanding of how the world works. Then we get schooled. Trends in hiring practices can change practically overnight because everyone is so connected these days. I want to ask all of you who are the younger people in the workforce and who have decades ahead of you to consider what kind of work environment you are shaping for yourselves if you expect perfect understanding and performance of social norms.

      1. chickaletta*

        I didn’t lie to get my first job and I bet the majority of people did not. If that’s a hiring trend these days, then it is wrong.

      2. Namey McNameface*

        I don’t think anyone is saying younger workers should have perfect understanding and performance of social norms. But there is a spectrum and at employers will have their own point where it’s enough of a red flag to rescind a job offer.

      3. IndoorCat*

        Er, maybe I’m in a really different field than yours, but while I had some misconceptions about the exact nature of my work when I got my first post-college job, I had no doubts that I was inexperienced.

        Also, frankly, my first post-college job wasn’t my first job. I worked all throughout college and in high school, all at jobs that were non-negotiable, $X-per-hour or $Y-per-word (or per article) gigs. That’s really normal for the first few jobs people have. I didn’t perform “perfectly” on the first try, but I also understood that I was at level 1 and definitely had a lot to learn.

  40. Anon Anon Anon*

    The fact that she didn’t cite any experience to back up her request gives you some leverage. And it’s an opportunity to teach her how things work in the business world – when asking for something, give a solid, facts-based reason.

    I would act as though I was giving her the benefit of the doubt and ask what experience she’s referring to. There COULD, after all, be something she’s done that is not on her resume. Or this could be an opportunity to explain that, for example, challenging academic work doesn’t count as work experience. And the tone of that conversation would be a good indicator as to whether to proceed or revoke the offer.

  41. AliceInWonderland*

    I once took back a verbal offer to a candidate for an entry-level role because they tried to negotiate. I had explained in the phone interview AND in the in-person interview that the stated salary was not negotiable, because all new team members start at the same salary. The candidate both times said they understood. After I had verbally offered, the candidate asked by email, “I know you said the salary was $X, but I’m sure we can work out a salary that’s more commensurate with my experience” (in an unrelated field). I yanked the offer because if someone doesn’t hear me when I clearly say and explain something twice, I don’t think I can rely on them on my team. It didn’t feel good, but honestly I had had my reservations about how happy they would be in the role (with the salary) since they were already working (unrelated to the field in which they studied) – so it reinforced that concern. I was happy to offer to my #2 candidate.

  42. Astrea*

    I’ve never tried to negotiate payment for non-freelance work and can hardly imagine having the boldness to do so. But I can think of possible reasons a recent grad might seek to coast on the strength of their degree.

    I see a lot of postings, especially at colleges, for jobs which require “X degree, Y years of related experience, or an equivalent combination of education and experience.” It’s hard to know exactly what that means. The LW’s employer clearly doesn’t allow education to substitute for experience, but an applicant might somehow hope they will turn out to do so if pushed.

    If academic prowess has opened all of the doors for you all your life, moving into the work world where it doesn’t is a shock. My excellence in high school and eloquence in application essays got me accepted to all of the many colleges I applied for, and multiple offers of hefty merit-based financial aid. I lucked into the most elite job of my career immediately after graduating college in 2010, lost it to slashed funding three years later, and have struggled through underemployment and unsustainable work ever since, feeling less desirable with every job rejection. So a new grad might have an especially high belief in their own worth and especially its connection to their degree, even if their actual worth as a worker is lower than that of more experienced applicants.

    And yes, people can be advised to aim too high by people who don’t understand how…it works. A friend once told me that my disability-based inability to drive shouldn’t always get me disqualified for jobs where I couldn’t have a provably reliable means of commuting — I should find an employer who wants me so much that they’ll *pay* someone to drive me to work. *eyeroll* Head in the clouds, that man.

  43. Namey McNameface*

    After recruiting and working with mostly entry level roles, I would take this as enough of a red flag to rescind the job offer.

    This is going to sound politically incorrect – in my experience of hiring entry level roles the common trait among successful hires was they were humble. By that I don’t mean “will grovel for any crappy offer out of gratitude for work”; but they understood realistically what kind of salary/responsibilities they could expect as someone with almost no experience in the workforce. So they were eager to learn, listened to instructions, wanted to prove themselves and develop their career. All of those traits made them much easier/faster to train to become high (or at least slightly above average) performers.

    LW says their company pays above market rates. But if even this is inadequate for the applicant and he already has an inflated sense of worth, it’s likely he will see this job as “settling” for something beneath him. And that kind of attitude shows in both their teamwork and quality of work. This to me is a personality/character issue rather than someone who’s green and makes silly work mistakes, as we all have.

  44. Was a Rookie Once*

    When I trained to enter my industry, I was specifically told, “if anyone ever asks you for X, ask for a pay bump for it!”

    My very first day of my very first job, I got asked to do X. Feeling very confident that I knew what was the professional thing to do, I asked about getting a pay bump. It was the furthest thing from entitlement — I felt so nervous and so new — it was just me trying to do the expected, professional thing so I wouldn’t be seen as a rookie or a screwup.

    Spoiler alert: The person giving the training had not known what she was talking about, I’d gotten horrible advice, and X was a normal part of my job. My boss was kind enough to pull me aside and explain how badly I’d come off instead of firing me on the spot — he even said, “somebody at school told you to do that, didn’t they?” I’m extremely lucky that he was sympathetic instead of harsh and I didn’t lose out on a fantastic opportunity. And I’m still grateful for how he so kindly explained to me how I’d gone wrong.

    Now that I’m more seasoned, I look back on that in so much horror that I don’t even retell the story to laugh at!

  45. katherine*

    This is why I hate advice that says “you have nothing to lose!” when encouraging people to negotiate on salary or anything else. You do have something to lose, frequently, and this is one example of it.

  46. Ben H*

    If they were a strong candidate, you should ask for clarification on the experience they’re referring to. Ideally, they would have listed this as part of their cover letter, resume, or during your interview, but they may have had a part-time gig, or freelance work, or an internship, or any number of other potential experience builders.

    You state that the position does not require a prestigious degree, I assume you mean from an Ivy League or big state school, but they can indicate more “experience” than candidates with a similar degree from a lower level school. An engineering degree from MIT is certainly more valuable than a degree from a regional university with few total graduates.

  47. Oaktree*

    Here’s a question- when I was hired at my job, it was my first real job (in the field) out of graduate school. I’d worked previously, but mostly student jobs in the field and unrelated stuff. So when I got an offer, I didn’t negotiate- I felt it was my first job out of school and I was lucky to have it, plus I really didn’t have an idea of what the standard was for early career teapot curator. My work offered me what I later found out was something like 5-10k/year below average for teapot curators in their firs to third year of their career. Knowing this, should I have negotiated at the time?

    1. Oaktree*

      The numbers I got were from professional associations’ salary surveys (a local one and a national one), plus conversations with friends in the field (working a couple years longer than me) who told me what their starting wages had been. It’s information that’s as trustworthy as possible- I didn’t just guess from Glassdoor or something.

  48. cheese please*

    Just want to chime in re: the concept of “experience”

    In my field, students are encouraged to participate in internships and co-ops. Some have even been at the same company every summer, contributing tangibly to projects. My program in school was also thesis based. I worked on a project to help Teapot Inc. better quote projects for custom teapot orders. I spent a whole semester interacting with clients, as part of my schoolwork. Other students I studied with did a research project on teapot coatings that got picked up by the DoD for military teapots, or developed teapot production lines that saved cost.

    I successfully used my projects etc as work experience, and think it is ok to do so (I use plenty of those skills in my current role and it certainly helped me negotiate benefits as a strong candidate) Not sure if OP’s hire is referring to anything along these lines, but I fail to see how all recent grads have “no experience” , unless there are fields where there is no way to gain experience in an internship / co-op/ project. Would be interested to hear other perspectives.

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