It is no secret that many people these days are just happy to have a job. As the nation seeks to fully recover from the economic meltdown that occurred years ago, the climate for new hires has not been as prosperous as it once was. Many college graduates are accepting positions well below the average pay grade of their majors and attained degrees, while many are also taking jobs that are not even within their major. Though most grads are just simply seeking a job to pay their bills until they can land the position they have always dreamt of, how will this affect their future earning potential in the long run?
My first full-time position out of law school paid nothing close to what my friends and colleagues in Big Law were making. One reason is because I worked for a very small company, had to put in fewer hours per day and did not have to keep up with “billable hours.”
Though I was not 100 percent happy with what I was making, it was definitely better than nothing. About 3-4 months into the job, I learned that I had kind of played myself with my asking salary and decided that I deserved more. I spoke with my boss and, luckily, he agreed to a pay increase. I thoroughly enjoyed certain aspects of my job, especially the reasonable hours, however, I often wondered if taking this position (that I so desperately needed at that time) would forever leave me lagging behind my colleagues in pay.
Every job application inquires about your last annual salary, as well as your desired salary if offered a new position. This information is most definitely used when a company offers you a job, specifically when offering a particular salary and benefits. What you were willing to accept in the past, can, in fact, come back to bite you in your future earnings.
As noted within a CareerBuilder.com article, taking a lower-paying job poses some potential financial risks. Raises and bonuses typically are given as a percentage of salary, so what starts out as a small difference can be compounded over a long professional career. A recent study conducted by George Mason University and Temple University estimates that a difference of $5,000 early in your career can end up costing you as much as $600,000 over 40 years of employment.
All in all, the initial salary you agree to can affect not only your bank account, but also your psyche and ability to negotiate a higher wage in the future. If you think you are only worth what you are currently getting paid, then I suggest you research salaries in your field as you matriculate throughout your career. Sites such as Monster and Careerbuilder.com offer great advice regarding salary negotiations and information for each job/industry per market.
Don’t sell yourself short just because you need a job. It may be hard in the long run to prove your worth financially if you have been accepting below market value for so long.
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.