In the military, pay rates are consistent among all members of your branch of the military who are at your rank. Salary and benefits are determined by Congress and there is no negotiating.
In the civilian workforce, it is a whole new world of opportunity. Keep in mind your negotiation and subsequent salary will set the tone for the rest of your civilian career. Therefore, you must be prepared. Following are some salary negotiation tips that apply to your military transition.
Do your research.
The first step to success is research. When you are asked the salary question, you not only want to have an answer, but you should have proof in-hand. The rule of thumb in salary negotiation is the first person who names a number loses. When you are asked to name the salary you are seeking, it is best to offer a range and cite a source. Use websites such as http://www.salary.com/ and http://www.payscale.com/ to prepare for salary negotiations.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate.
You should always negotiate salary. If you don’t, there is a good chance you are leaving money on the table. Make it a rule to never accept the first number an employer offers. You never know what you can get unless you ask – they are not going to spontaneously offer to pay you more. Define the benefits you bring the employer and demonstrate your value throughout the interview.
Don’t sell yourself short.
Transitioning out of the military can be a very daunting challenge. I meet former service members who take the first job they are offered, without attempting to negotiate salary. This is usually done out of fear or desperation. Be proud of your military experience, determine what you have to offer an employer, and market these benefits accordingly.
Don’t broadcast retirement.
If you are retiring from the military, consider keeping this fact quiet. Employers may offer a retiree less in salary because they know you receive a military pension. My goal for all military members is that you be able to bank your retirement funds – that you earned serving our country – and replace or exceed your military salary.
Take other factors into consideration.
Your annual salary is just one part of your compensation package. If you and your potential employer are not able to agree on a salary, there are other options to consider. If you are retiring, you don’t need your new employer to pay for health care benefits. Negotiate additional compensation based on these savings. Other considerations are 90-day salary reviews, car allowances, or signing bonuses. No matter what you agree to with your new employer, always get everything in writing.