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Early Career Success Guide: How to Use Data to Get Your Dream Job

A long time ago, when I was a newly minted job seeker, a school friend and I sat down to talk about our job prospects – and how much we thought we should be paid. "I'm figuring on $60,000 a year to start," she said. When I asked how she came to that number, she replied, "Well, that's about how much I think I need to pay off my loans and live in the manner to which I'd like to become accustomed." Needless to say, her first administrative assistant job, way back in the year (intentional mumbling to obscure my age), did not come through the way she'd hoped, in terms of pay.

A long time ago, when I was a newly minted job seeker, a school friend and I sat down to talk about our job prospects – and how much we thought we should be paid. “I’m figuring on $60,000 a year to start,” she said. When I asked how she came to that number, she replied, “Well, that’s about how much I think I need to pay off my loans and live in the manner to which I’d like to become accustomed.” Needless to say, her first administrative assistant job, way back in the year (intentional mumbling to obscure my age), did not come through the way she’d hoped, in terms of pay.

money spiral 

(Photo Credit: Patrick Hoesly/Flickr)

My pal made a mistake that’s common among job seekers: thinking about how much we want, or on the flipside, think we can get, based on nothing more than our wants and needs and a vague gut feeling. The good news is that data makes all the guesswork unnecessary, and arms you with real information you can rely on a salary negotiation.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

“The hunt for your first job out of college is an emotional rollercoaster,” writes Aubrey Bach, PayScale’s Senior Editorial and Marketing Manager, in PayScale’s Guide to Early Career Success. “You might feel a mixture of excitement to be graduating (not to mention earning a paycheck!), confusion about exactly what you want to do with your life, stress about the sudden onslaught of crucial life decisions you have to make and zeal (or possibly terror) about your new status as a legitimate grown-up. It’s a lot to deal with. But if you root every step of your job search in data, you can alleviate uncertainties and set yourself up for a lifetime of higher earning power.”

Here are a few of the tools PayScale provides, to help you in your search:

1. PayScale Salary Survey

Want to know how your experience, skills, education level, and geographic area affect your salary range? This is where to start. You can see what similarly skilled peers are making in your industry, or come up with a target to present at your next salary negotiation.

2. Career Research Center

Research job titles or employers, or see what other people in your area are doing and earning, in PayScale’s Career Research Center. You can also search according to school, or browse popular jobs.

3. Cost of Living Calculator

New grads don’t always stay put. If you’re pondering a move, you’ll want to know how far your paycheck will take you in your new home. The Cost of Living Calculator can tell you whether that job offer is as sweet as it appears, once you take your expenses into account.

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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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