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Negotiating a Job Offer After Prolonged Unemployment

Q. After 2 years of unemployment, I have been offered a position as a marketing data analyst. This is a small career change, and I'm fully qualified (if not overqualified). Research shows salaries from a low end of $49k to an average of $62k/year. They offer a salary that is well below the low end of this spectrum. While I could cover my bills, I feel the offer is almost insulting and taking advantage of my desperate situation. How can I address this disparity? I like the company and would love to work there.

A. Prolonged unemployment is a horrible experience - financially, emotionally and career wise. It’s something that only those that have been trough it can fully appreciate. Unemployment statistics are made of stories of real people and real organizations going through challenging times. And the aftermath of this will invariably impact on how you view any offers you receive.

So celebrate that you have an offer. The people you met value your skills and the contributions you can make. Do your research. Why can the company fill this position now? Is this a replacement role for a recent vacancy? Or did they fill a long vacant position with a newly opened head count addition? Is this a new role based on business growth? The answers here, as well as a look at any type of financial information you can access might help explain more about how the offer came to be and why they selected the salary they did.

You say you like the company and would love to work there, but why? What do you know about the people and the organization that would explain what you consider a low ball offer? Are they the kind of people who would “take advantage” of your situation? Are they a not-for-profit that doesn’t fit your research data? Was the research conducted in a booming economy versus during a recession? Or perhaps they see your experience and qualifications a bigger career change than you believe.

While you have the opportunity, you should try to negotiate for a higher salary. Valid reasons include your experience, and the data you have on the typical salary range for this role. Approach the negotiations with gratitude, “Thank you so much. I am very pleased to get this offer, I am confident in the experience I bring to the organization, and the contributions I can make. I am disappointed in the compensation. Recent research I have done shows the compensation for this position between XX and XX for someone with x years of experience. This offer is below the low end of that scale. Is there flexibility in your offer?“

Hopefully you can add to the offer. If not, consider asking for a six month compensation review. If they cannot or choose not to enhance the offer, are you able to move past your feelings about the generosity of the offer? There are many ways to see the “reality” of this situation. You need to make sure that you can accept this job without bitterness. Should you accept the offer, you will want to be the high performing positive employee you can be, even if you continue to look for opportunities that offer more.

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