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Thread: Salary negotiation

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Salary negotiation

    I am currently employed part-time at a small economic development and planning consulting firm in the St. Louis region and I was recently offered a full-time salaried position. I will be finishing my Master's degree this summer.

    Looking through several resources, I'm getting the sense that I could ask for between 35,000 and 40,000/year. For people knowledgeable about this, is this fair?

    My primary responsibilities are, in order of importance, GIS work, steering planning projects, and possibly assisting on economic development projects.

    On a related note, does anyone know offhand or where I can learn information regarding the common hourly billable amount for planning and economic development work?

    This is the first major milestone in my career and I want to handle it correctly.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showt...265#post370265

    I believe you had already asked this (see above). As I had written on the previous thread, I still don't think you have a lot of negotiating power for a few reasons:

    1. You are already working for the same employer who will hire you full time. You have more negotiating power if you move from one firm to a different one.
    2. You don't have a planning degree yet.
    3. You don't have substantial planning experience.

    Bottom line, take what you are offered. I tried negotiating a merit based increase during my annual review last year and only got a little more than a COLA.

    If you absolutely have to negotiate, research salary data prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the APA salary survey.

    In terms of an entry-level billable rate, economic development and planning are pretty much the same (at least from the private sector).

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    It was a while, so I guess I forgot. Sorry about that.

    Okay, so I understand that starting fresh, I don't have a lot of potential to build more negotiating power, until then, is it unreasonable to expect something between $35-$40k/year in the St. Louis region? I don't know if you're familiar with compensation in this region but maybe you have a general sense of it?


    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showt...265#post370265

    I believe you had already asked this (see above). As I had written on the previous thread, I still don't think you have a lot of negotiating power for a few reasons:

    1. You are already working for the same employer who will hire you full time. You have more negotiating power if you move from one firm to a different one.
    2. You don't have a planning degree yet.
    3. You don't have substantial planning experience.

    Bottom line, take what you are offered. I tried negotiating a merit based increase during my annual review last year and only got a little more than a COLA.

    If you absolutely have to negotiate, research salary data prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the APA salary survey.

    In terms of an entry-level billable rate, economic development and planning are pretty much the same (at least from the private sector).
    Sorry, I see you already answered that question.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 21 Apr 2007 at 11:52 PM. Reason: double reply

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    You are in teh right range for someone with a maser's degree and some experience. As for billing rates, I see that varying in different parts of the country and between different firms. Here in Central America is it going to be less than on either ends of the country.
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    The reason I ask about the billable rates is to get a better idea as to my worth to the company. I have no idea what the hourly rate might be in my region for planning projects and econ dev work.

    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    You are in teh right range for someone with a maser's degree and some experience. As for billing rates, I see that varying in different parts of the country and between different firms. Here in Central America is it going to be less than on either ends of the country.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    find out the billable rate for your type of work for other projects your firm has had contracts with, and adjust if for inflation

    Don't over-analyze this. Take what you can get. I am sure your firm is not going to cheat you. It's a lot harder to dig up salary info in private sector jobs, I think it just takes time to develop a "sense" as to what other people are making in your field and geographic area.

    I think alot of entry-level planners want to make a ton of money right out of school, and you don't get through this profession in leaps and bounds, but you take one step at a time. You need to learn your profession first, and how to excel at it, the pay raises will come in time.

    When you say you received an offer from your firm, I assume you received an actual letter of offer (which should have the salary and terms already spelled out). What did they tell you regarding the salary? Will you have to meet with them to discuss this? If so, you need to check out a few CURRENT books on salary negotiation from the library.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 23 Apr 2007 at 1:46 PM. Reason: double reply

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    They didn't give me a written offer. They simply asked me for a memo indicating when I'd be able to go full time.

    It's a very small, new firm so I don't know if that makes a difference. I would assume not because if they were still looking for employees with Master's degrees in planning, they'd be looking in the same pool of advocates.

    Rather than over-analyze, I'd say that I'm just being cautious. I've never done this before, ever. I want to learn the correct protocol when it comes to these kinds of negotiations. I also don't want to get taken advantage of and at the same time I want to be sensitive to their position as a young, small firm.

    The one thing I have pulled from the forums and my research is a reasonable asking range. People seem to be saying $30k gross is at the minimum low end and $40k gross is just fair. I am not operating with the illusion that I'm going to be making a ton of money fast. Just reading the legion of posts of planners moving to private development firms is enough to tell me that. I have no problem with proving my value to a firm and know that I have a lot of stuff to learn.



    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    find out the billable rate for your type of work for other projects your firm has had contracts with, and adjust if for inflation

    Don't over-analyze this. Take what you can get. I am sure your firm is not going to cheat you. It's a lot harder to dig up salary info in private sector jobs, I think it just takes time to develop a "sense" as to what other people are making in your field and geographic area.

    I think alot of entry-level planners want to make a ton of money right out of school, and you don't get through this profession in leaps and bounds, but you take one step at a time. You need to learn your profession first, and how to excel at it, the pay raises will come in time.

    When you say you received an offer from your firm, I assume you received an actual letter of offer (which should have the salary and terms already spelled out). What did they tell you regarding the salary? Will you have to meet with them to discuss this? If so, you need to check out a few CURRENT books on salary negotiation from the library.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    If they simply asked you when you are planning on going to full time, it seems like they probably already have a dollar amount already established. I thought when you said you had an offer, I assumed you had a written letter of offer.

    In this case, I would just take what is offered, and hope for the best. Keep in mind there are other benefits (medical, paid leave, training, etc.) that you should also factor into your compensation.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Tough to gage common hourly billable rate

    It is tough to gage the commonly hourly billable rate because most firms won't disclose that type of information to the public. However, i have heard and learned through my channels that a good gage to figure out if you are being compinsated properly in the private sector is review your billable rate as it stands today or even how it might look when you do go full time (your boss, or hr department have this info). Simply take your billable rate and divide it by three. The reason being is your billable rate in the private sector must factor such things as overhead costs, sick/vacation time, and profit. If your billing rate is significanlty off from what you are making, ask the boss why, and he/she should provide you with a little insight to those reasonings why your billable rate my be lagging (with your instances, maybe the lack of experience).

    Don't expect much in terms of oodles of money with your first job. Take what you can get, and begin to build equity in your planning career. If it is a good firm, they will handsomely reward you for a job well done, and as with any job, the more experience you have, the more you get paid.

    And finally, try not to compare your salary with others just based on your degree. You may have a master's degree, but that doesn't mean a whole lot when you first start considering there are other with just a bs degree, but whom have ample experience in the work force. Good luck!

  10. #10
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Take it.....

    But make sure you get them to pay for your AICP exam, dues and minimum continuing education hours.....
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  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    By "Take it..." do you mean, take whatever they offer me?

    Quote Originally posted by The One View post
    But make sure you get them to pay for your AICP exam, dues and minimum continuing education hours.....

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Pretty much.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Well....

    Quote Originally posted by jdstl1977 View post
    By "Take it..." do you mean, take whatever they offer me?
    I'd ask for $45k and do the used car salesman thing from there.....hoping that you get $40k with the AICP exam/dues/continuing ed.
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  14. #14
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Or..

    You can take the price is right approach and just start bidding at $1...

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    If you are going to negotiate, I highly recommend you get books on proper negotiating, otherwise you are going to sell yourself short.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    I think your asking price is reasonable. Be prepared to justify why you believe you're worth that much if they ask why such a price. Based on my experience in the private sector, billing rates can vary according to the project. CPSURaf is right about factoring in overheard costs, benefits, etc. into the billable rate. It can be quite complex and I wouldn't really consider it a factor in salary negotiations, unless you're contracting yourself out or something like that.

    If offered something lower that what you expected or hoped for, try to add in some perks to offset the difference - AICP exam/dues/continuing ed; CED certification (especially since you're at an ED firm), etc. Also try to negotiate a COLA and/or merit raise after 6 months or sooner than an annual review. Sometimes it's not the actual salary that makes a job worthwhile, it's the perks that can go along with it. Good luck!
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Planderella View post
    Be prepared to justify why you believe you're worth that much if they ask why such a price.
    Yes indeed - if you're going to ask for a specific salary, you should be prepared to justify your asking price. This will be a lot easier on your next job move!

    Quote Originally posted by Planderella View post
    Based on my experience in the private sector, billing rates can vary according to the project.
    This is true. Billing rates are tied to salaries (generally speaking), but they vary wildly depending on the client and type of project. I would not suggest that you try and use billing rates as a way to calculate a desired salary.
    I found you a new motto from a sign hanging on their wall…"Drink coffee: do stupid things faster and with more energy"

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    But isn't there some "floor" that I should not accept? I have a hard time believing the take whatever you can get advice mentioned by some people above because several people have told me that your first salary negotiation is the starting point for all other negotiations for future jobs.

    Quote Originally posted by Planderella View post
    I think your asking price is reasonable. Be prepared to justify why you believe you're worth that much if they ask why such a price. Based on my experience in the private sector, billing rates can vary according to the project. CPSURaf is right about factoring in overheard costs, benefits, etc. into the billable rate. It can be quite complex and I wouldn't really consider it a factor in salary negotiations, unless you're contracting yourself out or something like that.

    If offered something lower that what you expected or hoped for, try to add in some perks to offset the difference - AICP exam/dues/continuing ed; CED certification (especially since you're at an ED firm), etc. Also try to negotiate a COLA and/or merit raise after 6 months or sooner than an annual review. Sometimes it's not the actual salary that makes a job worthwhile, it's the perks that can go along with it. Good luck!

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jdstl1977 View post
    But isn't there some "floor" that I should not accept? I have a hard time believing the take whatever you can get advice mentioned by some people above because several people have told me that your first salary negotiation is the starting point for all other negotiations for future jobs.
    Common sense should tell you not to accept anything that you cannot live comfortably with. That should be your base salary right there - the amount that can sustain your current expenses such as rent/mortgage, utilities, etc. After that, you can start factoring in your qualifications, experience, etc. You have to be realistic though. Even though you have some experience with the firm, you're still fresh out of school. You won't have as much value as someone with more years of experience, especially from other jobs.
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by jdstl1977 View post
    several people have told me that your first salary negotiation is the starting point for all other negotiations for future jobs.
    I think that should be rephrased to your first salary negotiation is practice for all other negotitions. Keep in mind negotiation is not always win-win, it can be in a stalemate, too, no matter how much you practice. I learned it was a waste of my time to spend so much out of work time to earn barely more than a COLA.

    In ANY negotiation (jobs, diplomacy, etc.), both sides make concessions. What concessions can you really give up for the other side to make concessions for you? Not much at this time. You have potential as a planner (otherwise they would not consider you for a full-time position) but you do not have experience yet. Experience is proof that you can competently perform the required tasks of your job, and can be considered a very important form of job equity (there are other forms such as your sales record in bringing in new work into a firm, your professional relationships with other firms and other clients (internal and external), and your reptuation in the industry). I don't think you have any of this equity yet, and you are still at the bottom of the food chain, I'm afraid. THAT is why you should take what you are offered.
    Last edited by nrschmid; 25 Apr 2007 at 12:12 PM. Reason: forgot stuff

  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    I think you're over reaching your understanding of my position and my experience. To clarify, I am being hired as the sole GIS person and and main project manager for all planning projects. This is not, in my estimation, an offer made to someone who has "potential" or lacks any serious job equity.

    I believe I bring considerable value to the firm and will undoubtedly increase their capacity to improve the quality of the work product they produce as well as the amount and number of projects they may take on.

    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    I think that should be rephrased to your first salary negotiation is practice for all other negotitions. Keep in mind negotiation is not always win-win, it can be in a stalemate, too, no matter how much you practice. I learned it was a waste of my time to spend so much out of work time to earn barely more than a COLA.

    In ANY negotiation (jobs, diplomacy, etc.), both sides make concessions. What concessions can you really give up for the other side to make concessions for you? Not much at this time. You have potential as a planner (otherwise they would not consider you for a full-time position) but you do not have experience yet. Experience is proof that you can competently perform the required tasks of your job, and can be considered a very important form of job equity (there are other forms such as your sales record in bringing in new work into a firm, your professional relationships with other firms and other clients (internal and external), and your reptuation in the industry). I don't think you have any of this equity yet, and you are still at the bottom of the food chain, I'm afraid. THAT is why you should take what you are offered.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by jdstl1977 View post
    I think you're over reaching your understanding of my position and my experience. To clarify, I am being hired as the sole GIS person and and main project manager for all planning projects.
    What exactly are they hiring you to do? This seems to contradict what you written in your original post, which says:

    My primary responsibilities are, in order of importance, GIS work, steering planning projects, and possibly assisting on economic development projects.

    Are you assisting or managing? It makes a very big difference in terms of negotiation. Are you assisting or are you the sole manager right now as an intern? If you were in an assistant role as an intern and they want you to be the "project manager for all planning projects" then in this specific case, I think you have a lot more negotiating power. You are taking on more responsibilities at a project manager level, which would command a higher salary.

    When I say job equity=years of experience, a professional with forty years of experience with increasing levels of responsibility will have much more job equity than someone with a couple years of experience. As for me, I have about 3 full years of planning-related internship experience (12 months of the year, in school and out) and about 2 years of experience working as a full time planner.

    However, Even though I learned alot in the internships and that set me apart from other students, people in my current job and the industry in general would morel likely say that I have 2 years of experience. When I send out my work resume to a client (as part of a proposal) a potential client might say I have more experience than someone who is getting out of school...but not really that much more. It is sort of like getting an associates degree folllowed by a bachelors: you really only have earned one degree.

    Speaking from my experience in 5 planning-related internships over 36 months and more importantly as a full time planner, I think that interns overestimate their role as an intern (in most fields). When I started my first planning internship, I thought of myself as a superhero who was going to change the face of planning. I learned the hard way from my full time job that interns are really just cheap labor, and some companies/firms have no interntion of bringing those workers on board full time. I know that isn't uplifting to students embarking on their summer internships who are reading this post, but I try to be realistic (better to hear the truth now from someone who has been there before).

    Bottom line, planning internships are wonderful, and they do help out a planning department. But the majority of these positions are auxillary to much larger projects. I don't know whether you the fit within my definition of a typical planning intern. It sounds like you either have or are being asked to take on more managerial work in your full time capacity.
    Last edited by nrschmid; 25 Apr 2007 at 3:37 PM. Reason: keep forgetting stuff

  23. #23
    Are you an APA member, and if so, have you played around with their salary calculator? I tried it for you, and it didn't have a large enough sample for entry level private sector planners in the midwest.

    If I did entry level (0-2 yrs) private sector planners with all specializations selected, with master's degrees, and for all states, the range I got was 41k (25th percentile) to 50k (75th percentile).

    If I did REAL entry level (less than 1 year experience) with the same options, the range was 37.6k - 49k, although the sample was not statistically meaningful (only 16 planners nationally).

    My first job out of school three years ago was as a private sector planner in south jersey (very different from north jersey), and my starting salary was 45k.

    Based on all of this, I don't see why you should earn less than 40k unless the benefits are tremendous or something, or if the job market in St. Louis is particularly depressed in your experience.

    I'm definitely not with the 'take whatever scraps they offer and be happy' crew, because I wouldn't, but the other thread detailing people's very extended searches for their first job is sobering. I would approach them saying you really would like to earn at least 40k, based on reasons X, Y, and Z, and see how they respond.
    Last edited by SpringfieldMonorail; 25 Apr 2007 at 3:38 PM.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jdstl1977 View post
    I think you're over reaching your understanding of my position and my experience. To clarify, I am being hired as the sole GIS person and and main project manager for all planning projects. This is not, in my estimation, an offer made to someone who has "potential" or lacks any serious job equity.

    I believe I bring considerable value to the firm and will undoubtedly increase their capacity to improve the quality of the work product they produce as well as the amount and number of projects they may take on.
    It sounds like you've justified why you're worth the salary that you want. They obviously value you enough to parlay an internship into a full-time position. By no means should you sell yourself short.
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

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