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Thread: Salary negotiation tips for entry-level planner?

  1. #51
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    The other big X factor for me is health insurance. Without knowing who my next employer will be or what plan I will be on, I have no idea how much I will have to pay. This could be as much, if not more, of a factor than the student debt.
    This is something you can take control of if you so choose. If you're young and healthy, there may be cheaper options available to you beyond what your employer offers. High deductible catastrophe plans are a good option if you're not expecting to use your health insurance much.

  2. #52
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    ...The other big X factor for me is health insurance. Without knowing who my next employer will be or what plan I will be on, I have no idea how much I will have to pay. This could be as much, if not more, of a factor than the student debt.
    A good side effect of the AHCA is the local option. Provider companies are now required to distribute their profits back to the customers (us) rather than the shareholders or CEOs' boat payments. A year ago, I was getting turned away by every private insurer I contacted, "you have a pre-existing condition so we can't insure you." Nowadays they are asking for my business as they seek to broaden their customer base.

    Any employer who brings you aboard on a F/T basis will provide you with benefits. As an employee, your contribution might be as much as $50/month. Maybe $100 if you go for the highest amount of coverage. Of course, if you are in your early 20s, you can remain on your parents' coverage. (I was self-employed for more than a decade, and pretty much went bare. Paid for dental work out of pocket. Never got in a crash or got cancer. It was okay.)

    You might want to do some research into this; seems like you're worrying about something that doesn't pertain.

  3. #53
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    ...I know that the lower monthly payments means that the life of the loan will stretch out much longer and I'll end up paying more in the end, but there was just no way I could handle that kind of debt load and still find money for groceries, rent, etc...
    The trick to student loans is to defer or reduce payments perpetually, until the day you die and do not need to worry about them any more.
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  4. #54
    Quote Originally posted by Veloise View post
    A good side effect of the AHCA is the local option. Provider companies are now required to distribute their profits back to the customers (us) rather than the shareholders or CEOs' boat payments. A year ago, I was getting turned away by every private insurer I contacted, "you have a pre-existing condition so we can't insure you." Nowadays they are asking for my business as they seek to broaden their customer base.

    Any employer who brings you aboard on a F/T basis will provide you with benefits. As an employee, your contribution might be as much as $50/month. Maybe $100 if you go for the highest amount of coverage. Of course, if you are in your early 20s, you can remain on your parents' coverage. (I was self-employed for more than a decade, and pretty much went bare. Paid for dental work out of pocket. Never got in a crash or got cancer. It was okay.)

    You might want to do some research into this; seems like you're worrying about something that doesn't pertain.
    What planet are you from?

  5. #55
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Planet Wireless

    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    What planet are you from?
    At my previous job, my monthly contribution was along the lines of $54.87/month for dental, HMO, and Rx. V-e-r-r-y large corp with maybe 400k employees.

    I take it your mileage varies...let's see the amount.

  6. #56
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Veloise View post
    I take it your mileage varies...let's see the amount.
    Your rate depends upon the size of the pool paying into premiums. Large corporations (I've worked for two) usually have better prices for their employees. I also worked for a small town, but we were able to take advantage of a pool set up by the state to share-spread costs to keep premiums low and have a good base for "retirement" investments.

    Nevertheless, we should be celebrating that a recent college graduate thinks they might actually get an offer.
    -------
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  7. #57
    Quote Originally posted by Veloise View post
    At my previous job, my monthly contribution was along the lines of $54.87/month for dental, HMO, and Rx. V-e-r-r-y large corp with maybe 400k employees.

    I take it your mileage varies...let's see the amount.
    I assume it must also have to do with geography or something. That just sounds insanely cheap to me. I worked for the largest bureaucracy in the world, the Department of Defense (800k civilian employees), and my premiums weren't near that cheap. Of course, if you're talking about catastrophic plans, that's another matter. In my opinion, catastrophic plans aren't really an option for anyone with a family. It can still put you in debt by many thousands of dollars and provide little to no preventive or low-end health services. You have to accept a large amount of risk betting on being healthy and having no accidents (Last February I was moving into a new house and on the third day I was going down 3 steps into the garage and landed on my foot wrong. Bam, broken, needed surgery. Completely unexpected, and I'm "young" and healthy.) My latest job I might pay in the neighborhood of $200 a month, just for myself, for a good PPO with about $300 deductible, $3,000 out-of-pocket max, co-pays in the range of 10-15%, $1,500/yr dental, and Rx. (all numbers are from memory and may be off.)

  8. #58
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    Yeah, my health insurance contributions for an HMO plan are about 55 bucks a month at a county government. Then dental is another 13 bucks. The county is self-insured but Blue Cross administers the plan.

  9. #59
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    My single-person health insurance is $75/month. It includes dental and one eye exam per year.
    My wife's insurance is free through her employer but the family plan (top-of-the-line everything) is $424/month. That will be quite the jump when we have kids!
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  10. #60
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    My latest job I might pay in the neighborhood of $200 a month, just for myself, for a good PPO with about $300 deductible, $3,000 out-of-pocket max, co-pays in the range of 10-15%, $1,500/yr dental, and Rx. (all numbers are from memory and may be off.)
    Holy cr@p that's a lot.
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  11. #61
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    I assume it must also have to do with geography or something. That just sounds insanely cheap to me.
    National company providing cell service largely in rural areas. Policy was via BC/BS of Arkansas (most employees did not live there).

    I worked for the largest bureaucracy in the world, the Department of Defense (800k civilian employees), and my premiums weren't near that cheap. ... My latest job I might pay in the neighborhood of $200 a month, just for myself, for a good PPO with about $300 deductible, $3,000 out-of-pocket max, co-pays in the range of 10-15%, $1,500/yr dental, and Rx. (all numbers are from memory and may be off.)
    "We're from the government, we're here to help." Maybe that has to do with the huge legacy cost factors, as well as all the paper-pushing.

  12. #62
    Cyburbian Dharmster's avatar
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    I just switched jobs a few months ago. My health insurance alone for me and my wife now cost me $200 a PAY period and we get paid bi-weekly. However, when I switched jobs I negotiated knowing I'd pay more for health insurance and negotiated with that in mind.

  13. #63
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    200 employee non-profit organization in NJ. I pay $55 every two weeks for myself and the two girls for medical, dental, and optical. My medical is a 90-10 PPO through Blue Cross, my dental is negotiated fee for service ($0 cleaning/xray, $12 basic filling, etc), and optical.

    As far as student loans....deferment/forebearance is your friend right now, pay the interest if you can, look into consolidating your loans as well. If you are employed at a non-profit, government, or other public service employer for 10 years and make regular on-time payments under one of their eligible plans your eligible loans (Stafford, FFEL) that have balances remaining will be forgiven. http://studentaid.ed.gov/sites/defau...orgiveness.pdf

    For me that amounts to a 6:1 return on investment.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  14. #64
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    First of all, and I'm saying this as somebody with a team and with responsibilities for hiring, no serious employer is going to cancel their offer if you simply inquire about whether there is scope for negotiation or not, which means there is nothing to lose by asking. The worst risk is an emotional one (I once had an HR officer laugh in my face when I asked about salary.. and I will say that was unusually bad behavior there, on his part, and I didn't take the offer), but you won't get penalized for it. My last two three employers (over the last decade, basically) all negotiated in good faith. Typically you go back and forth twice and then either you'll say, "Fine.. it's a wrap" or they'll say "That's about all what we can do for you" and that'll be the final offer, take it or leave it.

    Typical areas for negotiation are:
    (i) vacation time ("my family is in city X and I'd really like to see them" "I need some more time to care for an aging parent" etc...),
    (ii) flextime ("can I work at home on Fridays?"),
    (iii) transportation allowances,
    (iv) professional membership fees, training and conference attendance,
    (v) promotion, career path, and review frequency ("if I do well as a GIS analyst for 2 years, I want to join the generalist design and planning team and not be a technician anymore" "Could I be reviewed for promotion to Planner I, from Grad Planner, after 1 year of service instead of some unspecified period of time?" "I want to move to strategic planning from development review as soon as a spot becomes available..").
    (vi) salary. As a person just starting out, this last area is more difficult and you may not get anywhere, but it's still worth asking. If you have something that passes for meaningful experience, it may be possible to move up within an entry-level employment pay-band by a few thousand dollars, at most.

    In my experience, healthcare premiums and subsidies are generally not negotiable.

    Most employers will respect you for being proactive.

    In the consulting world, what you make is primarily a function of what you can be billed out at, and that is often around 3 times what you make, the remaining 2/3rds being the expenses of the firm (called overhead) and, hopefully, some sliver of profit for the firm as well.. (which you may get back as a bonus payment). Juniors right out of undergrad, with zero experience, in our industry need to be able to bill out at around $100,000 a year at a big-city engineering, planning or architecture firm. This means that it is likely that they can afford to pay you up to around $32-$35,000 ball-park. Juniors right out of grad school, with about 2 years of experience need to be able to bill out at no more than $140-$160,000 a year, meaning they can afford to pay you $47-60,000. $55,000 is a typical grad-level entry offer at some of the top large engineering and architecture firms in NY or San Fran, for that level, for example. Juniors right out of grad school with zero experience probably can't bill out at more than $120-$130,000 a year (which means $40-42,000 a year in salary) Most big firms will require you to be certified within 1-2 years of employment.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 19 Dec 2012 at 11:45 AM.

  15. #65
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    The one-thirds/two-thirds rule is not always set in stone. As you move up the consulting ladder, people hire up may decide to allocate more of your billable rate towards your salary. Billable rates and personal compensation are not directly related. The first is what the company charges to the client for your individual time on a contract. Now if you can personally bring in new signed contracts to a firm that changes things your compensation as well. However, most entry-level planning consultants don't have the experience base or contacts yet established to do that work. Stay away from firms that expect their entry-level workers to have contacts to bring in work.
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  16. #66
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    The one-thirds/two-thirds rule is not always set in stone.
    No, it's not, but it is a good rule of thumb as it determines what is economically possible (at the limits) for many firms. Just a way to get to a conservative understanding of compensation... and those salaries I cited are what the market is paying.

    The other thing to bear in mind is billability. As a junior, you want to have an understanding for what your responsibility for being billable. Firms that maintain low multipliers for their juniors (that 3 times thing) for juniors, as nrschmid suggested some do, will tend to cover the cost of that by insisting on higher proportions of billable time. A major employer of many thousands of planners nationally (I'm not going to use any names, but there's only one firm that employs that many planners), is known for allocating more of the billable rate toward salary for juniors. So while a senior might have 3x multipler, a junior might have a 2.5x multiplier. To make the numbers work with that, they insist on up to 100% billability (down to about 90%).. which means every minute of every day must be billable. If you miss that billlability target (meaning that your firm doesn't assign you enough billable work), you can be sent home (with a salary dock) or, worse, you risk being laid off (if you are not 100% billable for 2 weeks at that particular firm, you may be laid off, in some business lines). This places a lot of pressure and stress on the juniors.. basically, they live in perpetual fear of not being fully billable in any given week, and since they're not responsible for bringing in business, it is a fear founded on factors totally beyond their control.

    Personally, I find these salary-biased multiplier structures to be unfair. The logic is that seniors should be spending more of their time on non-billable work (like whining and dining clients), while juniors should be at their desks crunching 24/7, but this makes things very stressful in the office and prevents R&D, skills-development and other essentials for building an effective, cutting-edge practice. From a management standpoint, higher multipliers are bad because they hurt marketability, from a junior perspective they're great, because they mean more flexibility, less stress and a more varied job description.

    Another thing to ask about is over-time compensation policy. Many firms no longer provide over-time pay but still expect over-time work. In that case, they may give you a daily over-time per-diem instead of hourly pay.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 19 Dec 2012 at 12:46 PM.

  17. #67
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    and those salaries I cited are what the market is paying.
    I would agree, but those are for firms in larger metro areas and who are also hiring, everything else being equal. To the OP, I would still use a planning salary survey as ONE example to base your arguments for higher compensation. Again, you really don't have much bargaining chips unless you can bring in a niche service that no one has OR you bring in signed contracts, which is a long shot.
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  18. #68
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    larger metro areas
    Actually, pretty much just for NY, San Francisco, LA, WDC, Boston and Chicago, as I tried to qualify. Assume less for most other places.

  19. #69
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    Salaries for planning consultants in Chicago are NOT comparable to the coasts.
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  20. #70
    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    Salaries for planning consultants in Chicago are NOT comparable to the coasts.

    Yeah, in Chicago salaries depend on who you know!
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  21. #71
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by OfficialPlanner View post
    Yeah, in Chicago salaries depend on who you know!
    They are - up to a point - for some of the big firms that have offices in those other cities. My comments relate primarily to those players, as that's my market segment. Remember cost of living. Boston, San Fran, NYC, WDC are a lot more expensive to live in than some other cities. To be fair, my only basis for saying anything about Chicago is my familiarity with individual's salaries there.. both from work and from people applying for work from there... my experience is pretty much limited to the Northeast and the West coast.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 19 Dec 2012 at 2:36 PM.

  22. #72
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    No, it's not, but it is a good rule of thumb as it determines what is economically possible (at the limits) for many firms. Just a way to get to a conservative understanding of compensation... and those salaries I cited are what the market is paying.

    The other thing to bear in mind is billability. As a junior, you want to have an understanding for what your responsibility for being billable. Firms that maintain low multipliers for their juniors (that 3 times thing) for juniors, as nrschmid suggested some do, will tend to cover the cost of that by insisting on higher proportions of billable time. A major employer of many thousands of planners nationally (I'm not going to use any names, but there's only one firm that employs that many planners), is known for allocating more of the billable rate toward salary for juniors. So while a senior might have 3x multipler, a junior might have a 2.5x multiplier. To make the numbers work with that, they insist on up to 100% billability (down to about 90%).. which means every minute of every day must be billable. If you miss that billlability target (meaning that your firm doesn't assign you enough billable work), you can be sent home (with a salary dock) or, worse, you risk being laid off (if you are not 100% billable for 2 weeks at that particular firm, you may be laid off, in some business lines). This places a lot of pressure and stress on the juniors.. basically, they live in perpetual fear of not being fully billable in any given week, and since they're not responsible for bringing in business, it is a fear founded on factors totally beyond their control.

    Personally, I find these salary-biased multiplier structures to be unfair. The logic is that seniors should be spending more of their time on non-billable work (like whining and dining clients), while juniors should be at their desks crunching 24/7, but this makes things very stressful in the office and prevents R&D, skills-development and other essentials for building an effective, cutting-edge practice. From a management standpoint, higher multipliers are bad because they hurt marketability, from a junior perspective they're great, because they mean more flexibility, less stress and a more varied job description.

    Another thing to ask about is over-time compensation policy. Many firms no longer provide over-time pay but still expect over-time work. In that case, they may give you a daily over-time per-diem instead of hourly pay.
    This is the reason I hate the billable hour approach in consulting. It causes consulting staff to charge the client more than is fair (on a time and materials basis) just so they can meet their requirement. Internally, it also causes junior level staff to mark down an overly large share of a project on a fixed budget. In reality, most consulting work is performed on a fixed budget. You have $25,000 to complete a study or $40,000 for a neighborhood plan or whatever. It does not matter if you put in 80 hours or 400 hours, the project still needs to be completed and you will get no more or less based on the hours you put into it. I have always preferred to tell staff that as a group they have to make X dollars to break even, and the goal is to exceed X plus 30 percent. I then use staff in the best way possible for the client and the business. If that means having somebody spend time marketing, going to a conference, writing an article, or whatever, instead of working for a client, so be it. At the end of the year we can then ask "Have you been a valuable contributor to the team?" Rather than "Have you filled out a time card that shows you met some artificial goal?".
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  23. #73
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    At the end of the year we can then ask "Have you been a valuable contributor to the team?" Rather than "Have you filled out a time card that shows you met some artificial goal?".
    I completely agree.. my advice for salary negotiations at (most) firms was not a recommendation for this system. This is why I left the large planning/engineering firm racket, which I spent 18 years in - for an architecture firm.. which such things aren't so tightly enforced and I can manage my team more to the requirements of the task. That doesn't mean we don't bill hours.. we do.. but the system is less transparent and the margins are higher, so that team members (as opposed to team leaders) don't really have to worry about it so much.

    Even at the large planning/engineering firms, there's ways to mitigate this system. Here's a bit of advice for project managers, assuming, on lump sum contracts, your client doesn't require detailed by-person breakdowns (which is usually the case), when you price out a proposal internally, be more generous in apportioning the senior staff billable hours and conservatively budget the junior hours. Since seniors are generally billed at a far higher rate relative to their compensation (they make relatively less than what is anticipated by their exorbitantly high bill-out rates). But they inevitably under-bill, because they tend to be busier. This gives you a big pool of extra hours to allocate to the juniors who are actually doing the heavy-lifting in terms of time-intensive work components, since junior bill-out rates are often a fourth or fifth or less of the senior bill-out rates per hour, even though the seniors don't usually make four or five times as much. This gives the client a better work product for their lump sum fee, encourages more honest billing and makes for a much happier and less stressed-out team. Just make sure you build in enough senior time for client interface as well as for review and QM/QC.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 19 Dec 2012 at 3:11 PM.

  24. #74
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    I then use staff in the best way possible for the client and the business. If that means having somebody spend time marketing, going to a conference, writing an article, or whatever, instead of working for a client, so be it. At the end of the year we can then ask "Have you been a valuable contributor to the team?" Rather than "Have you filled out a time card that shows you met some artificial goal?".

    Personally, I would rather have some quantifiable number to justify compensation at the end of the year. As a worker with no vested interest in someone else's company, billing 60 hours a week or spending 30 hours at a conference is still time taken away that I could be doing things away from the office. The other thing is that supervisors are more likely to remember your most recent contributions than what you did earlier in the year. There were years where I was swamped with work in February and March but slowed significantly towards the end of the year. Guess which part of the year my bonus and raise is based on?
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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  25. #75
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    . The other thing is that supervisors are more likely to remember your most recent contributions than what you did earlier in the year. There were years where I was swamped with work in February and March but slowed significantly towards the end of the year. Guess which part of the year my bonus and raise is based on?
    You have to manage your boss. If they need reminding other than something about how valuable you are in your monthly report, then they can get another 'valuable employee reminder' report around Thanksgiving/month before end of FY. Every boss that I had that was halfway decent appreciated the reminder. As did I.
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