Given that just 6% of UW coop salaries are negotiated, we wanted to know: is it taboo to negotiate salary, or is it perfectly fine?

To find out, we asked our LinkedIn network (which is full of adults who have hired others in the past), if negotiating as a young person is okay.

Matthew Roby, CEO of LevelQA.com, put it this way:

“A closed mouth doesn’t get fed.”

Vicky Moriarty, Leadership Program Manager at the Australian College of Practitioners, added on a caveat:

“Equally as important is being able to articulate the value you add… And this is where many people come unstuck when starting out, because you haven’t had the experience to be able to articulate that.”

Seems that asking for a higher salary than what you’ve been offered is fine, so long as it’s done right.

How do you actually articulate your value-add? Jack Steckel, Partner at Capital Canada Ltd., advises:

“Do not say it’s because your rent is so high, simply why you are worth it.”

To be more specific, Sean Copeland explains the following. For reference, he’s the Director of Research, Data Science & Analytics at Student Life Network, explains:

“Every employee has an expected future value and a current monetary value, in the same way when someone is valuating a company for M&A [merger and acquisition], it is important to pay a new employee based on their expected future value.”

“The challenge for interns and co-ops is that they have less evidence to present a compelling argument that their future value to the company will far exceed their current compensation.”

“In my experience, it is easier to get in the door at a lower starting salary and then ask for a deserving salary increase at the end of the internship or co-op when the evidence clearly supports it and a permanent opportunity is offered,” says Copeland.

Looks like there are many dimensions to what value you have. Building on Copeland’s sentiment is Simon Field, Strategic Development Director at 2×4 Holding, who says:

“When you are in the job, you can stand out as an exceptional employee and be promoted, but it is fruitless to negotiate your first salary when other people with the same qualifications as you are willing to do the job at the advertised rate.”

So, then, maybe negotiating salary isn’t about just a paycheque today? Maybe it’s about being able to figure out who’s thinking long term about your future with them. Maybe, that’s where you want to spend your coop experiences, anyway.

At least there’s an upside if it doesn’t work out. Johnny Baskin, Founder of Nomadic Advertising, has advice in case your attempt at negotiating gets shot down:

“It is the perfect chance for you to ask your perspective employer what you need to do in order to achieve the salary you are looking for.” He added that this will allow you to figure out exactly what you need to do to get that bump in the end.

We think it all depends on why a company hires coop students. If it’s just to get a job done, your future value to them is low. However, if that same company hires coop students as ways to build a network of potential new hires once they’ve graduated, the tables turn a bit. Even Copeland agrees, “I see [employees] as someone that you invest in and will always be part of your network.”

And if they’re going to invest, hopefully it can be an amount you’re both happy with.

Labor markets are auctions, not supermarkets. In other words, prices are negotiable. —Paul Shustak, CEO of Karen.care

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