Yea or Nay?: Weighing the Job Offer

By Sharon Fleshman

Wherever you are in the job search, it wouldn’t hurt to consider how you might decide on a given job offer.  To that end, here are some key steps.

Allow for adequate time for decision making. This may require some negotiation if an employer requests that you decide on the offer by a certain date and you feel that you need more time.  The worst thing you can do is to prematurely accept an offer, and renege on it later.  After you express your enthusiasm about the offer, note that you want to take the time to make a well-informed decision.  

Do your research.  Make sure you are as clear as possible on the employer’s core values to see whether they align with yours.  Hopefully, your research started when you prepared to interview but you may still need to review the organizational website, read recent news related to employer, or speak with others (especially alumni) who work at the employer.  As it relates to salary, be aware of what a reasonable range might be so that you can negotiate effectively.  A number of resources accessible on the Career Services website can be helpful in this regard.  Consider other criteria such as professional development, health benefits, financial planning options, location, and so on.

Know your bottom line.  Regarding the offer, think about what allows for some flexibility and what is non-negotiable.  Perhaps you know that a certain salary is required for you to meet your financial obligations.  Maybe you need a certain level of supervision for the pursuit of a necessary licensing or certification.  Your responsibilities to your family may require that you live in a certain region. 

Consult with a mentor and/or Career Services advisor.  It can be very helpful to invite another person to be a sounding board.  Speak with trusted mentors who know you and your chosen career field well.   Make an appointment with a Career Services advisor who can point you to useful resources and help you sort out your thoughts about the offer.

Timely Advice on Job Offers

Right about now, some of you may be actively interviewing for jobs and internships, or in the process of receiving and deciding on job offers.  A big mystery is knowing “what you are worth” and evaluating the offers to make sure you are getting fair compensation, and the work conditions that will make you happy to accept the offer.  You can read tips on our website, “Deciding on Job Offers,” or gather data from Career Plans Surveys (including salary information for recent graduates) or learn about negotiation strategies.  Below is a short collection of blog entries written by career services advisors that provide great advice to anyone at this stage of the job search:

Womens’ Wages

This topic came up recently in a workshop I was leading on job offer negotiations.  I wanted to answer a student’s question regarding how to be sure as a woman, you are paid the same as men by an employer making a job offer.  The answer is… you can’t, even though it has been the law since 1963. BUT, there are things you can do to help with the issue of income disparity, including your own.

Be aware of what is systemic:

Research the organizational culture. Are there women in leadership or management positions? Does the organization say they are interested in diversity? Does the organization have policies which support issues that might affect your work if you have family responsibilities?  (such as flex-time, maternity leave).  Are the organization’s policies for promotion clear? For example, you can read a recent article on Goldman Sachs diversity initiatives.

Here is information on how to research potential employers. You can also use these tips from LinkedIn, if you have a profile on the site.

Be aware of your own responsibility:

One reason women may not earn as much as men is they may be less likely to negotiate and advocate for themselves. The best time to negotiate is when you have an offer but before you have accepted a position.  Here is more information on negotiating offers.  Learn strategies to negotiate compensation based on your value to the organization and then try.  Learning how to negotiate well is a skill you can use throughout your career – this is important no matter your gender.  Take credit for your own efforts and results, even as you recognize the contribution of others.

Do what you can do to be informed and make change:

Look outside yourself to mentors in your department or company, and through professional organizations such as Catalyst.  Here is a directory of women’s professional associations:

Be aware of current data and trends. You can read articles or studies, or support organizations that are making sure this issue is in the news and on policymakers’ radars.  This is a good place to start your research on the topic – Wikipedia’s “Male–female income disparity in the United States.”   Learn about current news such as the Lily Ledbetter case or the recent repeal of the Wisconsin equal pay law.

Whether or not you are worried how the “wage gap” or income disparity will affect you, the idea that you stay informed on trends, that you understand your value as an employee, and advocate for yourself is crucial to your success no matter your career path, field or gender.



Does my Penn Degree Mean I Deserve an Emmy?

By Peggy Curchack and Claire Klieger

In the recent blog post, What Am I Worth?, we offered our take on what constitutes reasonable monetary worth.    Here we  address “worth” from another angle.   Now and again, we’ll get a question like this from a student:

“Shouldn’t I make more as a Marketing Assistant at BulgeBracket, Inc. than someone graduating from East Cupcake State? It was tougher for me to get in here and my classes are more difficult.”

Over the years we’ve heard from Penn students who believe that their Ivy League education should automatically confer access to higher titles and/or higher starting salaries than graduates from less prestigious institutions.  This would be like Emmy Nominees with degrees from Ivy League schools (Tony Shalhoub – Monk, Alec Baldwin – 30 Rock, Matthew Fox – Lost, Connie Britton –  Friday Night Lights, and Michael C. Hall – Dexter) assuming that they were a shoe-in for the award because, “Hey, I went to _________!” Can you imagine Matthew Fox (Columbia) interrupting Bryan Cranston’s acceptance speech with an outburst of “This is an outrage! Didn’t anyone look at my transcript?”

This mentality is likely to actually work against everything else you have going for you.  Your Penn degree is worth a huge amount:  it confers a lifelong identity in a select and highly-regarded community; it gives you access to options and opportunities for the rest of your life (including lifetime use of Career Services J); it opens doors that you probably haven’t even imagined yet.

But why should it mean that for the same work, at the same employer, you should be paid more?

Sure your Penn classes were really demanding – but were they all equally hard?  The graduate of East Cupcake probably thinks that s/he worked really really hard for a 3.9 GPA, and s/he probably did!  Throughout your career you’ll work side by side with — and probably report to — very smart, very hard-working people who did not graduate from schools with the prestige of Penn.  Let’s take the Emmy’s again.  One of the big winners of the night was Eddie Falco, a SUNY Purchase grad.   It behooves us to respect everyone with whom we work, regardless of academic background.

There are so many things that your Penn education gives you that grads from the East Cupcake States of the world can’t count on.  Just by seeing the Penn name on your resume, people will presume you’re well educated, have important critical skills, and can conduct yourself appropriately in professional situations. You also have access to alumni/ae networks of amazingly interesting people (most of whom will also get nostalgic about evenings at Smokey Joes, toast throwing at football games or late night debauchery in the Quad).  The Penn degree will always confer status, but which of us likes having that flaunted? (Think about how you would feel if you every time you went to a party or sat next to someone on a plane they said, “Hi my name is ______ and I went to Harvard”).

And, from the ridiculous to the sublime, we leave you with Emily Dickinson’s take on this issue:

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—

What Am I Worth?

by Peggy Curchack

Here’s a question I received from a student a while back:  “Should I be willing to take a job for $25,000?  Isn’t that like insulting me, or inappropriate since I have a Penn degree?”

I see two different issues here:  one is “what is a reasonable salary?”  The other:  “doesn’t the fact that I have a degree from Penn enhance my worth?”  In this blog, I’ll address the salary issue.  Stay tuned for another blog about the “worth” of a Penn degree.

I maintain that no salary is insulting if it is within the boundaries of the industry standards.  Some fields traditionally have paid well (i-banking, consulting), others pay middling (web development, economic research), others pay terribly (women’s shelters, arts organizations, entry-level positions at ad agencies).  The fact that some of your classmates will be offered $60,000 in one industry doesn’t mean you’ve been dissed if you get offered $30,000 to teach in a private school – and take it!

It’s regrettable that there isn’t greater equity among salaries paid in different fields (or, at least, I think it’s regrettable), but that’s reality.

And while many of you have come to enjoy a level of comfort that you’d like to maintain, think hard about what you really need to be fulfilled and challenged.  One’s earnings and one’s “worth” are often equated, but not for any good reasons.  And certainly what you earn in your first job out of Penn is not what you’ll be earning forever and ever (though some fields never pay a lot).  People who hate their jobs are unhappy people, no matter what they earn.

For the number of you with truly daunting loans to pay back:  I wish I had simple words of wisdom, but I don’t.  However, think hard about whether your life will be over if you don’t live in, let’s say, NY.  A dollar goes way farther in Philly or Baltimore or Boulder than it does in Boston, SF, or NY.

The Walt Disney Company
©Walt Disney Company

Finally, a personal belief:  all kinds of people have ended up making good money doing things they are passionate about.  I like to fantasize about Jim Henson coming home from the University of Maryland one weekend and, responding to his grandmother’s question “What are you going to do with your life?” saying “I’m going to make puppets”.  If there is something you know you adore doing, and feel passionate about, do it – you might even find it remunerates better than you expect.