LIVE WEBINAR: 13 Project Management Skills For PhDs Join Webinar

My 5-Point Plan For PhDs To Overcome Anxiety and Negotiate A Higher Salary

I had just finished an interview for an industry role that I really wanted… after just a few hours I got an email saying they were offering me the job!

It is quite a challenge to transition from academia to your first industry role.

I was elated at my success and wanted to start the celebrations.

But then I remembered… it wasn’t time to celebrate just yet.

I still needed to negotiate my salary.

This was the most challenging part of my job search.

I had no experience in salary negotiation at all.

I was lost for a while, unsure how to proceed.

But then started to do some research on salary negotiation practices to prepare for discussions with my future employer.

I found that in industry, it is common and expected that you will negotiate your salary, and employers expect that you will ask for more.

So as a PhD, I must negotiate for my salary, even if I was not used to this as an academic.

The more I read about negotiating, the more I realized that everything is negotiable.

Actually, it came as a surprise to me that even in academia, some professors get paid more and get larger starting packages when they negotiate.

That said, negotiations can be nerve-wracking, even for those with experience.

But I knew that I had to negotiate, because that was the only way I would be paid what I am worth.

Why PhDs Must Negotiate Even If You Are Terrified To

You are expected to negotiate.


When you don’t ask for a higher salary and employer will know that you are inexperienced and they will know that you don’t really know your value.

A report by CareerBuilder shows that 52% of employers stated that the first salary offer they give candidates is lower than what they are willing to pay.

They are trying to get you to work for them for the best price possible, but remember you are valuable.

Don’t accept the first offer.

Negotiation is brand new for most PhDs.

But, remember, there was a time that research was brand new to you, and now you are an expert.

The only way to get better is to practice and to jump in!

You are a PhD, you can learn how to do anything, including negotiating.

A recent survey by Glassdoor revealed that 60% of people who received a job offer negotiate for a higher salary.

You can negotiate.

You just need a plan.

So how can you make sure that in your career you are paid what you are worth?

You can use this 5-point plan to guide your preparations for salary negotiation…

1. Do your research on the company and role thoroughly.

You must prepare for your salary negotiations before you even begin interacting with the company.

You must prepare for salary negotiation as thoroughly as you prepare for the rest of the interview.

The best strategy to overcome negotiation anxiety is to do your research on the role and company.

Remember, information is your best ally.

Informational interviews can be a very good source for finding out more about salaries and industry salary trends.

You can learn more about the base salary for the type of role you applied for and the benefits.

You should also look at the location, the living costs, all other relevant details, and decide on what you will be willing to accept as salary before things become messy.

Platforms like Glassdoor, PayScale, and Jobstar can give you a lot of information on the salary range for the role you are interested in, with reference to the company and geographic area.

You must use all these resources to establish your walkaway number.

Your walkaway number is the frame of reference that will guide your salary negotiations.

You walkway number will decide whether the salary you are being offered meets realistic expectations.

Because if it does not, you will walk away from that role and company.

It is okay to walk away if a position or salary is not right for you.

2. Keep your options open by interviewing for multiple roles at the same time.

You must always aim to negotiate your salary from a position of strength.

That is why you have to interview for multiple positions at the same time, so that you are able to negotiate from a position of strength. So that you have options to leverage from.

If they come back with a firm ‘No’, then you must look at your walkaway number.

You have to research your walkaway number even before you start interacting with the company.

This is because when you invest a lot of time interacting and interviewing with a company you will start making concessions.

Because you have invested so much time, energy and effort, you don’t want to start all over again.

So you start making concessions; I like this person, I like this company, I am willing to accept a lower salary and so on.

This is how you will end up getting paid less than you are actually worth.

And means that it is time for you to look at your walkaway number, and be willing to walk away if it is not a good deal.

3. Ask the right questions when you are made a job offer.

The best time to negotiate your salary is between the time you have a written formal offer, and the time when you accept it (or not).

Two things that you must keep in mind during the negotiation…

#1 Never make the first offer. Wait for the Hiring Manager to make the first offer.

#2 Always ask to see the written offer before starting to negotiate. Don’t be quick to say yes.

Many PhDs fail to ask for more because the salary offered can easily be 3-5 times more than what they were paid as an academic PhD or postdoc.

Sometimes employers may deliberately try to lowball you because they know PhDs are paid less in academia.

In fact, this number may even be less than what they offer to candidates without a PhD.

So, what should you ask when you get the job offer?

How do you get them to increase the salary?

Once you have a written offer for the job, express your interest in the role and company, ask, ‘Is there anything else you can do in terms of salary?’

Keep in mind that salary here refers to the base compensation.

If they say there is a salary cap for the position, or that there is no budget, you can ask if there are any exceptions they have made in the past.

If they say yes, you can ask why, and match relevant skills and experiences you have to that.

If they say no, ask why, and what you can do to be an exception to that rule.

Be willing and prepared to talk about your skills and experience, and to present evidence of past performance that is relevant to the position you are interviewing for.

If they still say no, ask ‘Is there anything else you can do instead of salary?’

You have to look at compensation holistically; consider other perks like signing bonuses, health benefits, paid vacation time, relocation allowances or commuter benefits.

Employers are usually open to offering these perks if they cannot promise a higher salary.

4. Focus on creating a win-win situation for you and the employer.

A successful negotiation is when both sides walk away feeling they have gained from the discussion.

Always ask for more than your walkaway number, especially in terms of your base salary, so that once you come to an agreement, both sides feel that it was a fair deal.

For that, you must work these three things into your negotiation strategy…

#1 Keep your focus on the company and make it easier for them to give more than they offered initially. Use win-win language throughout discussions.

#2 Frame your conversation around what makes you an outstanding candidate for the role. Remind them of the value you will bring to the role and company, and the contributions you will make.

#3 Avoid coming off as too rigid or arrogant. Avoid discussing personal financial issues during your salary negotiation. Keep your emotions in check and refrain from ultimatums, keep the conversation positive and ask open-ended questions.

Always keep the conversation future-focused.

As long as both sides are on the same page, it’s a win-win situation.

Instead of ‘I want this…’ you can say ‘I know we can come to a mutual agreement on this,’ or, ‘I know we can together do what’s best for the company.’

Frame it in a way that makes it a mutual decision.

5. Practice, practice, practice.

Salary Negotiation can be a nerve-wracking experience even for industry professionals.

That is why you must practice your approach before you go to the job interview.

As a reminder, your salary for your first industry position will determine the salary trajectory of your career.

Do not neglect this aspect of your job search.

Practice is the only way you are going to get better at negotiating.

Do practice exercises in front of the mirror, speaking out aloud will help you get used to the sound of your own voice negotiating.

Role-playing with a friend or colleague is another great way to hone your negotiation skills and prepare for the actual conversation.

All this preparation will help you navigate the process with more confidence and grace, keep the conversation friendly and build bonds that will survive the negotiation outcome.

Keep in mind that in life, you negotiate every time you work out a difference of opinion.

If you consider salary negotiation as a specific type of negotiation, you will approach it with a lot more confidence and success.

Salary negotiation is sometimes the most dreaded part of your job search. But, it doesn’t need to be. If you prepare and remember that you are valuable this is a time for you to surprise yourself and get a salary that you deserve. To negotiate properly follow the 5 point plan outlined here, do your research on the company and role thoroughly, keep your options open by interviewing for multiple roles at the same time, ask the right questions when you are made a job offer, focus on creating a win-win situation for you and the employer, and practice, practice, practice.

To learn more about My 5-Point Plan For PhDs To Overcome Anxiety and Negotiate A Higher Salary, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the wait list for the Cheeky Scientist Association.

Join Cheeky Scientist Association
Get Free Job Search Content Weekly
Surayya Taranum
Surayya Taranum

Surayya is a PhD in Biochemistry and is currently a cohort member at Entrepreneur First in Paris. She is also Director of Membership at the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association Paris Chapter, and Communications Lead in its Entrepreneurship Group for Women. Surayya is passionate about biology, science communication, and inclusive leadership. She is also an avid reader and hiker.

Similar Articles

Gain Control Of Your Salary Negotiation With 7 Powerful Tips For PhDs

Gain Control Of Your Salary Negotiation With 7 Powerful Tips For PhDs

By: Elizabeth Deyett

I grew up with 5 younger siblings; I thought I knew a thing or two about negotiating.  Growing up, we had to negotiate about who got control of the remote. As we got older we had to negotiate who would drive, or host holiday parties.  When I started my PhD, I had to negotiate with my PI all the time about what should or shouldn’t go in the manuscript.  So by the time I got a seat at the negotiating table I wasn’t too worried. I had so much negotiating power, I was valuable, well educated, and well trained.  But…

5 Reasons Why You Should Transition Into An Application Scientist Role Today

5 Reasons Why You Should Transition Into An Application Scientist Role Today

By: Alex Woychek, PhD, MPH

During my third year of graduate school I realized that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life writing grants. I enjoyed teaching but at the bench side one-on-one, not in a giant lecture hall. It became clear to me that I was not destined to be a professor, I didn’t want to chase a tenure track position I was likely never going to get, nor would really enjoy.  At the same time, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I came from a small University, where networking was nearly impossible. I was surrounded only by…

Are You Using These 3 Simple Virtual Networking Tactics? You Should Be

Are You Using These 3 Simple Virtual Networking Tactics? You Should Be

By: Elizabeth Deyett

I knew that networking and virtual networking were important to my career but it seemed impossible. I got my PhD at a small university, hours away from the closest city. My industry network was smaller than my academic one; which I felt I could count on one hand.  I was invisible to industry and had no job prospects.   I knew I wanted to leave academia after my PhD instead of doing a postdoc, but I was so uncertain around what I wanted to do. I felt I had no opportunities.  On top of this, my significant other was looking for…

5 Negotiation Missteps That Eat Up PhD Salaries

5 Negotiation Missteps That Eat Up PhD Salaries

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Early on in my industry career, I did my research on salary negotiation. I knew there were things to look out for: suspicious behavior or comments from the employer that would raise red flags. But I didn’t actually think I’d have to deal with any of this. I thought if I followed the rules of salary negotiation, the employer would appreciate my strength of character. Shouldn’t an employer appreciate an assertive PhD who knows their value? Many employers do, but this one did not… Here’s what happened. I was contacted by a recruiter for a position at a startup. My on-site…

5 Negotiation Tactics That Protect PhDs From Getting Underpaid

5 Negotiation Tactics That Protect PhDs From Getting Underpaid

By: Sarah Smith, PhD

Did you know that, according to Robert Half, 70% of hiring managers don’t expect job candidates to take the first salary offer? Instead, they expect you to negotiate. Employers are competing over talented candidates just like you, which means you have plenty of leverage for negotiating. That being said, it’s normal to feel anxious. It takes courage to speak up for yourself and ask for something better than what you’ve been offered.But there is no such thing as a professional salary negotiator.You can’t hire someone to waltz into the corporate office and advocate for a better salary on your behalf.If…

5 Ways PhDs Control Salary Negotiations With A Win-Win Attitude

5 Ways PhDs Control Salary Negotiations With A Win-Win Attitude

By: Sarah Smith, PhD

No job offers, no network connections, and definitely no industry experience. For 2 months after graduation, I was utterly without prospects. Sitting around with my degree in hand (which was feeling heavier all the time), I was waiting for life to happen to me. It seems ridiculous now, but as a PhD, I came out of my studies thinking I was some kind of industry employer magnet. I thought that if I just filled out a few applications, employers would be pushing each other out of the way in the struggle to hire me first. I probably don’t have to…

3 Negotiation Strategies PhDs Don’t Know About But Should Be Using In Industry Interviews

3 Negotiation Strategies PhDs Don’t Know About But Should Be Using In Industry Interviews

By: Amy Beaird

What do PhDs have to lose by avoiding salary negotiations? To be blunt, and even a little obvious, the answer is money. Lots of it. According to a survey by Jobvite, 84% of negotiators enjoyed higher pay than the baseline offers they were given when they accepted the job. What’s more, only 29% negotiated at all. But consider that about a fifth of those who negotiated received 11-15% higher pay than the baseline offers. So if it’s not clear by now, negotiations are a pretty big deal, and this sentiment is firmly backed by statistics. For those who don’t negotiate,…

How To Ditch Your Imposter Syndrome And Negotiate The Pay You Are Worth As A PhD

How To Ditch Your Imposter Syndrome And Negotiate The Pay You Are Worth As A PhD

By: Jeanette McConnell, PhD

Many companies want to pay you as little as possible.This doesn’t mean they don’t value you, but a company is always focused on the bottom line and every dollar spent is an investment. According to a report by Robert Half, 70% of hiring managers do not expect the job candidate to take the first salary offer. They expect you to negotiate. So that means they are offering you less than what is possible. The same survey found that 55% of candidates are negotiating their salary. Are you? The market is currently a candidate driven market, meaning that according to the…

5 Ways PhDs Ruin Salary Negotiations And End Up Getting Paid Less Than They Are Worth

5 Ways PhDs Ruin Salary Negotiations And End Up Getting Paid Less Than They Are Worth

By: Don Nelsen, PhD

Employers expect you to negotiate your salary. This is a normal part of a job offer and if you don’t negotiate you are losing out on earning thousands of dollars more every year. CareerBuilder reported that 52% of employers stated that the first offer they give candidates is a lower salary than they are willing to pay. They are leaving room for you to negotiate. But, if you just accept the low salary they initially offer you, you will never know what they actually would have been willing to pay you. Plus, your fears of the employer turning down your…

Top Industry Career eBooks

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel

The LinkedIn tips & strategies within have helped PhDs from every background get hired into top industry careers.

20 Most Popular Industry Career Tracks For PhDs

20 Most Popular Industry Career Tracks For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD & Arunodoy Sur, PhD

Learn about the top 20 industry careers for PhDs (regardless of your academic background). In this eBook, you will gain insight into the most popular, highest-paying jobs for PhDs – all of which will allow you to do meaningful work AND get paid well for it.

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Learn how to craft the perfect industry resume to attract employers. In this eBook for PhDs, you will get access to proven resume templates, learn how to structure your bullet points, and discover which keywords industry employers want to see most on PhD resumes.