Success Stories

Negotiation 101: career tips help an OSU grad land his dream job

Adam Sibley kneels on a riverbank holding a large fish.
Adam Sibley, an OSU graduate student in the College of Forestry, found a career combining his love of the outdoors with his skills in data.

Adam Sibley’s done a lot of things in his career: earned a PhD. Maintained climate stations in remote tropical rainforests. Co-authored peer-reviewed publications.

One thing he’d never done until this year? Negotiated a salary offer.

“Job interviewing and negotiating in particular make me very nervous,” Adam said.

That’s where meeting with his OSU career advisor, Britt Hoskins, came in. She provided tips that eased his doubts and helped him negotiate a competitive job offer with a company doing cutting-edge work in his field.

Step 1: Landing a job offer

Adam earned his PhD in plant ecophysiology from OSU in 2021 and then stayed on as a post-doc research associate with the College of Forestry’s Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society. Through his time at OSU and in previous jobs, he built up a unique skillset that focuses on the technical side of plant science.

“I found out about myself that what I am best at is working with electronics and hardware. Also software, writing code, working with equations. There is a place for people with those skillsets in plant sciences,” he said. “A lot of people in this field don’t really do the scripting stuff that I do.”

His expertise left him well-positioned when a friend of a friend reached out to him on LinkedIn and asked if he might be interested in a job with Chloris Geospatial, a Boston-based start-up that aims to impact the climate crisis by providing companies with cutting-edge climate data analysis.

He was thrilled when he was offered the job – it gave him a chance to continue his work in satellite image analysis and data science, plus it would allow him to move back to the east coast, where he is originally from. But he felt very unsure of how to ask for what he wanted after receiving the job offer.

Step 2: Asking for help

Luckily, he already knew Britt Hoskins, career advisor for the College of Forestry; she’d helped him adapt his academic CV to a résumé for a job in the private sector. He made an appointment with her again to talk through his negotiation questions. 

“Negotiating for a salary feels awkward. It almost made me feel ungrateful,” Adam said. “And I was thinking, ‘How am I going to negotiate with a CEO? I’ve never even talked to one before!’ But she prepared me for the negotiating process and it all worked out exactly how she said it would.”

Two takeaways that were key for Adam:

It’s okay to ask for what you want.

In his case, that was a delayed start date. His original offer included a start date of July 1, but he wanted to remain at OSU until August to wrap up his current work. Britt assured him that this was not an unreasonable request.

“When I told her what I had in mind, she said it was completely okay – they might say no, but I should still ask. She gave me the moral support that was very needed,” he said. 

Salary negotiation is normal, expected and typically follows a standard process.

Adam was worried that salary negotiation might involve a tense back-and-forth conversation in which he’d have to make a case for himself on the spot. Britt walked him through what a typical salary negotiation process looks like, and provided advice on a reasonable counter offer for his career field and level of experience. 

Her salary negotiation tips:

  1. Let the company provide you with a salary number first.
  2. When you receive it, tell them thank you and wait a day before responding.
  3. Follow up with your counter-offer and a short justification.
  4. Let them respond to your counter-offer.

“Without her advice, I would not have known that was the protocol,” Adam said. “She gave me really good advice and helped me find a reasonable target.”

Step 3: Nailing the negotiation

The result? He got the job, with a salary higher than the company’s initial offer, and the freedom to wrap up his work at OSU before starting his new job.

His tips to other students in the job market? Don’t be afraid to go after what you want, and seek out advice when you need it.

“Just talking things through with people is one of the most important things you can do. There are a lot of things about jobs that aren’t rocket science and that you already know – it’s the doubt that is the problem,” he said. “It helps to have someone talk to who will tell you, ‘Yes, you can do that!’”

Want to learn more about salary negotiation?

Success Stories

She knew she had more to offer

Oregon State helped her find it.

When Marty Marrs started thinking about changing careers, she knew one thing: this time, she wanted to do something that mattered to her.

Marty graduated from Oregon State in June 2022 with a B.S. in natural resources. Prior to that, she spent 18 years raising a family, which she loved, and also working in administrative jobs, which she wasn’t as passionate about.

“I just knew I had so much more to offer, and so much more to give.”

– Marty Marrs, ’22, Natural Resources

That’s where Oregon State came in.

A web search led Marty, who was living in Georgia, to the B.S. in Natural Resources program, delivered online through OSU Ecampus in partnership with the College of Forestry (CoF). But she wasn’t sure how to turn an interest in the natural world into an actual career. A combination of online and in-person resources helped her connect the dots.

She attended a virtual job fair via OSU’s job platform, Handshake, and listened to a presentation from a company that did environmental consulting work. Although she wasn’t yet ready to apply to jobs, her interest was sparked. She used another of OSU’s online tools, Vmock, to review her résumé. Based on the feedback she received, she realized she needed additional help.

“I was not your typical student,” Marty said. “I was making a complete career change, and I was also coming off of 18 years of staying at home with my kids. There is a lot of value and wisdom that comes with that, but I didn’t know how to show that value.”

So Marty made an appointment with Britt Hoskins, the career advisor for students in CoF.

“Britt helped me completely redesign my résumé ,” Marty said. “She took the time to talk to me, to find out where I did have experience, and she taught me how to put that in a résumé form. She showed me how to incorporate my OSU classes, and the projects I did in my classes, to build up my résumé.”

Taking initiative

That wasn’t the only piece of career advice Marty took action on. After listening to a session from Britt on informational interviews, Marty took the initiative to request an informational interview with a company whose work seemed to align with her interests.

“I had never even heard of an informational interview before, but I reached out to this company, and said, ‘Hey, can I just talk to someone and get more information about what you do?’ Through that process, I learned that consulting was something I really am interested in,” she said.

Meanwhile, she continued to take a full load of classes through OSU Ecampus and also moved cross-country from Georgia to Oregon, to be closer to her daughter and closer to more companies in the environmental consulting field.

Zeroing in

As graduation approached in 2022, Marty began to pay even more attention to jobs and companies she was interested in. When she saw a position open up with Environmental Resources Management, a sustainability consultancy in Portland, she was interested but apprehensive.

“I had that typical concern, where I thought, ‘Oh, I can’t check all the boxes for all the qualifications, so I don’t know if this is going to work.’ But I applied anyway,” she said.

Again acting on her OSU career advisor’s advice, Marty took two additional proactive steps: she tailored her cover letter to the position and she networked in advance of her interview.

“One of the things I learned working with Britt is that the cover letter is your chance to explain everything to the employer,” she said. “I really just laid it all out there – this is why I’m here, this is what I’ve been doing, and this is what I can bring to the table.”

She also scoured LinkedIn for potential connections at ERM, and found one – an acquaintance she’d made through mountain biking who was happy to chat with her about working at the company.

The big news

Marty went through two rounds of interviews with the company. Even with all the networking, research, and preparation she’d done, graduation was looming and Marty still wasn’t sure whether she would land the job – until she got the news she’d been dreaming of.

“Oh my gosh!” Marty said. “I followed Britt’s steps, I did everything she said to do, and I got a job offer four weeks before graduating!”

Marty now works in what she describes as her “dream job” – a position that makes a difference. She’s an Impact Assessment Scientist with ERM, studying the ways that natural resources and human dimensions intersect in the environment. 

She encourages other students not to be shy about taking advantage of the career tools, resources, and services that OSU offers.

“To any other non-traditional student, don’t think that those job fairs or career services are not for you,” Marty said. “Use them. They absolutely are there for you.”