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:
- Let the company provide you with a salary number first.
- When you receive it, tell them thank you and wait a day before responding.
- Follow up with your counter-offer and a short justification.
- 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?
- Check out the Career Development Center’s tips on salary negotiation.
- Take a free salary negotiation course offered by the American Association of University Women
- Watch videos from the OSU Alumni Association: