Ask Amy! The value of internships and when to talk salary

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Ask Amy salary internshipYou asked, she answered. This is the column where our resident career coach and strategist responds to job-seeker questions.

Hi Amy,

I was wondering what your thoughts are on internships. Does it make sense to take a part time internship for experience at this point? Also, I know that you shouldn’t bring up salary during an interview. If the interviewer does not mention it, when do you ask so that you know that the job is still something you want to pursue? Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks, Inquisitive Interviewing Intern

Dear Inquisitive,

To answer your first question, yes. If you can land a part-time internship, do it — as long as you still leave yourself enough time and energy to pursue your main job search strategically. Then get the word out about this wonderful industry opportunity on your professional development path. Update your network, your social media profiles and your résumé.

The second question is a good one: When do you ask about salary so that you know that the job is still something you want to pursue? Now this is important, so pay close attention to how this works. Any job that you get to the interview stage with is something that you want to pursue. Remember the goal chain:

  • The goal of networking is to get insider information to know what to put inside the résumé database.
  • The goal of your application is to get your résumé into the database for consideration.
  • The goal of your follow up is to get the résumé out of the database and read.
  • The goal of the résumé is to get the phone screening.
  • The goal of a phone screening is to get the interview.
  • The goal of an interview is to get the offer.

What that means is never mention salary before someone makes you an offer. Do not let yourself get sucked into giving away your power to negotiate until you actually have something to negotiate.

Think of it this way: Ask not, “Do I want to pursue this?” Ask, “Do I want them to pursue me?” The answer should always be “Yes.” So go after these goals. Once you have been offered the job, that’s when salary discussions can begin. As soon as you have an offer, you should get it in writing so that you can write a compensation package negotiation letter.

Please let me know when you get to that stage, and I would love to help you strategize how to get what you want in your negotiations.

Always, Amy

Updated: We noticed some spirited chatter–which we love–about the salary advice in this question. It inspired us to go into a little more detail about the many scenarios of salary talk over here.

In short, we want job seekers to position themselves in the best possible light to receive a job offer and the salary they want. Job seekers take a risk if they bring up salary first and could appear overly confident or too paycheck-focused, which isn’t what employers want to hear. However, if the interviewer brings it up first, then follow his or her lead and answer those questions. It’s also a good idea to ask questions of your own at this point. “What salary range did you have budgeted for the job?” is a good one. Interviewing is a strange dance between the job seeker and hiring manager, so there’s rarely a single answer for everyone.

Do I need to include a cover letter? How do I ask my boss for a raise? Whatever career-related question you have, our experts are here to help.

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