You can expect that at some point salary will be part of any new job discussion. With this in mind, you need to have a well-developed sense of the value you can bring to a company and an idea of what a position in your area typically pays. By knowing this, you can negotiate and speak intelligently about the job you are seeking. Here are a few tips to help you come up with a target salary.
Regionalize Your Search
Location matters when it comes to salary. Jobs in cities like San Francisco, New York, or Los Angeles are naturally going to pay more than many other locations because the cost of living is much higher. With that said, when putting together a target salary, you want to drill down even more, if possible, to see what people are paying in the area around the employer. Major cities can be large and sprawling, and working downtown may yield a different salary than working on the edge of town, even though you are technically in the same city.
Treat Salary Sites as a Guide, Not as Gospel
Salary sites can be helpful in getting a general idea of what employers are paying in your field, but understand that many of those sites quote salaries that are higher than standard. Employers often have their own internal matrix that takes a lot of different factors into account to come up with their approved salary ranges, and while you may be able to use the salary from a job site to move up the range, there may be a limit to how close you can realistically get to that number during actual negotiation.
Consider the Total Opportunity
Salary does not always tell the whole story in the overall value of a job opportunity. It may make sense to take an opportunity that pays less if you would value other less tangible aspects of the job. This may include obvious compensation components such as benefits, but you should also consider factors such as location, learning potential, how a particular position fits into the career trajectory you are seeking to establish. Even perks like catered lunches or a fully stocked breakroom could increase the total opportunity available in a specific position.