What you need to know about salary negotiations

After years of being part of an aircrew that flew in F-18s, Matt Klobucher came out of the Marines in 2013 in search of a job. In some ways, he didn’t know what he didn’t know: how to navigate the job market, how to sell his great skills, how to focus on getting a proper salary. But he was determined to find out.

“There’s this huge wall that exists between most hiring practices and veterans,” said Klobucher, of Sheboygan, Wis. “You can’t just walk in and say, ‘Oh, I was in the military and I did all this really cool stuff. Where do I sign?'”

Moving from one life to another – often in the same country, but in an entirely different setting – is one of the biggest obstacles a veteran can face. About 250,000 US military service members enter civilian life each year, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Many, if not most, are looking for jobs that leverage the skills of their military life to give them the best position and pay they can find.

But how do you assess your own worth when you have little or no context after years of jobs that have fallen into a very structured system of pay, promotion and mobility – things that might have little in common with civilian life?

“Put bluntly,” Klobucher said, “the military has no experience in negotiating or calculating their own worth because the military always told them what it was all about.”

How can veterans determine what their salary requirements should be? Here are some tips to keep in mind.

First, understand that salaries can be negotiable. Unlike most military, many companies have pay scales that are not necessarily set in stone.

“A veteran will benefit from viewing salary negotiation as a transaction,” said Elaine Boylan, a longtime data analyst for Adelphi University’s Center for Career and Professional Development, who has worked with veterans. in transition. Learning this early is imperative for veterans, as it then sets the stage for “reasonable pay throughout their civilian career.” Also: chances are you won’t get housing benefit, so factor that into your calculations.

Next: Do some research ahead of time. It may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked. Even online sites such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn Jobs can provide context and the ability to see pay scales for your skills, said JD Due, executive director of the Center for Military Transition at William & Mary in Virginia. He recommends that this research be followed by “real conversations” with people you know professionally and personally. It can take a long time for transitioning veterans, Due said, “making sure their civilian salaries reflect their military pay.” Other things to research beforehand: cost of living in your workplace and possible competition. Is your experience essential?

Beyond actual salaries, it’s important to match your military skills to civilian life. Do you have experience with leadership, handling difficult personnel situations, working long hours, or solving problems in certain ways? Knowing how to discuss these abilities can help you get hired and earn more. “I never knew how to talk about my soft skills,” Klobucher said.

Here are some communication tips: Translate military jargon for the civilian workplace. This may mean reducing comfortable jargon and understanding that your communication may need adjustments and relaxation for this new environment.

Finally, consider not just the job itself, but who you want to be next. “The first-order question is, what are some of the different things you’ve been through – the activities and tasks that you really enjoy?” Due said. “When you think about those things that have given you success, ask the question, ‘How can this exist in the future?'”

It took Klobucher a while to find his way to a master’s degree and a rewarding job in the automotive industry. He initially applied for more than 50 jobs, leading with only his military experience. “None of them ever got back to me,” he said.

That changed, and his job and salary opportunities were better targeted when he figured out a few things: how to translate what he knew into what employers wanted, and how to be informed when he got into research. a job.

“Now,” Klobucher said, “I know what I can sell myself.”