Translating Your Academic Skills Into Salary

What to Highlight when Negotiating Your Salary

You have finally finished your graduate program, and now you are faced with the “What next?” that comes after graduation. Some graduate students will pursue tenure-track positions in academia after graduation, but others may want to join the professional world outside academia. If you fall into the latter group, you will need to know how best to translate and highlight your academic skills for the professional world. The following are some things you should consider when preparing your resume to apply for jobs in the professional world as well as when you are in the process of negotiating your salary.

Understand What Graduate Degrees Signify to Potential Employers

It is easy to understand what graduate degrees signify in academic contexts, but it is more difficult to understand what graduate degrees signify outside those contexts in the professional world. For most employers, graduate degrees indicate that potential employees who possess those degrees can persevere over many obstacles and have advanced writing and research skills, both of which are very marketable in most professions. Furthermore, some specialized degrees are perfect for employers who are seeking potential employees who have specific sets of skills. For example, some employers might value a recent graduate with a degree in English Literature because, to employers, this degree indicates that the graduate knows how to use word processing programs effectively and efficiently. Even though the graduate might not be using those programs for the same purposes that he or she used those programs in academia, the graduate’s skills with those programs are still valuable to potential employers who can help the graduate tailor those skills to fit the demands of professional positions. It doesn’t hurt to bring points like this to the table when you are negotiating your salary as well.

Understand How to Present Academic Skills in Professional Contexts

Many skills that students acquire during graduate school are directly related to skills that are necessary to succeed in the professional world. For example, experience with teaching and advising indicates good communication and administrative skills, and experience in group projects indicates good problem-solving, project-management, and leadership skills. If highlighted correctly, even skills gained from doing homework and studying for tests can translate into professional skills (i.e., independent working and thinking skills) and should be used as such, especially when you are negotiating your salary. However, simply understanding how to present academic skills in professional contexts will not be enough to entice potential employers to hire you. You must believe in yourself, be confident in both your academic and professional skills, and be willing to showcase those skills properly on a CV or resume. In other words, don’t be embarrassed to say that you’re good at something, especially when you are negotiating your salary with the employer.