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Negotiating New Grad OT Salaries with Superhero Powers

Hooray, you did it! Grad school is over, or, almost. It’s time to get what you came for in the first place; a real OT job!

If this is your first rodeo on the job market, negotiating new grad OT salaries can be a scary process. Fear not. There are simple things you can do to prep yourself and go into a negotiation with confidence!

Know your worth

You are a badass. No, seriously. It’s real. You just completed a rigorous graduate program, passed your fieldworks, and you’re probably going to kick butt on that NBCOT.

What makes you a true superhero OT? Are you specialized in a particular area of study, or do you have a dual certification of some kind? Think about what makes you stand out.

It could be that you are bilingual, or have a demeanor that’s perfect for a particular population. Do you have killer leadership skills? That’s an asset.

What about getting a paper published, or even something you did outside of OT school that is just awesome, and relatable to your practice?

Finding your superhero powers, whatever they may be, is key. This will look different for every person. Knowing your superhero powers will help a ton negotiating new grad OT salaries.

Take some time to write your powers down. Feel free to draw yourself with a little superhero cape. Whatever works.

Once you’ve identified your superhero powers, rehearse them in your mind and practice talking to friends about your assets. This sounds silly – it’s not! For you to being effectively negotiating your salary as a new grad OT, it’s crucial to be confident in your skills and sell them with conviction.

Do your homework

There are a number of databases that will show you average OT salaries in your geographic area. The most comprehensive one is the AOTA 2015 Workforce Survey, which contrasts areas of practice, years of experience, and geographic location. Downside: It’s $29.50 for AOTA members (and a whopping $259 for non-members), but it is absolutely a helpful tool and worth considering.

The more information you have, the more prepared you are to go into a negotiation with competence.

For example, if you know that outpatient NYC new grad OTs get paid an average of $66,000 annually plus benefits, and you just got an offer at an outpatient setting for $62,000/year, you now have the statistics to back you up; that offer is too low, and you are worth more.

Say this with me, people: You are worth more.

First, listen

When you first get an offer, don’t scream with delight and shriek, “YES!” even though this is what you might feel on the inside.

Pro tip from my human resource guru, a.k.a. my big sister: listen.

Nod. Be more quiet than normal. Thank them for the offer, express your interest and gratitude, and then tell them you need to consider it. Ask when they would like an answer and establish a communication timeline.

This timeline gives you space to think and sleep on the numbers. You need to consider the whole picture, not just your salary – what’s your perspective vacation time like? Sick days? Are they offering you health insurance? All of these factors are things you can use are bargaining chips.

Figure out what is important to you, and write a list. Do you want a more flexible or rigid schedule, or are you willing to work non-standard hours? Write that down, too. Depending on your setting, this could all be fair game for negotiating new grad OT salaries.

Then, unveil your superpower(s)

When the day to communicate with your new prospective job comes, go in there ready to bust open your superhero cape. In your discussion with HR (or your new boss), discuss the following:

  • How grateful you are for the offer; convey that you are invested!
  • Your superpowers (areas of expertise, special training, language skills, etc.). Your prospective employers likely already know your superpowers – that’s why they are making you an offer! – but you want to re-emphasize them and convey that you know you are worth more.
  • How your superpowers will benefit the setting – offer concrete examples, like, “I’m so thrilled to use my mental health skills to build the chronic pain program here.”
  • What you are asking for. This can be a higher salary, more vacation time, benefits, a different schedule, or any combination thereof.
  • Don’t apologize for negotiating and asking for what you deserve. Ever. In any way. Don’t blame your asking on loans or your family or whatever. Just stand strong in your awesomeness and the fact that you are worth it.

Remember that you are a badass. You’re a superhero! And you are worthy of a living wage, good health care coverage, and stable working hours. It’s highly likely that if you ask for more, you will get more.

This is one heavily cited reasons behind the #GenderPayGap. Don’t be a statistic – just ask for what you are… Click to Tweet

Happy negotiating new grad OT salaries!

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About Cait Van Damm

Cait Van Damm
Cait is a pelvic health and chronic pain specialist graduating from MGH IHP in May. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her amazing brindle dog and human partner.

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