You are your own best advocate.

So you’ve received a job offer; congratulations! When a company makes an offer, it’s extremely easy to find yourself swept up in the excitement of a new career. You’re likely submitting your two weeks notice at your current job (if applicable) and already shopping for a new professional wardrobe to wear at your new workplace.

Halt! Before you get ahead of yourself, let’s chat.

A job offer is a contract. It’s an agreement between you and an employer that outlines your salary, paid time off (e.g. vacation, sick, holiday, etc.), retirement plan, work hours, start date, and such. This contract contains details about the compensation you’re willing to accept in exchange for working in the new role.

Why is this important to mention? Well, a big part of accepting a job offer depends on the details of said offer. Just because a company offers XYZ, doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate with ABC. In other words, if a company offers you a certain salary, PTO, etc. you have an opportunity to negotiate a counter offer. You might find that you can negotiate a higher salary or more benefits for yourself, which works in your favor.

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When it comes to negotiating, here are five things you should negotiate in your compensation package:

1. Have a set salary range you’re willing to accept.

You might find that a company you’re applying for makes a low offer. Depending on your financial situation, that might not work for you. If you find that the offer is too low, try to negotiate a higher salary for yourself.

Come into the negotiation knowing the value of your skills and qualifications. Show examples of your work from your portfolio that illustrate your hard work and success. These are simple ways you can advocate for yourself to earn a higher wage.

You might discover that the company does have the budget for a higher salary. Think about how much money you absolutely need to earn to afford your lifestyle and compare that to how much you would like to earn.

Try finding a happy medium between affording your lifestyle while also having a financial cushion. For example, if you need $35,000/yr to get by, try asking for $40,000 or even $45,000. The employer may negotiate with you and will ultimately let you know when the final offer is on the table.

2. Decide how much vacation time you want.

Some people are workaholics who never use their allotted vacation time in a given year, whereas others have very busy personal lives and need all of the vacation time they can get.

Think about your personal situation and try to decide how much vacation time you need. Do you have kids? Maybe you need paid time off to attend sports games, recitals, or parent teacher conferences for your children. Is your family big on annual vacations? Maybe you need specific weeks off from work to attend your family gatherings. Whichever situation describes you, negotiate your paid vacation time.

A standard compensation package typically begins eighty hours of paid time off. If your company offers less than that, try bargaining for the full two weeks of PTO. If you need more than the standard two weeks, try negotiating an extra week for yourself.

If the company declines, ask how many years it will take for you to accrue more vacation time. At the very least, they may require you to work several years to earn three weeks of paid time off, which is a very reasonable goal to work toward. In short, assess how much paid time off you need and go from there. It never hurts to ask.

3. Determine how much sick time you need.

For most of us, we schedule doctor and dentist appointments annually. Those check ups, physicals, and medical appointments take several hours out of our day and we can never get them taken care of after work or on the weekends. This means that we need to have approved sick time from work to make sure we get to our appointments.

Some companies will offer forty hours of sick time per year. Some companies, especially public schools and higher education, will offer eighty hours or more of sick time per year.

Assess your situation. If you’re a relatively healthy person and you don’t need much more than the standard five sick days per year, then you won’t need to negotiate. However, if you’re someone who easily gets sick or lives with a chronic illness/disease, advocate for yourself. At least ask to see if you can earn more sick time given your situation.

The company may negotiate to ensure that they respect your individual needs.

4. Inquire about matched contribution to your retirement plan.

Some companies offer retirement options to their employees with no matched contribution. This means that whatever amount of money you put into a retirement account is not matched by your employer.

Other companies do offer match programs, such as a matched contribution of 4% or more. This means that if you contribute 4% into your retirement account, your employer will also contribute 4%.

When an offer is made, make sure you understand how the retirement program works at your new place of employment. If the company does not match, there probably isn’t room for negotiation as this may just be their policy.

If your company does match, ask up to how much. You might find that they offer to match up to 4%, but after negotiation they may match you up to 8%. This is a massive difference in the long run, so do your due diligence by working out the details before signing anything. Matched contribution is invaluable!

Tip: If you’re not sure about this in your current position, go visit your HR office and inquire ASAP.

5. Learn about health and dental insurance policies.

Normally, companies will offer health and dental insurance programs that employees cover the cost of. Sometimes, though, companies will actually pay for a portion of (or full) coverage. Based on your financial situation and your overall health, try negotiating health and dental coverage.

If the cost of coverage is really high, your company may increase your salary to offset the fees. Other times, your company may split the cost with you to help with expenses. Since this process can be convoluted, analyze the details of the health and dental insurance through your company and speak with your employer about it. They may have room in the budget to negotiate a fair way to cover the cost.

Receiving a job offer is a very exciting time. Before celebrating the good news, make sure you assess the compensation package a company offers you. If everything looks fair, get ready to sign your name on the dotted line and celebrate!

What things have you negotiated in a compensation package? Share your experiences in the comments below!