Life is full of different seasons. Your career is no different. Sometimes, you have to fight for opportunities. Other times, you have to look for resume-building experiences and maybe accept less pay. Everyone is different, and a lot goes into the decisions we make for our careers. But it’s challenging for anyone to go through the interview process only to be met with a lowball salary offer at the end. Suddenly, there’s a lot to consider. Do you accept it, negotiate it, or walk away?

When to Negotiate and When to Walk Away

If you’re in the season where you need to just get a job quickly, you may be tempted to simply accept the lowball salary offer. Perhaps you don’t plan on staying, so it’s not worth fighting. Or you just need employment to hold you over. But generally, speaking, you should at least attempt to negotiate before accepting the offer.

1. Negotiate the salary.

It may feel wrong to negotiate – like it’s saying something negative about you as a person. But people generally have an issue with how people negotiate and not if they negotiate. So, with that in mind, this part of the process is important to tread carefully. Ask for a little time to consider the offer. You don’t have to convey any thoughts initially even if it feels like they want to know what you think of the offer. While you should have done some market research on your worth and noticed their salary range, it’s good to take a moment to sort out your research and compare it to the offer. Make sure you understand the full offer. Are there stock options and benefits that fill in the salary gaps? Look at your own resume and how you arrived at your salary number.

Then, start with negotiating the actual salary number to see if you can get to a better number for both parties. Aside from your market research, you’ll need to show your accomplishments and explain why you’re worth that compensation number.┬áIf that stalls, switch gears to benefits packages – bonuses, relocation costs, commuting costs, etc. Look for ways that will make up the difference in your overall compensation. It should go without saying that how you conduct yourself during this process is still part of your interview. You may be frustrated, but the last thing you want to do is to convey that information to them. But don’t let fear keep you from negotiating. The time to push for compensation is before you start.

2. Walk Away from the Job Offer.

Some offers are so low that it’s not even worth going through the negotiation process. While you shouldn’t be insulted by a lowball offer, you can make some deductions about the company culture. The reality is that if a company is willing to lowball employees on the way in, they are more likely to be stingy with future raises and benefits, as well. Expect to continually have to prove your worth and communicate that to management throughout your employment.

Organizations have to make money and turn a profit – that’s a given. However, a lowball offer often communicates that the company isn’t really interested in you or the money is tight. Or worse yet – they have the money but want to get their labor at a discount. If you don’t need that specific job to pay your bills or build your resume, walk away. It’s a case-by-case situation, of course. However, if you have other options, go for the companies willing to pay your worth.

Defense Contracting is a Small World

It’s always good to remember that it’s a small world that we live in – especially when it comes to defense contracting. Acquisitions and new contract awards can make lives overlap frequently. Be careful how you conduct yourself in the interview process. There’s no need to go out with a blaze of glory when you get a lowball salary offer. You don’t need to be insulted. You just negotiate if you feel there might be potential to make the situation work. But otherwise, walk away calmly. And don’t blast the company on social media either. It’s not a good look.

You never know who you’ll run into again in this small world. So, know your worth, and get back to the job search.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.