As an international student on F1 visa, getting an invite for an in-person job interview is a big deal these days. After few days, you receive the phone call from the HR with the job offer. But, your expectations come crashing when you hear the starting salary.
What would you do if the salary offered for your first job on OPT is less than what you expected?
Here’s an email I received from a Career Lab member.
Hope you are doing well. I’m glad to tell you that the startup that I got placed at, has increased the offer to $65k/year. I want to know one thing. If the salary at the beginning of my career is low, does it mean that it will hurt my future salary for the rest of my career? If I am able to secure a job at an MNC after 1-2 years, will they give a small increment on my previous salary or will they pay in their usual range?
I sent a list of follow-up questions to know more about the company and the job offer. Here’s the list of questions and answers.
1. What is the job title?
The company has not formally stated the name of the position, but it should be Software Engineer.
2. Where is the company located?
It is located in California.
3. What is your academic background?
I’m doing my Masters in Computer Engineering and did my B.E. in Electronics and Communication Engineering. No prior work experience.
4. How big is the company?
Quite small. It’s a new startup.
5. What will be your role in the company?
I will need to work on Internet of Things, Machine learning, and Blockchain.
6. How did you find this job?
I found this job by networking with their founder on LinkedIn.
7. When did they offer the job (date)?
They haven’t given the offer letter yet. Phone conversations have been going on so far.
8. What was the first offer?
They offered $55k/yr initially.
9. Did you negotiate the salary?
Yes. Only the salary negotiation has been going on so far. I have not yet negotiated for other benefits.
10. How much more did you ask?
I asked for $25k more, and they agreed to increase by $10k.
11. Did they accept it immediately?
No. They took a couple of weeks to get back and I had another technical interview.
12. When are you going to graduate?
I will graduate next month.
13. What other benefits are they offering?
They also told that they will increase the salary for the second year to 90-100k.
Job Offer in OPT – Accept or Reject?
The advice I’m giving here will not resonate with most. And I’m completely aware of the following:
- You have an education loan in India to pay-off
- You want to realize the ROI on your American Education
- You may not get H1B Visa even after 2 to 3 attempts in Lottery
- And while attending F-1, everyone said we have sufficient funds and will return back after graduation
Ultimately, you want to maximize your earnings as much as you can during the 12 months OPT and 24 months STEM OPT period at least off your loan.
And here’s what you are looking for with your first job on OPT:
- High Salary
- H1B Sponsorship
- Green Card Sponsorship
Here’s the short and direct answer:
If you are on OPT and offered a Full-Time job, just accept the first offer that comes your way. Irrespective of the salary offered, give importance to the learning experience.
Question: What about H-1B Visa sponsorship and Green Card? Should I get it writing?
It’s great if you can get it in writing about H-1B sponsorship and Green Card sponsorship. But, I doubt companies will give in writing about H1B and Green Card sponsorship. I have seen one company that gave in writing about Green Cars sponsorship. But, companies that regularly hire High-Skilled workers have company-wide policies around H1B and Green Card.
The HR negotiating the offer with you would probably tell you about their immigration policy over the phone, but not via email or offer letter.
If you are expecting the employer to provide in writing that the employer would sponsor your H-1B Visa and/or Green Card is out of the question.
Learn how to navigate H1B visa sponsorship, Green Card Sponsorship, changing employers for a higher salary, potential impacts to green card process, etc by joining Career Lab Membership.
Question: If the employer is not going to confirm about H1B sponsorship, why should I accept the offer. Isn’t that risky?
No. I don’t think so unless you have multiple job offers. What’s riskier is unemployment days on OPT. Prove your value to the team through your work and efforts. And then request for H1B Visa sponsorship. Hiring you is a risk they are taking and you have to mitigate the risk by contributing to the company’s growth.
Sometimes, the job offer might not be exactly what you want. Once you start working, there’s always room for switching roles within the firm. It’s all about looking for opportunities.
Someone recently told me that the after graduating from the graduate program, the company he worked as inter in CPT would have offered him a Full-Time job. But, the team is not doing good and several members were let go. While this may sound like and they moved on to different companies and roles. While this is a setback, because its an easy route from internship to Full-Time, look at the bright side. His co-workers are now working in multiple companies. That’s multiple opportunities for internal job referral and offers. So, consider this as a networking opportunity and stay in touch with former co-workers.
Question: Should I accept the first offer HR presents?
Absolutely not. You should negotiate the offer. Salary is probably the very first thing you want to negotiate. But, some companies will not have the bandwidth for a higher salary. In such case, you can negotiate other benefits.
Make sure to learn how to negotiate and practice it. Bargaining to lower cost with a street vendor is not same as negotiating for a higher salary with an HR with your Career on the line.
If your employer is not willing to negotiate the salary, then negotiate other benefits. In order to negotiate other benefits, you should have the list of benefits and what can be negotiated. Then what’s important to you and focus on the end goal and how you can get there.
As a young graduate, focus on learning, gaining practical training and figuring out what you want in your career as you go. And student’s who have graduated from US Universities tend to think it the US or they can’t survive or be successful anywhere else. It’s not the case these days. With a degree from the US, you can find jobs anywhere in the world.
Ask these questions and find an answer and it takes some deep thinking and risk-taking.
- Do you feel comfortable with the skills you have acquired?
- Where do you want your career to be 2, 5 and 7 years from today?
- Where do you want your life headed 5 years and 10 years from now?
- Have you traveled the extra mile beyond the exams and projects to stand out?
I often see students making a fuss about not getting a high paying job. Believe me, $3000 or $5000 in higher pay is not going to move the needle or make you rich. From what I have seen, always expect to be disappointed with the initial salary that’s offered.
Don’t chase the money. Follow your passion and the money will follow.
Spend the time during your school to identify what you are passionate about. Here’s a simple test to see if you are passionate about something.
Can you work long hours on a subject, topic, assignments without feeling the pain and burned out and able to spring back to life excited to tackle the next problem on the same topic?
Salary and Economics
The employer wants to hire you as cheap as possible. Just like, how you would look for coupons, deals, and discounts to buy- from Milk to Mortgage.
You keep hearing about $100,000 starting salary for Entry-Level graduate students. When you are offered a job with $55,000, you feel the pinch! Here’s the salary for new grads in the Valley area in 2017.
— Jesse Collins (@jtc_au) December 2, 2016
In fact, don’t even focus on salary in the first few years after starting out from the college. You have a lifetime to earn. Spend the early days of your career to figure out your life’s direction.
Higher salary doesn’t mean it will give you job satisfaction. As your career progresses, you will tend to look for stability and job satisfaction. You might not take the risk as you can take right now. Take the risks at the early stage of your career to figure things out.
- Related – How I got High Paying Job on OPT
You got a couple of suitcases and probably a car. It’s easy to move around. Give importance to acquiring knowledge, developing personal life-skills like time management, building your network and mentors and learn to become resilient.
Summary – OPT Jobs and Salary
- I would accept the offer in the startup
- Negotiate for salary and/or other benefits
- A low paying full-time offer is better than a resume faking jobs
- Get in writing about salary raise after performance appraisal
- Focus on learning technologies you are passionate about
Share Your Experience:
- How did you accept an offer?
- What did you negotiate?
- What do you suggest for this student?