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University of Copenhagen
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Student life

You should ask for more pay on your student job

Salary — Only a few students in Denmark even consider the option of negotiating their salary when they start a student job. This is according to a new study from the Danish trade union Djøf. They offer you a few tips here on how to get started with your pay conversation.

Mathies Lyngsø had been employed as a student assistant in the company Timma for almost five months when he was offered the opportunity to move to another area of responsibility.

For the first months, he was employed as a support employee, but now he was offered a transfer to the department for product development.

»I was given more responsibility, and the job suddenly became much more relevant to my studies,« says Mathies Lyngsø, who is a student of communication and IT at the University of Copenhagen.

»So I reckoned I should get a raise as a matter of course. I was thinking about how I wanted to phrase it, and then ended up writing an email to my boss suggesting it. He was happy I asked for it. He wrote right away that he would take it further.«

Students are often not even told that a salary on a student job is up for discussion

Mette Knudsen, consulting head, Djøf

After Mathies Lyngsø asked for a salary interview on his own initiative, he managed to get a ten percent salary increase.

Mathies Lyngsø is one of the few people who even try to negotiate salary in student jobs. A new survey from the trade union Djøf shows that only one out of five students tried to get a salary increase. The results are based on a questionnaire with responses from 2,709 Djøf student members who have student jobs.

»We made two important findings. First is how few there are that try to negotiate pay at all. Second is how much the few who do negotiate their salary actually get out of it, says Mette Knudsen, who is consulting head at Djøf.

Salary negotiations need practice

The survey also shows that four out of five students were successful with their salary negotiations. The majority of respondents say that they did not try to negotiate pay because they were not aware that it was an option.


*Book your boss for a salary interview, do not show up unannounced.

*Have two or three arguments ready for why you should be paid more.

*Prepare an ambitious, but realistic, salary proposal.

*Send arguments and proposals to your boss before the salary interview.

*You can let your boss come up with a proposal for a salary increase, but always have a number ready if you are asked.

*If you get a no, practice keeping the negotiation going. Ask, for example ‘Where do you see the opportunities here?’

*Consider a plan B – a bonus, for example, or a salary increase after an agreed number of months.

*Believe in yourself.

Source: Trade union Djøf’s negotiating guide for students (in Danish).

»Students are often not even told that a salary on a student job is up for discussion. When you have just got your contract and you are new to the labour market, you do not think about the fact that you can negotiate your salary,« says Mette Knudsen.

Wage negotiations are something you should practice, says the head of consulting, and encourages students to try it out as early as possible in their working life.

»A lot of people get something out of negotiating. Student assistants are a relatively cheap labour force, so it does not matter too much to a company whether they pay DKK10 or DKK20 an hour extra. Maybe you get a no. But you can still give yourself a pat on the back for trying,« says Mette Knudsen. And she continues:

»Pay negotiations are part of your working life. In the end, the more you negotiate your salary, the higher up it will be in the end. So you might as well start practicing.«

You can negotiate your salary regardless of whether you are working for a private company, or a job in the public sector, says the head of consulting. Still, the study shows that while one in three students tried to bargain for better wages in private workplaces, only one in 20 had given it a shot at a public sector workplace.

»In public sector workplaces, wage levels are often regulated by collective agreements, but there may still be room for negotiation,« says Mette Knudsen.

»Just do it«

If you are one of the people who did not try to negotiate their salaries in connection with their being hired, don’t despair, says Mette Knudsen. Opportunities for renegotiation will arise on an ongoing basis.

»Get hold of your boss when you’ve been at your workplace for six or 12 months. Perhaps you have been given other tasks, perhaps you have become more reliable. And then it’s okay to try to negotiate your salary upwards,« says Mette Knudsen and adds:

»You might get a no. And you can use this to start thinking about whether you would rather apply for another job where you get a higher starting salary.«

Many people are constrained by the notion that you have to somehow prove yourself before thinking about salary negotiations, according to Mette Knudsen.

You have nothing to lose

Mathies Lyngsø, student

»But it is worth remembering here that you typically got the job in competition with a number of other candidates. So the company has already assessed you to be qualified to do it.«

There are many things you should be aware of when signing a contract for a student job. You should, for example, check out what the conditions are that the job offers for maternity/paternity leave, exam periods, and working hours, says the head of consulting.

»It is a good idea to make sure that there is flexibility in the job during exam periods, and that working hours are specified so that it is clear how much you are expected to work,« says Mette Knudsen. She recommends that you send your contract over to your union before signing.

Mathies Lyngsø is happy he took the initiative for a salary interview, and he encourages others to do the same.

»My best piece of advice is: Just do it. Ask your manager if it is possible to negotiate your salary. It does not have to be something big or formal. I really don’t think anybody will be offended by it, so you have nothing to lose.«