How to Provide Salary History When You Don’t Have One

Marina writes:
This morning while browsing Quintessential Careers I stumbled upon a fantastic section about
Salary Requirements. [Editor’s Note: Responding to Requests for Salary
Requirements or Salary Histories: Strategies and Suggestions
.] I am looking at many jobs that ask for requirements
and history. The problem I face is that I have no salary history. To give you the five-second skinny on
my past employment history I worked full time with a non-profit environmental organization
(during my senior year of college all together almost two years) that was horrible. They
wanted me on staff but it came with a two-year commitment I just couldn’t put myself in
such a situation. I left the position and organization on fantastic terms. I still am employed
with them on a part-time per-diem basis.
So what should I do? When checking on a reference would a potential employer ask the
referrer about what they paid me? Do I figure out my “yearly salary” by calculating my
hourly? How do I address my non-fulfillment in my old position with out ripping on my supervisors?

The Career Doctor responds:
Employers ask about previous salary history and current salary requirements
because they are trying to accomplish a number of tasks — they want to see if
you have had a steady progression of salary (and responsibility) in previous jobs;
they want to see if your current salary requirements fit into the range for the current
position; and they want to have salary-negotiation leverage over you in case you
become the candidate they want to hire.
Given your situation you have little to worry about. Employers do not expect
recent college grads to have a strong salary history. Many of the first jobs
students land after graduation are ones they continued from college or took in desperation to have a job — and in both cases as you have learned
the students quickly realize it’s time to move on to a better job.
Don’t fret so much about the salary-history issue. On any occasion where
you need to put a salary (such as a job application) just state “per diem.”
Focus more on your next job possibility and the realistic salary range you want
to be making.
As for possible reference checks the conversation almost always focuses on your
abilities and skills as an employee not on issues of salary. So as long as you
have a good relationship with your current supervisor you should be fine.
On a side note we have more great salary-negotiation resources to
Quintessential Careers. The first is an article Job
Offer Too Low? Use These Key Salary Negotiation Techniques to Write a
Counter Proposal Letter
. The second is a great tool: The Salary
Negotiation Compensation and Job Offer Quiz