You may want to get into your dream career, but you've got to get paid too, right? Many graduates have unrealistic expectations of the sort of salaries they can expect to command after university, so it's important to go into any interview with an idea of what sort of pay you should be able to get.
Graduate salaries are famously difficult to predict and are always skewed by the companies you ask and the type of roles you are looking. Many also take into account extra work benefits, such as bonuses, perks and holidays.
Figures from the Association of Graduate Recruiters suggest that the average graduate starting salary in 2012 is £26,500, but this figure is obviously skewed by the type of industry you want to get into. Work in banking and finance and your starting salary will most likely be higher. Interested in journalism, and you'll be earning a lot less.
Often you'll find larger companies have structured pay levels for each position - these are hard to change but are sometimes supplemented with bonuses and perks, which can be negotiable. Smaller companies are usually more open to negotiation and will weigh up your experience and qualifications to come up with a figure you agree on.
Most people have little bargaining power when they start their career but after a year or two this changes and you'll be in more of a position to negotiate pay rises and benefits. Having said this, don't sell yourself short. If you know the initial wage you're being offered is too low, don't accept it. In some cases employers will respect this show of self-worth and reward you accordingly, but some will just tell you they don't want you. Weigh up whether it's worth it.
Not all about money
It's not all about money though and sometimes in the beginning it pays to work for a company that pays less but offers more. Training schemes and courses, for example, are great ways to increase your knowledge and make you more attractive to future employers, so go for companies with good human resources departments. Or perhaps you want to be able to say you've worked for a particularly well-respected company? It could be worth taking less money and gaining a bit of prestige. Maybe you're one of the few who can afford to assess each company on the experience it can offer you, the non-financial rewards.
Remember work's a two-way thing. Too many people are told what hours to work, how much they will earn, when to go for their lunch and so on; some graduates think this is how it has to be, but it doesn't. Really think about what you're worth and whether you're happy with the company's approach. Make sure what you're offered is enough to live on and worthy of the commitment you're giving them.
One final thing: if you don't ask you don't get. Pushing your luck a bit can be a good thing. Employers may say 'no' but they will appreciate your tenacity and see you as someone who's confident and self-assured. You never know, they might even agree to that convertible Mercedes!