Know Your Worth Before Negotiating Salary (Negotiating Part 1)

Before entering the potentially intimidating setting of a salary negotiation, you first need to determine what your mindset is about your worth as an employee.


Let’s talk for just a minute about what it is you think you deserve. 


How do you feel about your compensation package with your current employer? (Maybe this is a big part of why you want to get a new job!) 


Do you feel like you are being paid fairly, relative to your skill set in the current job market and what similar companies are paying?


I know this may sound like kind of an awkward suggestion, but have you ever asked your co-workers what they are being paid? Especially if they are doing the same job as you and have been around the same amount of time as you. 


You might find their answers shocking!


Research has found that when a job seeker receives a job offer, “more than half of American workers don't negotiate at all.” [*] That number gets uglier when it comes to women vs. men. [*] And you bet race and ethnicity affects people's confidence about pushing for their market value when it comes to salary negotiations.[*][*]

[When I say market value, I’m referring to your skill set and how in demand it is in the current job market. For example, are you a computer programmer/engineer with up-to-date skills and experience? Well if there’s a shortage of engineers to go around, your value goes up and you can ask to be paid more. We’ll go over how to determine your market value later in this post.]


So how do we overcome this HUGE problem that results in you potentially missing out on (what research has determined to be) roughly $750,000 over the course of your career?? [*


We have to start with your mindset and beliefs about negotiating and make sure you know what you deserve! Here are a few things you need to know…


#1 A lot of people don’t realize they are SUPPOSED to negotiate their salary


Nowhere in a job description is an employer required to TELL YOU that the salary / pay is “negotiable.” 


Do you realize (at least in the U.S.A.) that employers EXPECT new hires to take the initiative in negotiating their salary? Obviously, there are exceptions to that statement (and you need to be aware of what is like in your industry), but generally speaking, in a capitalist society, that’s the way your wages work. You will be paid according to your willingness to push for what you’re worth. 


#2 Not every boss / potential employer will see you as an “equal”


If that human being who controls the flow of the company finances (“determines people's salaries”) is at their core a prejudice person, you will be underpaid based on some criteria you don’t have control over. 


Oprah Winfrey experienced this discrimination in her payrate when she first started her career and know that you don’t have to put up with it. There are good people out there that will pay you what you are worth, but you have to be willing to “stand up” and ask for it by negotiating.


Caveat to that statement: there is a difference between “willing” and able… 


(What I mean by “able”: if you are going to go work for a start-up or non-profit or charity - they may not yet be financially in a position to compete for your talent at your market value and you have to determine if you are willing to be paid less initially because it is a cause and mission you care about, but I don’t endorse people being majorly underpaid – just know that!)


I'm more concerned with the word “willing.” If an employer isn’t WILLING to pay you according to your market value, do you really want to work for that person or company?


#3 What you BELIEVE you deserve will determine what you pursue and get in life 


There is this thing out there in psychology that is called self-efficacy, and it has to do with what you believe you are capable of having and achieving. If you don’t think you deserve or can have or get something, you will sell yourself short for the rest of your life. Scary stuff, but it’s true.


Now, it feels like all of us at one time or another deals with imposter syndrome; we may feel or question whether or not we are really any good at what it is we claim to do. We undervalue our achievements and effort, and as a result, we may undermine ourselves when it comes to things like asking for a pay raise or to be paid according to our market value.


People who suffer from imposter syndrome (you’d be surprised, but there are individuals at ALL levels of success and business that face this kind of self-doubt) need to rely on something  that could be phrased as “their ‘whole picture’ offering.”


Why does a company want you? Ask your current and former coworkers or manager why they value (valued) working with you.


You need to see yourself through the whole view of everything you bring to the table – not just thinking about your value as being determined by something like whether or not you have a specific college degree (or a degree at all!) or every skill set you “should.” 


We limit ourselves in thinking everything is about technical ability, but soft skills – having high EQ, being easy to work with, communicating well with others, having a positive attitude, staying cool under pressure and high stress situations, receiveing and implementing feedback well, taking initiative, not being afraid of a challenge or stepping out of your comfort zone, being a true problem solver and critical thinker – the things that make you YOU are what you bring to the table.


Until you work on your mindset about what it is you deserve, preparing skills and knowledge on how to negotiate, IS USELESS. Reason being: if you feel like you don’t have that much to offer as an employee, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot in a negotiation setting. 


Determining Your Market Value

 So the correct time to negotiate salary is actually AFTER they (the potential employer) has extended to you a solid job offer – they’ve expressed to you that you are the candidate they want.


So if that is the right time to negotiate salary, what’s the right time to determine your market value? RIGHT NOW. TODAY, Junior!!!


Way before you ever go into an interview, you need to know what your market value is in the current job market. Especially because they might ask you during the interview process about what your desired salary is (yeah, I know, these always feel like trick questions, and we’ll go over more on how to deal with them in an upcoming blog post on the topic of how to negotiate salary).


Best places to determine your market value: ASKING people in your industry and area about what they are making or you can expect to be making (trust me, bringing this up can feel uncomfortable for any normal human being, but it is all about who, where, and when you ask). I recommend joining professional groups on LinkedIn and Facebook and other social media (I just barely started one for office admins and office managers on Facebook, if that’s your profession, come join!) where you can ask these questions in a safe environment to the right audience who wants to help you.


Here are a list of websites that can be helpful for researching your specific position, industry, and level of experience to determine what you should be making: - The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook gives you a good idea of how indemand your job is and projected to be in the coming years. - great starting place for seeing what people make at certain job titles in your area. - Glassdoor has put together this resource for looking up salaries for specific job titles at companies in your area. - You input a bunch of information (and they ask for quite a bit) and the website estimates what you should be making, based off of what other users have previously entered. - kind of a cool site, it tells you the salary information for people in the United States on work visas at different companies. - a sweet site for salaries for jobs in tech.


Okay, so once you have done your research, you will be aware of about how much money the organization already pays people that are currently doing the job title. (If you have connections that already work for the company, you can ask these people so they can give you very specific advice about what kinds of salaries people in their organization are making).


Maybe you are thinking, “What if I’m not confident in my current market value, Ryan?”


If you are feeling liek you don’t have any competitive edge in your profession and industry, there are a couple things you can do. I’m going to tell you a story to illustrate what they are / my point..


Okay, so when I was a teenager, I worked on fixing up my car. (It’s important for you to know, I did NOT come from money, but I always knew that one day I would have $$ and a lot of it. I motivated myself as a child by putting pictures of lamborghinis on my wall – mainly because I never wanted to be poor. I never wanted to have to stress out over having “enough” like what it felt like when I was a kid).


Okay, back to the story of my teenage car. So I needed a way to get to high school and I didn’t want to feel like a total loser so I bought the best car I could afford, and then as I got paychecks with my afterschool job, I’d pump money into this car little by little. I got a new paint job, improved the interior, got power locks installed, and a killer sound system put in and I remember people at school saying to me that I had the coolest car. 


Why am I telling you this story? Great question!!!


Because it’s important for you to know that when I got that car, it really wasn’t worth much. (And… being perfectly honest.. it didn’t look like something you would want other teenagers to see you driving) 


It was the effort and energy I put into “upgrading it” that made it something of value that other people wanted. Yeah, that is right, there were seniors that offered to buy my car. Umm humm, just sayin.


Now the thing is, if you don’t feel very confident about your value in the current job market, you can CHANGE that! It is something you have more control over than you may think or realize!!


You can do a certificate through Udemy or enroll in a computer programming bootcamp or take on a bigger project at work – all things that can be “upgrades” to your resume and ADD more market value to you as an employee. Or take mine and CEO Chandler Bolt’s advice and write the book that PROVES you have the knowledge about your subject matter!


Here are some cool Udemy courses my team found that you may be interested in. They are just a few examples of cool things you could potentially add to your resume as a certificate you’ve done, things to help prove your skills and knowledge base: 


Once you know (or have added to) your value in the labor market, it will be up to you to change your mindset about what it is you deserve!


Remember how in a recent blog post called, 5 Tips to Help You Find the Right Job I shared with you a quote from a recent Forbes article called, “What Does A Worker Want? What The Labor Shortage Really Tells Us.


Well, as a final effort on my part to boost your confidence about what you deserve, I’m going to quote it again to you. Their senior contributor Tom Spiggle elaborated on the current situation that employers are in (specifically, there’s a shortage of workers to go around!). This is what it means for you:


 “Until the coronavirus pandemic completely upended the economy, few workers were in a position where they could demand the benefits they wanted or choose to leave a job that was treating them so badly. Now, there are more people with not only the bargaining power to get what they want, but also the motivation to ask for it.


Perhaps states stopping the additional unemployment benefits isn’t about employers not wanting to pay their workers more; rather, it’s about employers not wanting to face the possibility that employees now have the upper hand. 


This not only means workers can ask for higher wages and better benefits, but it also means employers will have a harder time getting away with mistreating workers.”


I’m going to be sending a few more blog posts your way soon on the topic of negotiating, including what kinds of things you can and should bring up / negotiate about before you agree to your new job and tactics you can use to approach the actual “negotiating.” Keep an eye out for those or, like always, if you have questions or need help sooner:me and my team can mentor you on solutions in the Refer Facebook group!


[*Those Udemy links above are affiliate links, meaning if you end up deciding to purchase a course and you use the link we shared with you, Udemy thanks us for helping you find out about it through them, by giving us a small commission.]

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Ryan Kay

Helping people get the career of their dreams!

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