How much are you worth?

Inevitably, in your job search the topic of money is going to come up. Maybe you left your last job because you needed more money. Maybe they let you go because you made too much. Regardless, before you accept your next offer, the company has to decide how much they can pay you to do the work, and you have to decide how much your time and effort is worth.

Unfortunately, unless this job is covered by an existing union contract, there is no simple answer. Every organization has a unique perspective on total compensation – a blend of base pay, benefits, paid time off, working environment, career opportunities, performance expectations, and job security – that makes every job offer different. You may be in a position to have competing offers for similar work, but you need to compare so much more than the salary. Will the job provide meaningful work? Will I like my coworkers and the work culture? Will I be able to develop my career and learn new things? Will I have the time to spend with my family? Will I like my boss? Do I identify with the mission of the organization? There are hundreds of questions you need to consider beyond base pay.

But, let’s talk money. One of the best indications of your worth, purely from a base salary perspective, is what you were paid in your last comparable job. Much like the market value of a house is what someone is willing to pay for it, the first step in determining the value of your labor is too look at what someone else paid you – keeping in mind that this amount was wrapped in that organization’s view of total compensation. That organization had to balance what they paid you with what they paid other employees (internal equity) and what other organizations pay their workers (external competitiveness).

You can get a sense of external competitiveness by looking at sites like salary.com, monster.com and other salary surveys. Please understand; the information they are reporting on these sites is a) supplied by the individual, not the company, so there is no accuracy check, and b) they are consolidating this information based on a one-sentence job description. You might be paid more or less, because while the job has the same job title, the responsibilities are very different. Consider that data, but take it with a large grain of salt.

A key component of your worth needs to be what you need. Do you need base salary, medical insurance, retirement contributions, educational assistance, on-site daycare, on-the-job training, a supportive environment, flexible work schedule, lots of paid time off, a career development program, a busy job, a chance to prove yourself, or a place where you can take a step back and not be stressed? All of those things need to go to into evaluating a job offer.

As I said, there is no easy answer to the question. Take time during your search to evaluate you, and figure out both what you need and what you want. Then take time during the interview process to see how the organization aligns with your wants and needs. Then, when you get to the salary discussion, you have a context and you’ll be much more able to figure out what you’re worth.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to network, or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Available soon in print! Click here for more details.



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