Last week we started talking about what to do when you are asked for your salary requirement. Many agree that this is a daunting topic, and so I wanted to give you some tools for how to handle it and come out on top. You want to come across to your potential employer like you are someone who understands the industry and someone who is confident in their worth. Here are some ways to ensure that happens:
Remember taking those standardized tests when you were a kid, and finding out where you fall in relation to other students? Apply that same ranking principle to those in your industry and decide where you fit amongst your professional peers based on experience, skills, and education. Try to at least figure out if you are in the bottom, middle, or top of the spectrum. That will help you apply salary research you find. Be sure to take into consideration anything that adds value such as advanced training. Also, note that if you spend a length of time outside of your field, you may lose some ground, and need to take a small step back as you re-enter your industry.
Look at your Salary History and Budget
Pull out your resume and list your starting and ending salary for each position you have held recently. What's your trajectory looking like? You should give a salary requirement that is at least equivalent with what you were making in your last position that was comparable. In this wacky economy many of us have had to side-step into positions that aren't in our chosen industry in order to pay some bills. My recommendation is to disregard your salary history in irrelevant employment when you are building your request. You also have to look at your budget, and make sure that the low end of your range would meet your needs, or make sure that you have a plan to earn some supplemental income if it doesn't. Don't forget to factor in what you would be paying in commuting/childcare. I've met so many people who took a job, only to end up surprised when they barely break even based on these expenses. It's not a good practice to give a really low salary requirement thinking that you can negotiate for more money in the hiring process. Some employers will not be happy if you try to negotiate outside of the range you've set. I've even heard of offers being retracted with this happens. The key is to be honest and open from the start. Don't have a scheme in mind for how you will bait and switch the employer. That's hardly a basis for a good working relationship.
Labor Market Research
You need to research what salary trends are in your industry, and thankfully – there is a lot of labor market data available to help you with this. There are several online resources that you can check out. I really like www.payscale.com. You have to answer several questions in order to get a salary range, but it's worth it. I went through the questionnaire, and it gave me a figure that was almost spot on with my current salary. You can also try www.salary.com but the data can be a bit more broad on this site. The department of labor has a site with analysis about a variety of fields including some broad salary trends which you can find at https://www.onetonline.org/. Finally, you can do a purely anecdotal search by looking through online job postings in your area and finding ones that give salary information. Not many will offer this info – but it's worth looking out for it, as every bit of data can help you to make a more informed decision.
Once you have an idea of how much you are worth to a potential employer, it's time to move forward with confidence. I know we are bombarded with stories about our lackluster economy and job outlook – but approaching an employer sheepishly is not the answer. If you sense that the market for your type of work is very saturated where you live, then you may want to decrease the low end of your range slightly, however this should be done only under careful consideration. If you find that your salary requirements seem too high, then you may want to go back to step one and be sure about where you are ranking yourself amongst your industry peers. Assuming you are not elevating yourself prematurely, you may find that the positions you are targeting are not be on par with your skill level. The answer might not be in adjusting salary requirements, but in the job search itself. Perhaps your years at a mid-level job have actually prepared you for management. Every case is different, but you need remember that you are valuable, and as rough as things may get – an employer doesn't deserve to have you for the majority of your waking hours if they can't compensate you fairly. Do you homework and come up with a fair and accurate salary range – and stick to it, because you're worth it!
What are your thoughts on figuring out what you're worth to an employer?