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How to Decide What You’re Worth

One of the most difficult aspects of almost any job is the salary negotiation. When you’re asked how much you want to be paid, whether you are starting at a new job, or whether you are looking for a raise/promotion [3], it can be difficult to pinpoint what you’re worth.

Deciding what you’re worth spills over into helping you decide which jobs to take (if salary isn’t negotiated), as well as whether or not you feel as though you can stick with your current position.

Tom Hart is with Eliassen Group, a staffing and consulting company. “We place over 1,000 people a year in temporary and permanent positions,” he says. Hart has a few ideas for how you can figure out how much you’re worth.

You’re Worth More When You’re in Demand

Hart says that there are a few situations in which you can push for a higher salary:

“In most cases the parameters surrounding job opportunities are known to both parties,” Hart says. However, if you are asked about your requirements, or if there is room for you to negotiate, you should go in with an idea of what you’re worth.

“Most employers have a range,” Hart points out. “If you can show you match up well, you can get something a little closer to the higher end of the range.”

Figuring Out Your “Market Value”

It’s a good idea to go into it with a rough idea of what you’re worth. Whether you are asking the boss for a raise, or whether you are trying to land your first job, you need a solid idea of the market rate for someone with your skills, expertise, and experience.

Hart suggests that you start out with the major job portals [4]. “See what jobs are currently being advertised related to your skills and experience,” he says. “Often the starting salary is listed, or a range is listed. You can take the information, and do some math.”

Another idea is to simple Google your position. “Follow the links to review what others have to say, as well as sites that pay attention to what the market will bear,” Hart suggests. “Buzzle, Wiki Answers, Quora, and eHow all offer insights. The info isn’t 100 percent accurate, but it’s generally representative.”

You should know the industry, and how you compare to others in similar positions. Hart says you can ask friends in comparable situations, as well as look online. “Do your research and collect data, and be able to argue your position.”

Finally, Hart points out that asking for a raise requires a different game plan than getting a new job [5]. When looking for a new job, you can talk salary when you get through the preliminary rounds. “If you make it through the rounds, things shift to your favor,” Hart says. The employers are more interested in making you happy if you make it so far.

When asking for a raise, though, you need to pay attention to timing, as well as to the research and justification you present to back up your position. “Bring it up at the time of evaluation, or annual merit review,” Hart advises. He warns against using your research as a threat. “No ultimatums, unless you really are prepared to leave. You might find that you really are dispensable, even though you think you are indispensable.”

(Photo Credit: AZAdam [6])