Here’s a question that will inevitably come up at some point (or several points) during your professional journey: Am I being paid what I’m worth?
It’s a fair question—and one you should be comfortable with asking yourself whenever you do a “status check” while traveling along your career path. Why? Well, the truth is, in today’s ultra-competitive job market, employers in any given industry can offer a wide range of salaries for positions, and it’s absolutely within your best interests to know what end of the salary spectrum you’re on.
Of course, many variables will come into play when you’re given a salary offer at the time of hire for a position (things like geographic location, years of experience, and even the relative financial health of the company can factor in), but one thing that’s true for employees across fields, positions, and locations is that the salary you agree to for a position can have a real impact on your long-term earning potential—both at your current position and company and for future positions, either there or at a new company. Many companies base things like salary offers and even raises and bonuses on your prior earning history, and if your salary is below the industry average for your position and experience, it may take years before you’re able to catchup to other, better compensated colleagues.
Taking into account the time and effort most of us put into our professional lives, it’s obviously important to ensure that you’re getting paid a fair salary for the work you do and contributions you make to your employer. And you can’t have faith that your employer is staying on top of what’s fair. In the tricky world of salary negotiations, you’re often going to be your own best advocate towards ensuring that you’re being compensated fairly.
Hopefully, it’s now clear why educating yourself about compensation standards, practices, and trends in your industry is a valuable use of your time. Consider using the following strategies to help you determine if you’re being paid a reasonable salary.
Steps to take to ensure your salary is what you deserve
You don’t need us to tell you that the Internet is often your best friend when you’re in need of doing some research on a subject. When it comes to gathering salary info, it’s an invaluable tool as well. In fact, there are sites that are practically dedicated to this—check out Salary.com’s salary calculator tool or Glassdoor to determine what other folks in your field and position typically make.
In addition, professional associations in your field may openly share important information like average salary and compensation to help you figure out where you’re at relative to your peers. Many professionals across industries maintain blogs that are designed to create supportive communities and share key information with their colleagues—use these to your advantage and feel empowered to ask questions as needed.
Utilize your HR department
Remember, your company’s HR department is there to support you with all sorts of issues that come up during your professional tenure. If you have questions or concerns regarding compensation, these are often good places to start. And if they don’t have all the answers you’re looking for, if they’re good at their jobs they’ll be able to direct you where to go for next steps.
Don’t forget that the issue of professional satisfaction, which includes being content with your current salary, is highly personal—what makes you feel satisfied and fulfilled and meets your life needs will be different than anyone else. Therefore, a strong source to determine if you’re being paid reasonably is yourself. Look within, do a personal inventory, and try to assess whether or not you feel as if you’re currently in a good place salary-wise. Regardless of what others in similar positions make, if you feel content with where you’re at, take that into consideration when deciding whether you’re compensated fairly.
What not to do
Salary issues can be highly emotional. If you feel as if you’re underpaid, it may set you off on a charged and volatile footing. That’s never a good place to operate from when it comes to issues involving your career. Be sure to keep your emotions in check when addressing compensation matters with your company. Also, avoid discussing salaries with your coworkers—many companies frown upon this, and it can also lead to animosity if there are clear disparities.
One last thing to avoid—avoid ignoring the issue. If you feel unsatisfied or unclear regarding your compensation, simply ignoring it will undoubtedly lead to ongoing negative results. Take proactive steps to ensure that you’re a valued and fairly compensated member of your organization, and both you and your company will benefit from it.