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What Am I Worth?

What Am I Worth?

By Valerie Lipow

In some cultures, bargaining is the norm. A buyer or seller makes an offer, and the other party either accepts or counters the offer. The two negotiate until a deal is made or one of the parties walks away.

When you're negotiating your salary with an employer, do you know what you're doing? Do you have any idea of what you're truly worth?

How Do I Find Out My Worth?

To be a good salary negotiator, you must know what a good deal looks like. First, research your fair market value. You should check out Monster's Salary Wizard. Also look to recruiters, competitors, and websites like to get a good idea of what others in similar positions are earning.

Networking is the key to getting fresh information. There's no better way to assess how you're doing than to schmooze with professionals in similar fields. Identify people who have the same position you have or want. Attend professional association meetings or trade shows, and connect with other job seekers online to compare duties and responsibilities, staff size, etc. Investigate the opportunities for job seekers with your skill set in the same company, different companies, different sectors and even different industries.

When networking, don't ask people, "What do you make?" and expect a civil answer. Instead, ask, "Does this range sound right for this kind of job in this kind of company?" Chances are they'll reply either: "Wow! Where do you work and how can I join you?" or "Well, that seems low for someone with your experience and level of responsibility." When you combine their comments with the salary information you already have, you'll have a better idea of how you want to approach your salary offer.

How Much Salary to Ask For

Many companies have salary structures for their organizations. Each has a range in mind for any specific job. If you have a target salary within a realistic range, you'll negotiate from a stronger position.

Rules for Negotiating Your Salary

  • Don't be greedy. Seek a win-win agreement with a new employer. This cements good relations for you and the interviewer, and could save you from a lost offer if you hold out for the maximum.
  • When an employer asks for your salary requirements in an ad or on a job application, indicate that you are negotiable. If you're asked to provide current salary, respond with, "Will discuss during interview."
  • Never initiate salary discussions in an interview. Wait for the interviewer to bring the subject up, even if it's postponed to a second interview.
  • Avoid explicit comparisons to your current salary. You're negotiating the strengths you'll bring to the new position, not past salary.
  • Always assume the offer is negotiable.
  • Never accept an offer at the interview. Express your strong interest, but state that you always evaluate important decisions carefully. Negotiate a date when you'll contact the interviewer with your decision.
  • Discuss benefits separately from salary. Your list of benefits can include insurance, tuition reimbursement, relocation payments, stock options, bonuses and outplacement upon termination.