Know Your Worth – Is Your Salary Comparable?

by Marie on May 23, 2013 · 10 comments

The economy is finally tipping upward and you may be thinking that now is the time to gain back lost salary ground. Perhaps your company cut salaries in 2009 (mine did). Perhaps you just haven’t gotten a raise, but have taken on a lot more responsibility. Productivity is way up, meaning that you are doing more for less money.

Or, perhaps your company has realized your value and has rewarded you amply, but you are tired of the long hours and increased responsibility. No matter what the case, your first step, before taking any action in your current job or in looking for another position, is to know your worth.

My experience.

Back in the eighties and nineties, it was much harder to know what others were making, or even find out if your jobs were similar enough to even compare salaries. After being out of the work force for 10 years raising kids, I was just thrilled to get a job – paying $18K a year. That is equivalent to around $40 K in 2013. Each year I received around a 3 – 4 % raise. Except when I changed jobs, which I did twice. The first time I jumped ship, I got an 18% bump. Then 4 years later I moved again and got a 30% bump. These were great and I was happy. For multiple years after that, I plodded along with those 3-4% raises, until the year our human resources did a salary comparison. They looked at what other companies in our region were paying for my experience and responsibility level and gave me a huge salary adjustment. Little did I know that I was being paid less than most people doing the work I did.

The really sad part of it was that my boss got mad at HR for not telling him they were adjusting my salary. As it turns out, he would have withheld my typical 3-4% raise if he knew they were adjusting! As it was, I got both.

If I had known my worth, I could have tried to negotiate a higher salary, resulting in more pay over a decade. Of course, I was glad for the adjustment, but it also gave me pause. My head had been in the sand about what salary I could have requested!

How can you find out what others are making?

In my company, the culture and HR strongly discouraged employees from talking about salary levels. Since I was a manager, I felt compelled to comply. Of course, I did have access to the generic company pay scales for each job title (as a manager) and the salaries of those who reported to me (I had to figure out their raises after all). It can be somewhat disconcerting to know that someone working for you makes more than you do! BUT, I did not have access to what others in my own job title were being paid.

The internet wasn’t around with all of it’s wonderful information and frankly, I didn’t have the time or energy to dig around in the library. I was working 50 or 60 hour weeks and trying to raise a family.

You have more options today, although they will still take awhile to review. Here are three major websites that can help you get started in researching what various types of jobs will pay.

Indeed.com gives you a really fast answer. You just put in a job title and a city or zip and out pops a number.

Salary.com also gives you a pretty quick answer (if you ignore the annoying ads).   I plugged in software engineer and (with a few clicks) got a median salary and a range plus the opportunity to refine the search (free but you have to give up your email id to get it).

Payscale.com  zeros in on specific skills in addition to asking for job titles. Their interactive interview digs pretty deep into your experience, skills, certifications, location and etc. Because of that, it may be a bit more accurate than the above.

So, before you start thinking about jumping ship, going to another department or asking for more, find out what the range of salary and benefits is for jobs similar to yours in your area.

How did you find out what others in your field are making?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 krantcents May 23, 2013 at 11:24 am

Networking is only for getting another job! Participating in industry associations provide networking opportunities. Opportunities to find out what other people doing similar things earn. NOt specifics, but salary ranges would be helpful. I remember belonging to a association where this information was freely traded.

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2 Marie at Family Money Values May 23, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Well, networking has provided more than the opportunity to learn about other jobs. It has helped me learn new things, enjoy great company and see how other companies handle issues I am having.

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3 Kurt @ Money Counselor May 23, 2013 at 12:27 pm

An interesting paradox I’ve observed with respect to salaries: Most people aware of their colleagues’ think others are overpaid. Yet nearly every individual thinks that he or she is underpaid. Naturally this individual’s colleagues likely think that he or she is overpaid. I wouldn’t want to work in HR. :-)

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4 Marie at Family Money Values May 23, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Me either. HR folks usually ARE underpaid compared to other functions in the company!

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5 Thomas | MADD Finances May 24, 2013 at 8:13 am

For me I usually just ask and its seems that once a year in our industry a report is done on the salary ranges. I look at the location I am in and my experience and go from there. I also not only go for the better salary but I also request performance based incentives as well. HR doesn’t want you talking about pay so asking people at work makes it difficult. I say know your worth but have the skill set to back it up.

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6 Marie at Family Money Values June 13, 2013 at 11:58 am

Yes, definitely you have to have the skills and the perseverance in addition to the knowledge.

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7 Jon Haver May 25, 2013 at 3:07 pm

I agree with the fact that HR folks are usually underpaid compared to other functions in the company. Anyways, I believe that not knowing our worth is a big mistake to make!

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8 Marie at Family Money Values June 13, 2013 at 11:59 am

and it is a lot easier to figure it out these days than it used to be pre-internet!

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9 Budgetguy@budgetstrong.com June 3, 2013 at 1:51 pm

1st off I love your blog concept! I did a study of my personal salary history to find trending and other interesting statistics about how my salary history has changed from 2013 back to my 11th grade year. I’m now 30. I made it public be ause I wanted others to have this information to empower them to seek out their worth vs how they have been valued. At times I could see I clearly wasn’t getting paid what I was worth in my industry, and at times I have been just below average. I didnt start earning my true worth until I went full time for my own company in the past year. You can see it here:

http://www.budgetstrong.com/salary/eight-six-four-two-today/

I did this analysis so others might see the value and invest the time to do the same. I realize how education and professional credentials beyond a Bachelor degree has affected my pay significantly.

I now earn $156k a year, but my potential is now uncapped. I started blogging about my finances when I was making 72k a year. Knowledge is power and most people are too afraid too share their salary. The #1 reason is because they have no true negotiation power. They can’t afford to lose the job or walk away from an unacceptable job offer because they are living paycheck to paycheck.

We need more posts and blogs like brokeprofessionals.com! This is a great resource on many levels besides personal finance IMHO.

However, I’ve found that a lot of co-workers are willing to discuss their salary ranges with their co-workers (like me) once you developed a personal relationship. Plus I’ve always been pretty open about my salary. The thing is…is that no one wants to be the one finding out they are getting paid less. So talking about salary comes down to understanding the psychology of your peers. A lot of this has to do with the current culture within your organization.

The 2nd way I’ve found it is by internal company job boards that supplied a job band level which indicates the pay scale range of a particular position.

The last way is of course job boards, salary surveys, etc. in my profession (Project Management) we have an organization (PMI) that provides salary surveys of the Project Management profession. There is a lot of data regarding salaries in my field if work.

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10 Marie at Family Money Values June 13, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Are you a PMP? I currently am.

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