How do you find out how much you should be paid? If you accept your employer’s pay scale without negotiation, you’re probably not making as much as you could. Even a quick Google search won’t give you a specific enough idea of your value. To find out how much you’re worth in the job market, you need to quantify all of your unique skills, accomplishments and other assets. Read on to find out how much you’re worth… you’ll never leave money on the table again!


Do Your Homework

When Realtors list a house for sale, they determine its value by comparing recent sales prices of similar homes in the area. Likewise, you should begin your salary research by finding out what other workers with your level of education and experience are paid.

The U.S. Department of Labor publishes an Occupational Outlook Handbook with salary information for hundreds of occupations. While the most recent statistics may still be a year or so old, this is a good place to start because you can count on information that is objective and accurate.

The best way to start quantifying your worth is with a range. For example, according to the 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median salary for a public relations specialist is $54,170. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also offers a salary range based on the top and bottom 10 percent of earners: $30,760-$101,030. Therefore, you might start your range at $50,000-$75,000, depending on how far along you are in your career. As you quantify your unique attributes in the following five categories, you’ll be able to narrow your range further.


Adjust for Experience

If you have several years of experience or more in your profession, you can expect your worth to fall somewhere in the higher half of the salary range. Even if you’re looking for your first job out of college, there’s plenty of other experience you can cite to increase your value.

Internships, volunteering and personal life experiences such as travel can all transfer to your job. Even if you interned or volunteered within a completely different field, you can apply universal skills such as leadership, time management and experience with technology to any profession. You should also explain how character-building personal experiences make you a better employee and co-worker. Each experience you’ve had pushes your value up a notch or two.


Bring Flexibility to the Table

In today’s workforce, many employees ask for flexibility. Whether they want to telecommute part of the workweek or adjust their working hours to align with a child care schedule, employers are used to fielding such requests during the hiring process. You can set yourself apart – and increase your worth – by offering flexibility instead of requesting it.

Maybe the job involves travel to out-of-the-way places no one is eager to visit, or the boss needs someone to be on call for occasional weekend work. Be explicit in the interview about your willingness to take on such possibilities. Then, when you’re negotiating salary, you can use your flexibility as currency to increase your value.


Calculate Your Area’s Cost of Living

Remember that example salary range we looked at earlier? It’s likely that the top-earning PR specialists work in expensive cities like New York or San Francisco, in addition to being experienced in their fields. Simply put, it matters where you live.

How can you determine how cost of living impacts your value? Use a free calculator to compare average salaries in cities across the country. This can help you figure out how much to ask for in your current location or a new one, if you’re considering relocating for a job.

Additionally, you can pull data from the Consumer Price Index to back up your salary demands. For example, if the cost of housing has rapidly increased in your area, you have a legitimate reason to ask for more money.


Account for Any Licenses or Certifications You Have in Addition to a Degree

Have you pursued optional licenses or certifications in your field? Do you regularly engage in continuing education? Even if these things are required in your profession, you should still highlight your compliance. For every level of education you have beyond the basic amount necessary, your value increases. For example, you may have a master’s degree even though a bachelor’s is the basic requirement.

On the other hand, if you fall short of the preferred education level, you could negotiate for tuition reimbursement in exchange for a lower salary. Many employers offer this as a benefit anyway, so check beforehand. Regardless of whether or not a higher degree is required, your average lifetime earnings increase with each level of education you attain. So if you have an opportunity to advance your education on your employer’s dime, go for it. You’ll be able to negotiate for a higher salary once you finish.


Quantify Your Accomplishments

Ultimately, your value is the result of your unique accomplishments. Yes, a real estate agent will use comparable sales to determine a house’s value, but the ultimate number can only be reached by quantifying that house’s special features, such as an extra bathroom or a new furnace. Similarly, you shouldn’t stop your calculations with the average pay range in your field.

Make a list of everything you’ve accomplished in your education, personal life and work experience thus far. This could include scholarships, awards and other recognition of your aptitude and achievements. It could also include rare accomplishments, such as making it all the way through a Boy Scouts or Girls Scouts program. Also, you should highlight formal accomplishments like degrees and years of related experience.

In your job interview and salary negotiations, talk up everything that distinguishes you from other candidates. You can bring assets to the company that no one else can – and you deserve to be paid accordingly.


Have you negotiated for a higher salary? How did you find out how much you’re worth?

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

4 Comments on Negotiating Salary: How to Find Out How Much You’re Worth

  1. Muyiwa
    August 18, 2015 at 10:33 am (6 years ago)

    Great tips. Salary negotiation is a very important skill every job seeker must master either you are a veteran employee or not. Your tip about flexibility is important.

    • Sarah Landrum
      August 18, 2015 at 1:01 pm (6 years ago)

      Thank you! 🙂 I agree. It’s so important to keep in mind that benefits are sometimes just as important as salary, but also that offering flexibility may get you even further than requesting it! It’s crucial to find the right mix.


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