Salary: Do you know what you are worth?
By Chelse Benham
“What you have become is the price you paid to get what you used to want.” -
Imagine being paid for the work you do in salt. According to Katherine R.
Bateman, author of “The Young Investor,” the first currency exchanged was salt.
In ancient Rome, soldiers were paid in salt and the word in Latin – the language
of the Romans– is sal. Therefore, when we refer to “salaries” we are using a
word that originated from the word salt in ancient Rome.
Today salt isn’t used as currency, the fabrication of money from precious metals
to plastic credit cards have long since replaced the seasoning as an economic
broker. However, whatever the accepted form of payment used, knowing what
your skills are worth can ultimately determine and fix your salary.
“Research is the most important piece of advice I can tell a student about the
salary process. They can find out what to expect to be paid by a number of
sources like the Census Bureau,” said Lourdes Servantes, placement specialist
at The University of Texas-Pan American’s Career Placement Services Office.
“Interested students can log onto www.panam.edu and go to the personnel site
and find classification and pay scale for just about any job that they are
interested in. Or they can come to our offices.”
According to the Noel Smith-Wenkle Salary Negotiations Method found at
www.nmt.edu “salaries depend mainly on two things: the work and the
geographical area.” Many companies utilize similar salary databases with
detailed breakdowns on salary distribution, types of work and locales. They know
what a job is worth, however companies have a clever means for underpaying
the market rate and they help you do it for them.
There is a slot on some applications that ask you to state what you would like to
get paid. According to Wenkle, it is this line on an application form where most
people hurt themselves by underestimating their worth.
This clever little trick of asking you what you want to get paid generally helps
companies in the long run. They win because they are underpaying you for the
work that you’re doing and you’re happy about it because you got paid what you
asked for. This situation illustrates the adage, “Be careful what you wish for.”
To avoid making this mistake, the Wenkle negotiating method strictly advises
never to state how much you’ll take. Leave the space blank.
After you have proactively decided to leave the space blank, it is wise to learn
how to negotiate from this point on. Start negotiating, before getting to the table,
by identifying your true market value. Make your market value visible and have
the negotiation process pivot around it.
“Do the research and go in knowing what the job pays and what you are worth,”
Servantes said. “Employers have their best interests at heart and they may short-
change your salary if you’re not prepared and you appear likely to take less.”
Almost every day at work, we are faced with some type of negotiation. Not only
must we negotiate for our salary, perks, benefits, title, office space and support
staff, but daily issues involving our duties, the need for increased manpower,
authority over projects, flexibility with clients, arrangements, communication or
sharing of the workload with co-workers; all require a form of negotiation, which,
if we fail to recognize, we will, in all probability, fail to win.
Remember this - the only reason someone is negotiating with you is that you
have a value which he or she wants. You’re at the negotiating table because you
are of interest to the potential employer. You have something they want.
The more you can make that value visible, and make the negotiation pivot
around it, the stronger your position will be. One of the touchiest negotiations,
which will shape much of your future, is about your salary and what benefits you
will receive. If you negotiate a salary that you feel is low and does not
significantly reflect what you do you may become bitter and resentful about your
new job. So it is wise to bargain hard and smart. Your work life depends upon it.
The Wenkle method suggests the following for optimum negotiating:
• Before you begin negotiating, you must have a minimum salary figure in
mind, but don’t tell the person hiring you that amount.
• Force the company to be the first party to name a figure. If it’s above your
minimum, you accept, unless you think you can ask for more. If it’s too
low, you tell them it’s too low, but do not say by how much.
You may be asking yourself, “How do I respond to questions about salary when
I’m asked?” Wenkle provides three answers to help sidestep being forced to
name your salary. The method suggests the following answers:
Step 1. The first time they ask you how much you’ll take, reply:
“I am much more interested in doing the (type of work) here at (name of
company) than I am in the size of the initial offer.”
Step 2. The second time they ask, reply:
“I will consider any reasonable offer.”
Step 3. If they continue to press the issue simply reply:
“You are in a much better position to know how much I’m worth to you
than I am.”
In “Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1,000 a minute” by Jack Chapman,
there are some principles employers use to evaluate salary compensation. The
following three principles affect your salary:
Labor is intangible. There is no fixed price, but rather a range for a job position.
Salary is directly proportional to the level of responsibility of the position.
Salary is merely an indicator of the responsibility, the experience required to
perform the job and the influence the performance of that job has on the
Make me a buck. Either you make more for your employer than you cost, or you
Negotiating salary doesn’t end when you finally land a job. Don’t wait for reviews
and anniversaries to ask for an increase in salary or a promotion. An ideal time to
ask for a raise and/or a promotion is during changes at work.
Chapman suggests that you keep a list of job responsibilities. Mark each one
down when you increase your responsibilities or when you were integral in the
implementation of a project. Document your accomplishments and notice how
your job has evolved. Sometimes this means creating a new job title to fit the
new and growing list of responsibilities that you are now performing.
If you have a human resources (HR) department, look to them for a list of job
titles that include your new responsibilities. Find job descriptions that apply to
you. If there are a couple of job descriptions that overlap, the HR department
may be able to work with you to construct a hybrid job with a title most fitting to
you. Ultimately, this new title will require that you ask for a reclassification and
fair market pay for your work.
It is best to go in a negotiation process well prepared by documenting the work
you do with applicable examples. You are essentially defending the new job title
and pay raise that you are seeking with the work you have already been doing.
As your job responsibilities have evolved so has the value of your skills, thus it is
reasonable to ask for a raise, a promotion or both, but there are things you
should do to successfully achieve your goal.
According to www.collegerecruiter.com there are strategic steps to take to
ensure getting to “yes” in the negotiating process. They outline the following
• The first thing to do is to evaluate your job description as it currently
stands. See how it has progressed from where you began.
• Next list your accomplishments. Look for accomplishments that have
saved your employer money, such as finding a lower-cost vendor. Put a
dollar value on your accomplishments. Documenting your undertakings
and presenting them in financial terms clearly highlights your value in
language a manager will understand.
• Find out what others in comparable jobs are paid. Do your homework.
Check professional associations, career magazines, classifieds, Internet
sources such as U.S. Government Bureau of Labor Statistics and your
own company human resource office may be of help. Get facts and
figures. Use them appropriately when justifying your request for
• Decide on a realistic amount. Before you meet with your supervisor,
develop a realistic objective. Be clear on the amount of the raise you are
• After you establish your financial goal, make an appointment with your
supervisor to discuss the salary objective. Minimize any surprises by
giving your supervisor a written agenda before your meeting. This will give
your supervisor time to prepare for the meeting and allows you to focus on
the business at hand.
• Be sensitive to your supervisor's perspective. She/he has budget
constraints to deal with and may have to take your request to a higher
authority or you may have to wait for a new budget to take effect.
• Give your supervisor ammunition. Make it easy for your supervisor to
argue your case with the appropriate authorities. Prepare well-written,
concise documentation. Even if you may not be able to get a raise,
perhaps an award or bonus may be available based on your
accomplishments and cost saving activities.
The workplace is a competitive environment with people vying for positions and
promotions. You have to stand out and create a compelling case for the work you
do and the contribution it makes to the company. It’s silly to think you’ll walk in
and “wing it” or bat your lashes and poof! it will magically appear.
Not unlike all the hard work that you have done, negotiating salary, job positions
and promotions require the same preparation and demonstration of your skills.
This is when those accomplishments get placed under a microscope and are
scrutinized by people able to grant your wish. Wouldn’t it be prudent to make it
easy on them? Don’t miss the opportunity to move up the ladder because you
decided not to take the right steps.
“Before everything else, getting ready is the secret to success.” – Henry Ford