Salary Negotiation: Why You're Worth Six Figures
By Zack Alvarado

It's a calm and crisp morning, the sun is gleaming as waking birds serenade every listener below their tree-line. Your coffee is freshly poured and doctored to perfection. Your shoes are tied tight -- and you've an impending concern of looking foolish. You stride off your porch into the gauntlet of professional subdivision: interviews & salary negotiations. Whether a new recruit or a seasoned professional, this can be an intimidating and foreign component of any career path. Nonetheless, we walk through the doors, address the receptionist, and choose a visible place to await our fate.

Called from a waiting room, into their office, you enter the world of leverage. If hired, this methodical struggle will define how you float within the company's stream, so to speak; it's imperative to paddle strong with big oars if you intend on maneuvering forward. To keep sight of your potential, commit these two principles to memory: 1. you have no inherent worth; 2. you have no absolute worth. What I mean by this is that nobody possesses a professionally entitled price-tag, and also, that nobody has a ceiling of professional worth. Your value to a company, any company, is reliant on the responsibilities you fulfill, and the contributions you provide outside of your allocated tasks.

Understand that 'interview,' is synonymous with 'interrogation' -- you will probably be asked every question fathomable, within legal reason, short of how much butter you put on your bagel (that's right, you get your own bagels here, chump.) Fortunately for you, every interrogator brings a bit of their own anxiety to the table, and you should exploit every weakness that they expose -- predaciously. When being considered for employment, ask questions such as: How long has this position been available? How long was the position last held? Of the employees here, who do I share the most comparable work experience with? Counter interrogate the person responsible for hiring you. Remember to be assertive, not offensive, and most certainly never needy.

When preparing for an interview, formulate a plan of attack; structure the exchange of information, and never disclose anything that could jeopardize your established position or hinder the effectiveness of your negotiations -- such as previous pay rate, professional shortcomings, or negative personal attributes -- act as confident as possible, and be politely divulgent when appropriate. Do not get sucked into haggling about your hiring price during the middle of the interview; focus on work related discussions such as your responsibilities, expected performance, and potential fit amongst the team; only engage in salary negotiations after you have been offered a position.

Once you've landed the job, what next? This is usually the part where your prospective employer asks something to the effect of, "what type of pay rate would you require to be happy working here?" Every facet of your response, from your posture, to your speed and tone of speech, will be carefully monitored. Stay calm, and answer honestly -- what are you worth, and why? No, seriously; if you were to value the duties you perform / have performed for a company, how much should your salary be? Give them a number that you believe fairly represents your worth.

A further thought often comes to mind amidst such dialogue: "How can/should I calculate my professional worth?" Never base your potential pay rate on the going average; always strive to be above average, and emphasize the positive difference in your performance, compared to your peers -- use this as a focal point for your asking price. The question is not, "how much should someone be paid for a position?" but, "what is someone going to do for the amount they want to be paid?" Results and past performance speak loudly when considering worth. Let's assume that in the past you increased annual revenue by twenty-five-percent through implementing a new financial tactic, in a department with an annual revenue of $1,000,000 -- this would mean that you were responsible for generating an additional $250,000 that year alone. It would be safe to assume that you are worth further compensation equal to at least ten-percent of the profit you generated: $25,000. What if the average professional holding the same title as you made $50,000 a year? Would you feel entitled to ask for $75,000 a year at an interview? Yes, you probably would -- that's a one-hundred-and-fifty-percent difference from your previous compensation. But, what if you were being hired on at a department with an annual revenue of $10,000,000 -- would you feel comfortable asking for an additional $250,000? Probably not, because you were not responsible for that growth, thus that extra value isn't attached to you simply through branded association.

Often the best method for determining professional worth is what's known as a 'responsibility valuation'. As it sounds, this method valuates the responsibilities performed by a professional to calculate their fair worth within a company. For instance, an individual holding the work title of 'Office Administrator', could assume a multitude of roles under their blanketed title such as: HR Manager, Business Relations Assistant, Payroll Assistant, Transportation Clerk. To properly value this individual's worth, we would need to calculate their percentage of time spent on the clock performing each role, as well as comparable salaries for each position. For the sake of reference, I'll refer to this individual as Bob. Bob spends twenty-five-percent of his time working on each of the four roles assigned to him. Bob has held his job for five-years and earns an annual salary of $55,000.00. Based on higher than average reports: an HR Manager makes $80,000 a year; a Business Relations Assistant makes $50,000 a year; a Payroll Assistant makes $60,000 a year; and a Transportation Clerk makes $45,000 a year. Twenty-five-percent of $80,000 is $20,000; twenty-five-percent of $50,000 is $12,500; twenty-five-percent of $60,000 is $15,000; twenty-five-percent of $55,000 is $13,750. Add it all up and you get $61,250 -- for all of his contributions, Bob is being underpaid by $6,250 a year, a difference of nearly nine-percent. Please, always be aware of your worth -- and never be afraid to demand it. I hope that these briefly illustrated points have proven useful, if not thought provoking for some of you out there. If asked, "You're worth X, because why?" - make sure to have a volley of answers prepared!


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