How Do I Get Paid What I’m Worth?

I’m 41 and have just completed my Bachelors in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. For the last 15 years I have held positions such as Marketing Manager and Marketing Director, but always for a pathetically low salary because I didn’t have that piece of paper. The company I am with now (where I hold the title of Marketing Manager) has told me flat out that I will not get a raise just because I completed the degree. As I begin to look for another job, how do I get paid what I’m truly worth? Marketing Managers with 15 years of experience in my neck of the woods earn an average of $65,000. I’m nowhere CLOSE to that. The few recent interviews I’ve had where offers were made are offering the same salary I’ve been making for the last seven years. They only look at what I’m currently earning, not what I’m worth. I love my career and enjoy the challenges, but I’m getting fed up with working 60+ hour weeks for about what they’re paying our receptionist. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


How Do I Get Paid What I'm Worth?

Working For Peanuts?

Dear Holly,
Holly, to give you two different expert opinions, I offer my own thoughts and also those of guest expert Jack Chapman. Mr. Chapman is a top salary negotiations expert and the author of, “Negotiating Your Salary: How To Make $1000 a Minute.”

Salary Negotiations Advice from Jack Chapman:

I notice that on the one hand you say you have a “pathetically low salary because I didn’t have that piece of paper” and on the other hand, you say your employers “…told me I will not get a raise just because I completed the degree.” This prompts us to ask, “Are you worth more with a degree, or not?” I say your degree is worth more only if it helps your value.

There are two value-oriented avenues for you to pursue. And you can do both.

Path #1: With your present manager, see if you can get both of you working for the same compensation goal of $65,000+.

Path #2: Carefully monetize your skills and degree in job interviews.

Start by doing some research to determine your objective value — all laid out for you in my book, “Negotiating Your Salary, How to Make $1000 a Minute.”

Armed with this objective info, work on identifying and creating your “individual value” so it is $65,000 or more.

To follow Path #1, talk to your current boss and explain that you want a more competitive salary. Clarify that you aren’t just looking for a “handout;” you’d like to make sure it’s a win-win for you and the company. Ask, “How could we adjust my job duties and responsibilities to make my job worth $65,000 or more?” See if together you can make yourself “$65K-valuable.”

To go down Path #2, make sure you can express the value you create for your company and the value of your knowledge from your degree in monetary terms. Try to avoid giving your present salary. If asked what you are currently earning, say, “I’d be glad to share that when the time comes… I’m underpaid at the moment, and that is one of my motivators to look at changing jobs. So, I wouldn’t want to throw you off track with a low number like that. Why don’t you tell me, in round numbers, roughly what you think you’ll be paying for this position? If we’re close, we should definitely continue talking.”

You know how in real estate there are three factors, “Location, location, and location?” Well, in job and career interviewing, it’s “Value, value, value.”

Salary Negotiations Advice from Dr. Janet Scarborough Civitelli:

When you are hired for a position and the management team members view you as less valuable because of the lack of something like a college degree, sometimes first impressions are hard to shake. Then even if you work hard, achieve significant accomplishments on the job, and earn the college degree, they are so rigid in their thinking, they can never adjust their perception and view you differently. When this happens, the best thing you can do is move on.

Companies that don’t require a job application with salary history will be easier for you than companies that absolutely require that every application blank be filled in before they will consider you. For these more flexible companies, if they ask you for salary history and salary requirements, write in your cover letter, “I will be happy to disclose this at the time of an interview.” Then when you meet with them face-to-face, you can explain that you were previously underpaid because of a lack of a college degree, but you earned the degree while working full-time so you are now looking forward to getting paid what you are worth.

Companies that DO require a job application with salary history and requirements are a bit more tough. But it is fine to list your previous salary history and still explain in a cover letter that you are confident your education, track record, and skills that you bring to the table will ensure that you are worth the salary jump that you are expecting.

You can say, “I have done research about what someone with my level of experience and my type of track record should earn. It is around $65K.” There may be hiring managers that continue to low ball you because they think they can exploit you since you have been under-earning, but if that happens, you firmly state what you know you are worth and if they can’t meet your terms, you keep hunting.

You may need to practice talking about salary so that you are comfortable and confident about negotiating and you can strike the right level of assertiveness without being overly aggressive or negative about the past. Salary negotiation coaches such as Mr. Chapman are available for this, or talk to a friend who is negotiations savvy. Either way, a bit of preparation goes a long way so that you can be more effective when advocating for yourself.

Good luck and let us know how it goes!

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