07 May, 2009

Salaries – Just How Much Are You Worth?

Regardless of income, job, background or education, nearly everyone thinks they are entitled to more money than they are getting. Salary negotiation, however, has to be based on realistic expectations within the current marketplace and, like investments, ‘what you are worth’ in an employer’s eyes can go up or down.

At one time, trying to get hold of salary information proved quite a difficult task. As employers are wont to pay as little as possible, while still trying to keep their employees reasonably happy, they liked to ‘play their cards close to their chests’ for fear that expectations might rise and their bank balances might suffer. Nowadays, however, it is much easier to find this information because the Internet has effectively empowered employees, who now know where to go to get this information.

While data naturally varies from site to site, there is a huge range of anything from salary surveys to customized compensation analyses available online. Here are just a few which will help to give you an idea of what others in your line of work are receiving, or what it might be reasonable to expect in a different field.

1. Salary.com allows you to input or select from a range of job titles to find out the US national average for that particular role, such as National Account Manager. Insert your zip code and you can learn what percentage of all National Account Managers is employed in your region, as well as the median salaries for the region. You can even check out the educational levels within a profession and the variation in salaries depending upon the size of the employer. By going a step further, inputting a few straightforward details about your company, industry, job title, pay and performance and education and the site will give you access to your own ‘You vs Market’ Report, as well as providing you with monthly updates on your salary ranges and notifications of any job postings in your area.

2. Payscale.com is another site which provides accurate, real-time reports based on your job title, location, education, skills and experience. It gives you the opportunity to evaluate a job offer or raise, evaluate your salary for your current job or check out the salaries for a job that you may be considering for the future.

3. Indeed.com has a link to its own salaries page, providing the average salaries for jobs according to zip code, as well as historical trends within particular professions.

4. Vault.com holds a comprehensive range of salary surveys on major companies, industries and professions, although it has to be said that when I tried it, many of the links were unavailable and some information is only available to Vault Gold Members.

5. America’s Career InfoNet at www.acinet.org offers salary information on a wide range of occupations, either nationally or by area. There are yearly and hourly wage charts, as well as a 2007 wage table which is useful for comparative purposes, for each occupation.

6. The United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a wealth of current and historical surveys and statistical data, as well as all that contained within its Occupational Outlook Handbook and Career Guide to Industries.

Of course, especially in a tough economic climate, there may appear to be a huge gulf between what you think you are worth and what employers are willing to pay (see my post dated 20 April concerning how employers are putting the squeeze on workers), but doing your research and going into the marketplace with even a rough idea of what is reasonable is certainly better than completely ‘outpricing’ or undervaluing yourself.

The other thing to remember is that salary ranges are all very well, but the key to maximizing your compensation is about clearly demonstrating the benefits that you can bring to an organization. A well-documented performance which provides a prospective employer with quantitative results and shows him how you solved problems or accomplished tasks is pretty tough to argue with!

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