Be prepared to Negotiate Your Salary
The issue of under-earning is a huge topic. It has been well documented that women still make less money in the workplace than their male colleagues. However, the issue doesn’t just affect women. People from minority and immigrant backgrounds, regardless of their gender are more likely to be paid less than their white colleagues.
Under-earning affects many people worldwide. It’s very difficult to work wholeheartedly knowing that you are under-earning. The pain stings even more when you recognise the value you bring to your employer. As someone who has struggled in the past (and still struggles) with negotiating my salary and or asking for better compensation. I know that this process can be a tricky one. Especially if you have not prepared well enough for the conversation.
Why Are You Being Underpaid in the First Place?
Through my career, I’m learning that negotiating my salary is a conversation I don’t have to fear. If I know I am being underpaid and undervalued, then negotiating my salary is an important conversation that I need to have. From experience, under-earning has always been the biggest killer of my creativity and motivation. Knowing I should be better compensated, has in the past left me feeling insecure and annoyed at not standing up for myself.
I have either left jobs I would have stayed in. Or I have taken steps back and coasted. All things that ended up pushing me further away from my goals. If any of this reflects you, your work history or your struggles with under-earning, keep reading.
After years of making this mistake, I now know that you can’t run away or ignore the issue. The way to really make a change if you are a serial under-earner is to understand what you need to do. That means the buck starts with you. The first and most important step to bringing Goliath down is understanding why you are underpaid in the first place.
5 Reasons You Are Being Underpaid
1. You Underestimate Your Contribution and the Value You Bring
When I landed my first real job, I remember feeling grateful that someone gave me a job and paid me a salary. The thought of negotiating the terms of my work contract seemed offensive. But being grateful and making sure I am paid fairly are not mutually exclusive. My employer is not doing me a favour by offering me a job. Instead, they have calculated the return on their investment. And I have been offered the job because I am the most suitable person. In other words, my employer does better with my contribution. If my employer were not benefitting, they would not hire me.
Once I understood this, it helped highlight the value I bring and why it’s my responsibility to leverage this value. Understanding this, showed me how I could negotiate my work contracts. This made it easier to communicate my value and attach a monetary figure to it.
Do This if You Struggle
If you struggle to understand the value you bring to your employer, take some time to evaluate your skillset. What is unique about you, what you do and how you do it? Know the part you play in the bigger picture of your organisation’s goals and targets. What key projects or results did you recently deliver on? What would it cost your organisation if they lost your skillset and had to replace you? How much does your organisation spend on recruiting? All really important questions you may want to find answers to.
2. You Have Limiting Beliefs About Success and Opportunities
One of the biggest reasons why I earned less earlier in my career was because of my limiting beliefs. I unconsciously believed that asking for better pay was taking away from someone else’s ability to earn and be successful. I was afraid that if I ever left my job, it would be difficult to find something else, let alone better pay.
Because of limiting beliefs, I stayed in jobs with no clear future prospects longer than I should have. I now know, believe and have experienced that fortune favours the brave. This does not mean that you have to take unnecessary risks. But it is a reminder that opportunities and success are usually found at the end of your comfort zone. Every time I took the brave step to leave a job because I felt undervalued. I always landed on my feet and something better, usually a better paying job came along. This experience helped me understand why my unique positioning is valuable to a future employer. And why I should challenge limiting beliefs.
3. You Have No Plan, You Go With the Flow
It took me being in the workplace for about 10 years before I realised that I don’t have a career plan. I had no real plan for where I wanted to be and how much I wanted to make. Or even what success would look like for me. Because I had no real plan, there was no road map for how I would get there, or anywhere. So whenever I was offered a job, I took it. As long as it was related to what I had previously done, I gave little thought to my end goal.
Career planning can be a difficult thing to do especially if you are new to the workforce or have only ever worked in the same field. It can be hard to know what is out there and how to get started. It’s also hard to project where you want to be in five years. When I left formal education, no one ever had this conversation with me or helped me to think through my bigger picture. This is why I love working as a career coach. I support my clients to think through their bigger picture, plan ahead and take the necessary next steps.
Plan for Success
Making time to think through your career path is a must. It is easy to be carried away or lose your identity because you have not given yourself time to plan for your success. Creating a plan for your career and financial goals does not mean you have to have every single detail figured out. But doing so allows you to identify jobs that don’t fit in with the direction, vision or goals you have for yourself. It may also help you to be braver when negotiating the terms of your work contract. Because you understand if an opportunity is aligned to your goals.
4. You Have Not Done Your Research
I was once booked to deliver a series of workshops for a well-known training provider. They invited me to come in and meet the team, discuss my training programme and look around the facilities. At the time, I had newly transitioned into the teaching and training arena. And remember being so excited that someone wanted me to run some training.
I very naively turned up without having done my research. For example, I knew nothing about how much this provider charged clients to attend their training sessions. Or how often they offered sessions, how well attended their sessions were or what their financial projections were. Because I had not done my research, I had no idea what I wanted to charge for my services. The topic of pay came up, the provider wanted to confirm what my fees were. I froze and scrambled to come up with a number. It felt awkward and I was afraid that I would appear greedy. In the end, I massively undercharged my services. Big lesson learnt.
It does not matter how friendly your employer is. Or that you are being invited for an informal meeting, introduction, meet and greet etc. Always be prepared with your negotiation strategy. You need to know what you would like to charge or how much you would like to earn. If you ever find yourself in a situation like I was in, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for some time to think. Or to say that you will send some numbers over via email in a day or so. You do not have to commit yourself to anything on the spot.
5. You Have Negative Messaging About Money
The last reason why you may be under-earning is because of your negative money messaging. Money is important and a necessary tool and asking for more money does not make you a greedy or bad person. I had to work really hard (and I’m still working) on changing my negative money messaging. So asking your employer for what you need, whether that be more money, training, proper equipment, etc. is not the mark of a bad person. But rather someone who understands what it will take for them to succeed. It’s up to your employer to agree, disagree or make a counteroffer. But if you do not ask for what you need, the only person that suffers is you. I’ve learnt that the trick to negotiating is to aim for a win-win, so both parties (you and your employer) benefit from this exchange.
It is important to acknowledge that compensation does not only mean money. Compensation may refer to, more vacation time, better terms of employment, more work flexibility, more training opportunities, new office/location, better equipment, more recognition, regular use of the company car, gym membership, honestly the list is endless. There are several ways you could be better compensated. The point is you have to know what it is you want and how to ask for it. Asking for what you need indicates that you are someone who understands your value.
It pains me to think about how much further I would be towards my goals if I knew what I know now. In the past, I thought my playing small was me being fair to all parties. I see now I was acting in fear and only cheating myself.
Any future job has to fit into the plan I have for myself and my career. If it does not, I am not afraid to walk away. Not every job is for me. Especially if it does not get me closer to my goals. Having a vision for my life and career allows me to quickly analyse if a compensation package or annual salary fits into my plan. And whether it does or doesn’t, I am in a better position to negotiate, make changes or walk away. It’s my choice.
Join the Community
Are you a serial under-earner or have you mastered the art of negotiation? Are you heading towards your career and financial goals? Comment below to let us know your thoughts on this blog post.
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