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Know Your Worth in the Job Market

Tags:  Job offer, Compensation, Salary levels

Sometimes people get confused about how a job is valued and how they are valued – which are two different things.

 The value of a particular job is based upon factors such as actual job responsibilities (not just a job title), geographic location, industry or field, and company size. How much someone in the position will be paid or how much they are worth is based upon factors such as work experience, education, and tenure with the company.

However, many times in addition to an individual's background there are other mitigating factors that will influence their worth. Things such as the availability of qualified candidates in a particular region of the country or someone's very specialized skills and training can increase the worth of a certain individual.

According to a 2006 survey of 1,300 hiring managers conducted by CareerBuilder.com and America Online, 51 percent of hiring managers planned to increase initial offers to new employees anywhere from 3 to 16 percent. This could indicate a very real concern that quality candidates who are qualified to handle today's jobs are at a premium.

This doesn't mean that job seekers should rush out and increase their personal asking price in an effort to capitalize on this trend. However, knowing how much value individual skills and abilities will net in the labor market is important to career success. Understanding personal worth provides career-minded employees with the ability to ensure they are being paid properly.

First, it's not enough to look at job advertisements that quote salary ranges or to ask peers at other organizations how much someone in a similar position earns. The same job title in different sized companies or different industries may be very different jobs and, therefore, pay very different salaries.

The best way to determine the salary range for a particular position is to ask the human resources department. Specialists in compensation analysis develop the salary ranges for positions within an organization based on the market value of the same or similar position at a similar sized company and typically in the same industry through the use of salary surveys.

In addition, looking for online salary information at websites such as salary.com can help to provide insight into job value.

Next, job seekers need to determine what skills they actually have to offer while being reasonable about what their skills and background are really worth.

Sometimes novices feel that because they have the right training or a minimal amount of work experience in an area that is particularly in demand they should be commanding a higher salary. On the other hand, people with twenty years of experience doing one thing may feel they should be paid for their years of experience. In actuality, if a hiring manager can get along by hiring someone with only three years of that exact same experience, they will buy the least expensive candidate. It's a matter of knowing what is and isn't a reasonable asking salary.

Job seekers should consider:

What sets them apart from other candidates? Technical training, recent education, certification, and college degrees can all have an impact on what salary a job seeker can command. That's why it is important to never stop learning.

What is the gap between what they currently earn and what they feel they should earn? Candidate's need to carefully consider if what they earn is reasonable in comparison to others with the same level of skills and experience. Industry (non-profit traditionally pays less than for-profit industries) and company size (mom and pop businesses usually pay less than large corporations) do make a difference.

What skills do they lack? Depending on the job classification, additional training or experience may be required. Technology skills constantly need to be upgraded. Working in corporate where someone might develop plans and working in the field where they usually just implement what corporate has designed, can make a difference.

What background and experience does it really take to perform successfully in this job? Entry-level positions can be quickly outgrown, and once that happens, it may be time to make a move in order to garner the salary the employee really deserves. Just because someone has ten years of experience, if the position really only requires one year, the salary could become a workplace issue.

Finally, if the job and the company sound like they offer a perfect match, but there seems to be some disconnect on the salary, consider other perks. A bonus plan or sign-on bonus; lap top, cell phone, or car; or even additional vacation days, may be enough to sweeten the pot.

It's really just a matter of understanding that not all organizations value every position the same. Finding the right fit and understanding what your background and experience is worth in the job market is key.

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