When considering the value of an item from a holistic perspective and through the philosophical lenses of existentialism, you realize an item has no value until someone is willing to pay for it, whether it’s a Porsche 911 GT3, a 26th-floor condo in Vancouver, a cup of Starbucks coffee or pair of Levi’s jeans.
Have you ever bought an item, a leather jacket, for example, for $400 and then a month later, it was on sale for $250? The retailer reduced the price of the leather jacket because the number of customers willing to pay $400 had dwindled to the point where it wasn’t selling. Taking this analogy further, the jackets that ended up not selling had no value.
Value doesn’t simply exist. Value is assigned by supply and demand—demand being the keyword. The value of your skills and experience on the job market is determined by how much employers are willing to pay for them, which constantly fluctuates.
It’s no secret most employees feel underpaid. The perception is mostly personal, based on:
- Your assessment of your worth, which is highly subjective, and
- The amount of money you need for the lifestyle you created.
Neither is relevant.
In general, compensation isn’t arbitrary. A job’s value is determined by:
- Job-specific educational requirements
- Skillset required
- Experience level
Additionally, those who criticize what employers are offering them never think about the scenario that the employer may have ten employees currently earning $65,000, whereas you want $75,000. It would cause turmoil to hire you at your asking salary.
“Getting paid what you’re worth!” has become a popular sentiment. In reality, though, the value you place on yourself and the value employers in your region are willing to pay you are two entirely different perspectives.
Recently, someone asked me if I felt underpaid. “Nope,” I replied, “I’m getting paid the amount I agreed to when I joined my employer.” I have never understood nor empathized with people who accept jobs and then complain about the pay.
Your ego and sense of entitlement may have convinced you that you deserve $75,000, but you may find that employers disagree with your value assessment. Anyone with a slight sense of business acumen understands an employee’s compensation needs to correlate with the value they bring to their employer.
Hiring involves taking a candidate’s words at face value, especially regarding their work ethic, past results, and ability to work well with others. Gut feel plays a significant role during interviews. Skills and aptitude can be tested, but only to a certain extent.
A hiring manager can only do so much due diligence (multiple interviews, testing, reference checks). Work ethic, ability to achieve results, having the skills they claimed, and being a team player are only proven or disproven after a new hire starts. Most of the tension between job seekers and employers results from job seekers expecting employers to pay them “their value” for abilities that they haven’t actually proven. In contrast, an employer’s best interest is to mitigate hiring risks by starting new hires at the low end of their budgeted salary range.
There’re 2 types of candidates:
Those employed should not accept a starting salary less than 20% higher than their current salary. Unless your motivation is other than money, it’s not worth the stress of starting a new job and reproving yourself for your current salary.
On the other hand, if you’re jobless, your income is $0. Unless the compensation offered is insultingly low, I don’t suggest you try and negotiate for the starting salary (WARNING: Brutal truth ahead.) you made up based on what you think of yourself. Financially and emotionally, having no job and, therefore, no income is a worst-case scenario for many.
I know you’re now asking, “But Nick, how will I get the compensation I feel I deserve if I accept what I’m offered?” Whether employed or not, you need to prove your worth, which requires the following:
- Getting the job (Proving your worth is impossible without a job.), and
- Negotiate and get in writing that upon achieving specific metrics, milestones, revenue targets, or whatever else you can think of, within your first six months, you’ll get a 15% salary increase or whatever percentage you feel appropriate.
IMPORTANT: I can’t stress enough to be sure your employment offer letter includes everything you and the hiring manager discussed and agreed to.
Number two makes it much easier for an employer to say “Yes” to you since they aren’t taking all the risks of hiring you at a salary you want and then finding out you can’t deliver. Offering this option demonstrates you’re confident in your skills and abilities and aren’t afraid to prove them.
Who would you choose if you had two more-or-less equally qualified candidates to choose from and one of the candidates offered you the option of proving their worth before getting the salary they feel they deserve?
Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job. You can send Nick your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.