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Op-Ed: How to get paid what you're worth

By Daniel Taibleson     Mar 20, 2014 in Business
Have you ever left a ton of money on the table? Maybe you have and never realized it. Have you ever thought about how you could negotiate a better salary for yourself?
A survey by CareerBuilder found that 49 percent of job-seekers don't even bother to negotiate their salaries. The same survey notes that even if employers can't meet the employee's salary demands, they may choose to offer the following perks instead:
-33 percent of surveyed employers were willing to offer a flexible schedule
-19 percent would offer more vacation time
-15 percent would offer the option to work from home once per week
-14 percent were willing to pay for a mobile device
But, how do you even know what the market rate is for the job offer you've just landed? And, what if you're getting that job in New York City, which might command a higher salary, instead of a smaller town in the Midwest like Rockford, Illinois? Somehow, you have to be able to get a sense of the local market rate for the position you've landed and the experience you have.
Calculate Your Value
There's good news for you. Check out these other salary calculators to determine your local value so that you don't have to go back home wondering how many thousands of dollars you could have had:
1. Visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It's challenging to search through, but the BLS offers very reliable data on corporate payroll. They also use employee surveys to compile their data. Best of all, their data is available by metropolitan area.
2. Use any of a number of other websites with salary data. Aside from, there's a number of other websites that compile pay ranges for jobs in every state of the nation. Intuit has a salary calculator of its own, and there are other websites like,, and
It's not too likely you'll find a concrete answer at any one of these websites. In fact, they'll generally offer broad ranges. But, once you receive a job offer, cross-compare the information you find at multiple websites in your search. Compute an average, and then present the data to your prospective employer.
Understand the Negotiation Process
You experience so much uncertainty during the negotiation process, that it can be overwhelming. On the one hand, you don't want to offend your employer by asking for too much, and on the other, you don't want to undersell yourself or limit your potential.
What should you do to make sure both parties get a fair deal? A couple things:
1. Factor in your experience and education. If you've got a master's degree in your profession, and 10 years of experience, factor that into your salary.
2. Remember the state of the economy. While it's in reasonably decent shape right now, some analysts believe a downturn could happen in the future. Whether the economy's good or bad, make sure you factor that into your salary request.
3. Consider joining a professional association/networking group. No one knows things better than local professionals. Join a group and get their feedback on what type of salary you can realistically command.
4. Ask for what you're worth. Rebecca Thorman, in an article at US News, advises to do something similar to the following: Bring up the conversation in a respectful tone. In most cases, asking for a 10 percent raise is fairly reasonable. Simply ask like this, "I appreciate the offer of $55,000. Based on my experience, performance, and drive however, I'm requesting a salary of $60,500. Is this something we can take a look at?"
You may get rejected initially, but just restate your confidence in your abilities and request the salary again. Your employer will think about it, and most likely come back with an offer in the middle of these two figures. If that happens, take the offer.
Now you've got a strong case, and basic negotiating skills, for getting paid the salary you're worth. And the fact that you used concrete market research to argue your point, that's something any employer can appreciate. Enjoy your fair salary!
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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