Dissatisfied with Pay…Go See How Much You Are Worth

By Joe Stein

In America, I think our national pastime is not baseball, but rather complaining about our pay.  We all do it.  It seems that no matter how much we make, it is not enough to satisfy us.  For some, however, the complaint is not just an emotional reaction to our bank account, but it’s instead based on the labor market.

There are many people who are currently paid below the labor market, and if they changed jobs, could be compensated at a higher level.  If you pause to think about it, the scenario does make a lot of sense.  The average merit increase (in a good year) is between 2-3 % of you current pay, which keeps you at or slightly ahead of inflation.  While this is going on, the external market may be changing for the type of work that you do, causing your worth outside the company to be more than from within.

So, while I certainly endorse loyalty to an employer, it does make economic sense to occasionally check your worth out in the market.  There really is not a downside since, if you do not like any of the offers you receive, you can just stay in your current role until the next time you test the market.

If you are comfortable with doing this, your first step may be to speak to your current Manager regarding more pay prior to beginning your search.  I would recommend taking this tact if your heart is really set on trying to stay with your current company. You should be prepared to outline all of your accomplishments and the value you provide to the organization.  It may help to also mention that you know people with other companies who make more than you for doing the same work.  This entire conversation will take finesse, as you do not want the conversation to appear to be any type of ultimatum (remember, your goal in this conversation is to stay).  You may wish to tie this discussion with the upcoming year budget review, in order to give your Manager an avenue to account for any increase.  If the timing is not right for budget, then performance review time can be a natural situation to engage in a compensation discussion.

Of course, you can always see how much you are worth in the external market (WNYJOBS.com has a whole area devoted to employees who are “employed but looking”).  There are a few things to keep in mind if you are going to check out your worth.
• Do some research prior to beginning your job search. There are a number of websites available that will provide you a geographic snapshot of what is a market wage range for the type of work you do. 

• Prior to your job search, determine what is your acceptable compensation offer. The time to have this type of review or family conversation is not when you are sitting on an offer.  You do not want to rush yourself into a decision to accept a role, nor invest considerable time in discussions with a prospective employer, only to decline the offer.
• If you can, try to get a sense of what the prospective employer is prepared to pay for the position.  If you are asked for a range that you are interested in, then provide the information.  Remember, you are primarily looking to leave for more compensation, so if the Recruiter gets “sticker shock” and backs out, there really is nothing lost.  You should be prepared to either have your number met (or exceeded) or you will walk away from consideration.

The last step in the process is telling your employer that you plan to leave because of an offer with another company.  At that point, you may immediately start a discussion with your Manager regarding your notice period and any transition.  You may, however, be asked what it would take to have you stay.  You should be prepared (ahead of time) with your decision regarding whether you will consider a counter offer.  Generally, I do not recommend the counter offer route to more money since the exercise may negatively impact your relationship with your current employer.  The other hurdle is the thought you may have that if they were OK with paying me more, why did I have to threaten to leave in order to obtain?

We would all like more money.  Compensation is why the vast majority of us work (although it does not hurt if you enjoy what you do).  If you think you are underpaid compared to the outside market, you have two routes to more money.  You can try to get more money from your current employer or check out the outside market. 

As always, best of luck in your job search.