Professional Fridays: Knowing Your Value

I am not normally one to look for career help from a book.  But after watching all the talk around Mika Brzezinski’s book, Knowing Your Value, I thought the topic of salary negotiation was worth reading about.  What I found interesting was that much of the book was more of a “what not to do.”  And what not to do is exactly what most women DO need to learn in salary and job contract negotiations.  

Knowing Your Value is a quick read, packed with advice from women in all career sectors, from Sheryl Sandberg to Valerie Jarrett; Arianna Huffington to Senator Claire McCaskill; from Elizabeth Warren and Brooksley Born; to Lesley Jane Seymour and Carol Smith.  Their advice is mostly what they learned after doing it wrong.

One reason women don’t make what they’re worth has to do with what happens at the moment they are offered a job.  Brzezinski found herself thanking supervisors for an unfair contract with low pay.  Many of the women she talks to in the book remember feeling lucky for the opportunity.  Why would you ask for more money or perks?  If you ask for too much too soon, you never know when that luck could run out.

When was the last time you asked for a raise?  Women ask for raises and promotions 86% less often than men.  When women do ask, they ask – on average – for 30% less than men do.  Many of the women Brzezinksi interviewed mentioned waiting and hoping for supervisors to recognize their hard work.  I can certainly relate.  Why is it that women feel bad about asking for what they deserve?  If I work hard and do well, and continually improve in my position, I’m certainly in a position to ask for more money or additional perks (or both!).  I have to ask though.  We will not just be handed what we deserve.

What NOT to do when asking for a raise:

  1. Apologize
  2. Give excuses
  3. Ask for what you think you can get
  4. Get emotional

In the book, Suze Orman gives some great tips for preparing to ask for a raise.

  1. Document your achievements
  2. List the ways you have met or exceeded expectations
  3. Tell your boss you want to set up a meeting to discuss your compensation
  4. Prior to the meeting provide your boss with a page outline of the achievements
  5. Know your market value.  Talk to others in your field inside and outside your organization, find out what others, male and female, make.

Don’t wait until its too late.  Know your company’s fiscal calendar and when the budget process for the next fiscal year will begin.  That is the time to set up a meeting.  Don’t ask yes or no questions, like, “Can I get a 10% raise?”  It opens up a space for no.  Give two options: “I’d like a 10% raise or an 8% raise with a flexible schedule.  Which would work for you?”  ‘No’ doesn’t really fit as answer, which means you are more likely to get something.  Make sure you are comfortable with both options, and make sure that each one meets your value.

Getting ahead and achieving success in the workplace starts with a willingness to raise your hand, take on a challenge, and fix a problem.  You need to take the same tack with getting your compensation where it should be.

Looking for a new job?  All these rules still apply.  Found what appears to be the perfect job?  Stay neutral and explain you’re happy with the offer.  It sounds like a great position.  You were looking for $XXXXX based on your experience and skills.

Women spend a lot of timing hoping to be noticed, hoping to be recognized, hoping for a raise, a promotion.  Stop self -sabotaging your career.

While reading Knowing Your Value, I started to wonder if I was too old to be gain something from it.  Am I too far into my career?  No – as is pointed out repeatedly in these pages, it’s never too late to start making what you deserve.  I would highly recommend this book to those preparing to enter the job market for the first time.  While jobs are scarce and the economy shaky, there is still room to make sure you are making what you deserve to be earning.

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