Am I Being Paid Enough?


As much as we may enjoy our jobs, we’re not doing them out of the goodness out hearts so we’d always do well to ask ourselves if we are seeing the right remuneration for services rendered. Money can be a rather vulgar and mercenary subject at the best of times and broaching this topic with an employer can be a little apprehensive to say the least. How do we ask for a pay increase without seeming avaricious? How do get a realistic idea of our value? As a Headhunter, I speak to my candidates about this topic daily and I’ve put together a few do’s and don’ts based my conversations over the years.

Do – Speak to your boss/superior. While they might not be the person who pays your salary, they will almost certainly have had something to do with your original offer and therefore should be able to justify why you are worth this amount. It’s very often the way that if you don’t ask you don’t get. There is nothing wrong with asking about your market value. Any employer worth their salt should respect you for this as long as it’s done in the correct manor.

Don’t – always take their word for it. I’ve spoken to many high-quality candidates that have gone years without a pay increase and still haven’t spoken to their boss about it. Some employers might be perfectly happy to never increase your salary if you don’t confront them about it. It’s also conceivable that your employer may well be out of touch with the current market values or simply not be in a position to increase your money because the business might not be doing as well enough. If you suspect it to be the latter, time to pick up the phone to your recruiter.

Do – your research. There are plenty of online resources and salary surveys you can look at. While it will be difficult to obtain an exact figure, you should be able to come up with a reasonable ballpark. It’s also important to look at your entire package and not just the base salary. A lot of smaller firms may go a little lower on the base but pay much higher bonuses and pensions than, say, a big four.  

Don’t Value yourself against one specific individual. If I had a pound for every time I hear the words “my friend at X does the same job and is paid X more than me…” Well, let’s just say I could afford to drop a few placements. Simply put, this is not the way to value yourself. The reality is there will be multiple factors here that you’re not privy to. Firstly, just because you share the same job title doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing the same work; especially if you’re at different companies. Your friend might tell you there is a 50% bonus on offer but how much of that are they seeing? How realistically achievable it? Also, their base may well be 5k higher than yours but the pension might only be a measly 6% and not the 12% that you get. You have to look at the whole thing.

Do – If you looking to switch sectors/functions, look at the work you have been doing, see what is transferable and be realistic about what you can expect.

Don’t – Expect a huge pay increase, or indeed any increase, for something you have little to no experience with. In short, if you’ve been a government or public sector consultant for the last 5 years and now want to go into, say, banking, expecting to be paid the same as somebody that has been doing it for a while is unrealistic and possibly a little insulting. I’ve had many conversations with people looking to make the change into other areas only to discover that they are not worth what they thought they were. If you’re looking to start again somewhere else then the chances are your salary will have to also.  

Do – get in touch with a good recruiter to discuss the market place and talk through some possible options. Ok, so obviously I’m biased here but working with a recruiter is probably the best way of understanding your value in the marketplace. They work the market daily and will be privy to all kinds of information and leads. Remember, it’s obviously within the recruiter’s best interest to get you as much as possible so if they are telling you that the client can only pay up to X then you know there is no reason for them to lie to you. That amount could still be below your value but at least the recruiter can benchmark this against other clients. They can also approach this topic on your behalf which obviously the takes the awkwardness out of it for you.

Don’t – ever leave a job purely on the basis of money. Obviously, we all leave/move on from jobs and get pay increases. It’s a major part of it. But it should never be the only reason. As a recruiter, a big part of my job is to understand people’s motivations for moving on so that I may relay this information to my client. If the person I’m speaking is only concerned with how much they are going to be paid, this really does make me question if I should introduce them. For one thing, the recruitment cycle can be a long and taxing process for everyone involved. If the only deciding factor for the candidate is money then it’s highly likely that a counter-offer will be accepted and all the work will have been for nothing.  Another reason is that you’re not likely to come across well in an interview if money is your only key driver. What else do you like about the company? Why would you be good for them? What will you learn? What sort of autonomy will you have? How will your work/life balance be? How can you progress? – None of these things have anything to do with money.

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