What are you worth?

Most of us wish we were paid more than we are.  I had one client who wanted a raise.  She worked for a small company as an environmental analyst, and had the nagging feeling that she wasn’t being paid what she was worth.  I suggested that before approaching her boss and asking for a raise, she should do some research, and discover the going rate for someone with her skills and job description.  She searched online, talked with trusted colleagues, and consulted her alma mater.  Sure enough, she was being paid about ten thousand dollars under the market salary.  This information allowed her to make a persuasive case for a raise, and her boss agreed to bring her up to the industry standard – her company wasn’t trying to shortchange her, they were simply unaware of what she was worth since environmentalism wasn’t their primary focus. 

Find out what your skills and experience are worth

There are a large number of sources for such salary information; the best ones to use depend upon your field.  Many professional organizations issue reports on salaries in their field; their web sites are a good place to start.  Browsing job listings is another approach.  The U.S. Department of Labor has a guide to occupations, including salaries, at  Some of the other sites used to assess salary expectations include,,,, and And as with most information, a reference librarian at a public or academic library should be able to help you.

If you are self-employed, comparing salaries won’t do you much good.  But the same principle applies – you should know what is typical compensation for the services you provide you clients.

If you find that you are underpaid, then you are in a strong position to negotiate a raise (or possibly to look for a new job), or to increase what you charge.  If your compensation is about right, then at least you know where you stand, and if you still desire more income, you will need to find a way to increase your value.  And if you find that you are overpaid, you can keep quiet and count your blessings.

Of course, there are a number of factors that can influence your expected salary, including location, education, skills, experience, and job description.  This complexity can complicate the process of finding what you should be paid, but it can also be an opportunity, since you may find that getting a degree or applying your skills to a different area can increase your earning potential.

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