How to determine and boost your value on the job market

Salary going up

Fair compensation for your skills and expertise is reasonable to expect from your employer, but it’s not a given. Here are three ways to ensure you receive the salary you deserve while increasing your value.

Do your homework.

Moira Kelley
Moira Kelley: Consult colleagues and professional organizations.

Start by gathering information about the job market for your occupation. Study the salaries of professionals who work in your field, hold comparable positions, and have a similar amount of experience.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes information about salaries throughout the country, in a variety of industries. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development provides details about wages in different occupations across the state. Both survey employers to obtain accurate salary data.

Websites such as Glassdoor and PayScale feature salary calculators and other resources to help you determine your worth. They can provide useful perspectives, but they usually won’t deliver a complete picture of the salary landscape for someone in your specific situation.

For more personalized information, consult colleagues and professional organizations. Ask what someone in your position should be earning.

Consider variables that might affect your compensation package.

Every employer has different resources for compensating employees. For example, an accountant at a Fortune 500 company will often earn more than someone in a similar role at a nonprofit organization.

Geography also matters. In some industries, working in a densely populated area can mean significantly more pay. See what your professional network says about the job market in your region. You may find that compensation varies widely between larger cities and smaller ones, or that certain communities have a surplus of professionals in your field and therefore offer less competitive wages.

Develop a specialty.

As you set career goals, consider which skills you’d like to develop further. Monitor your industry’s emerging trends and technologies. By gaining expertise in a new and challenging area, you’re likely to increase your worth.

Consider taking classes, giving speeches, and enhancing your social media presence too. All of these activities can help you stay current and find a niche that is interesting and valuable.

Finally, when discussing compensation with a prospective employer, mention a salary range rather than a specific number. And don’t be afraid to show that you’ve done your research.

Online resources

Visit these websites for more information on determining and boosting your value:

Bureau of Labor Statistics’ wage page

Department of Workforce Development’s WisConomy website

CareerOneStop’s salary finder

Glassdoor’s “Know Your Worth” tools

PayScale’s “What Am I Worth?” report

Moira Kelley is a senior career counselor in UW–Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies. Contact her at moira.kelley@wisc.edu. This article originally appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal.