How much should I ask for? A guide

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I know it can be challenging to determine the value of your work but asking for too little can have negative consequences in your career; this is why knowing your market value is vital. If you’re wondering how much you should ask for and how to calculate your worth, this post is for you. Keep reading!

How much should I ask for? A guide to calculate your worth

Lee en español ¿Cuánto pedir? Guía para calcular tu sueldo

I always knew that I had valuable skills and experience, but it wasn’t until I began to truly understand my worth that I took my career to the next level.

By recognizing and owning my value as a professional, I confidently negotiated higher salaries and raised my income to six-figures. Knowing my worth also helped me to be more strategic in my job search and career planning. Rather than settling for jobs that didn’t align with my goals and aspirations, I’ve sought out opportunities that would challenge and inspire me while offering the compensation I deserved.

Knowing my worth has not only given me a clear understanding of the unique value I bring to the table but has also helped me build a career that is financially rewarding and personally fulfilling.

Why is it important to know your worth?

Amiga, would you settle for a partner that doesn’t align with your values, doesn’t do nice things for you, doesn’t make you laugh, and has zero ambition? Of course not! Because you’re a damn Queen that knows her worth, right? 

Well, the same happens in your career. Knowing your professional worth has benefits. These are some of them:

1. It helps you to earn the salary you deserve.

First and foremost, it helps you to negotiate better compensation packages and earn the salary you deserve. When you understand your value as a professional, you are more equipped to advocate for yourself during job interviews and performance reviews and negotiate for higher salaries, bonuses, and benefits.

2. It helps you make better career decisions.

 Knowing your worth can give you a sense of the job market and industry trends, helping you to identify which jobs and companies offer the most competitive compensation packages. This information can help you to make more strategic career choices, such as pursuing advanced education or certifications that can increase your earning potential.

3. It makes you feel damn powerful!

Finally, it can also help you to feel more confident and empowered in your career. When you recognize and own your value as a professional, you are less likely to settle for jobs that don’t align with your goals and aspirations; and more likely to pursue opportunities that offer the compensation and benefits you deserve. This can lead to greater job satisfaction and overall career success.

A guide to calculate your worth

Determining your market value is not a simple task, and there is no formula to calculate it. However, some tools can help you put a price on your unique skills and experience. So, let’s get started on this journey of professional self-discovery!

1. Determine your bare minimum salary

Determining your bare minimum salary is crucial, especially when you’re starting your career because it helps you understand the minimum amount of income you require to support your basic needs. Accepting a job that doesn’t pay enough to cover your living expenses can result in financial hardship and negatively impact your quality of life.

Your goal is NOT to aim for this salary. On the contrary, this number should be your “walk out” number.

How can you calculate your bare minimum salary? Well, you have to look at your monthly expenses and separate the essential costs from the non-essentials. Start by putting together a budget that covers everything you must pay for every month, like rent, utilities, groceries, transportation, etc. Don’t forget about taxes, social security, or health insurance premiums. You have to factor those in to get a real picture of what you’re working with.

Remember, this amount might not leave any wiggle room for extra spending or saving, so we’ll always aim higher when thinking about our salary expectations.

Let’s say that your number is $60,000.

2. Find your benchmark salary

This step is my favorite because it opens your eyes to what is possible and what other industries/companies are paying for! If you don’t know what the benchmark of your position is (which was my problem for many years) like me, you are at risk of being underpaid.

Fun fact. When I wasn’t sure about pivoting careers from engineering to project management, I did this exercise for the position I wanted to apply for. I realized I could easily bump my base salary to $100,000. Spoiler alert: that’s exactly what I did!

These are some of my favorite ways to do this:

1. Search “salary reports”

There are pages with databases of salaries reported by employees of many companies. Many of these pages work by giving salary information in exchange for you reporting yours (this is a win-win).

My 3 favorites are Glassdoor, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter.

All you have to do is specify the title of the position you’re looking for (or a related one if you can’t find an exact match) and the area you are looking for. Try to be as specific as possible so that your results are accurate.

Tip: Look up different cities around your area to get an idea of ​​the salary range in your state.

2. Look for job postings

I know. ALL companies should list the salary range in a job posting, and while at the time of writing this post only a few states are required by law to do so, we’re still not where we should be.  So, what can you do? Well, even if it’s not mandatory yet, some companies do disclose their salaries. If not, then the job market sites give approximate ranges for your reference. Here are 3 examples of where to look for:

3. Join personal finance and career forums!

Did you know about this? In the absence of salary transparency by companies and laws around the subject, many people have opened forums to discuss it. Here I leave you my favorites:

  • Women’s Personal Finance (Women On FIRE) group on Facebook.

4. Get your pay report

Do I keep surprising you with my tips? Good, because that’s what you’re here for. To grow your career toolbox!

What does a pay report consist of? Basically, by giving details of your position, level of studies, years of experience, certifications, skills, region, etc., these pages calculate how much you should be getting paid and how you compare to others.

Cool right? These are the calculators I have used and have found to be reliable:

5. Ask others in your field

Networking is important and super useful!

You can contact other professionals on LinkedIn, join professional groups in your city/state, or even talk to colleagues at work, especially people you trust. Remember that talking about salaries is still taboo for many people, and they can get uncomfortable when someone asks these questions (trust me, it has happened to me many times).

3. Decide how much your experience & skills are worth

If you have followed all of the steps above, you should have an idea by now of ​​how much your position is worth in your area and what a fair salary should be for any applicant. But we’re not talking about any applicant. We are talking about YOU! So now comes the most important thing: to assess how much your skills and experience are worth!

I like to divide this analysis into two: on the one hand, everything that can be physically demonstrated (tangible), and on the other hand, what cannot.

Do you have a master’s degree? Did you receive an award for your work? Maybe you published an article about your research or have a certification that makes you an expert in the topic. All of these are tangible things that prove that your experience, knowledge, and skills are top-notch!

But what about the things that you can’t physically show? Maybe you led an internal project that saved the company $2M or improved the sales process, which increased the company’s revenue by 15%. Well, in this case, it’s your job to communicate the value you bring to the table through your resume and job interview to show that you possess high-paying skills.

Putting a price on both tangible and non-tangible factors is difficult. However, what you can do is use the ranges from the benchmark (mostly, those of the pay report) and aim for higher numbers.

At the end of this step, you should know what YOUR market value is (your worth). As an example, let’s say that your number is $100,000.

4. Build your salary range

Congratulations! You have learned to calculate your market value, but the thing does not end here. You have to build your salary range in preparation for salary negotiation.

What happens if you mention your number ($100,000) during an interview? The company will try to lower your number because they expect you to negotiate, and they think this is your highest number and you are willing to meet them in the middle! Please don’t make this mistake.

There are no rules on how much to go up but aim for $20,000 – $40,000 (maybe more, depending on your position and industry) for your highest and $5,000 – $10,000 for your lowest. As an example, considering the $100,000, your highest could be $125,000 and your lowest $105,000 to hopefully close the negotiation at $115,000 (because we’re always aiming for more!).

In this scenario, the worse that could happen is for you to walk away with your minimum ($105,000) + other benefits that you’ll negotiate. But this is a conversation for another post!

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Fernanda, "Relentless Latina" founder, wearing a white shirt with the word "Relentless"

Fernanda is an immigrant from Mexico and a Latina Money and Career educator.

After being rejected from her first engineering job for being a woman and spending the first years of her career overworked, underpaid, and broke; she decided to educate herself about money and career growth.

In 6 years, not only she became an engineer, but also moved to the US, pivoted careers, got promoted to manager, raised her salary to six figures, and became an investor on track to be a millionaire.

Now as the founder of Relentless Latina, a platform for women to find tools, resources, actionable strategies, and motivation to grow their careers and money, she’s on a mission to help Latinas build fulfilling high-paying careers, advocate for their worth, increase their income, and build wealth.