How to get paid what you are worth

Sitting back and waiting for an appealing offer won't help you get paid what you're worth. Get details on how your cover letter and negotiating skills may lead to an increase in pay.

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If you want to get paid what your talents are worth you are going to have to grow new muscles. I’m not talking about going back to school and getting another degree or certification.

If you want more education, by all means get it, but the thing that stands between most people and the compensation they deserve is not more education. It is their own ability and willingness to stand up for their value.

The full-time working world structurally depresses your earning power for several reasons. For starters, you’re paid what a chart on the wall in HR tells the employer to pay you.

If you walk in the door with ten times more experience and positive impact than the other people doing the same job, you’re unlikely to get paid a penny more than your co-workers do — as long as you accept the standard arrangement.

A second way traditional employment hamstrings your earning power is that annual pay increases are pre-set at a low percentage rate.

If you want a bigger raise than the policy calls for, you’re going to have to say so, and make a compelling pitch well in advance of your review date.

If you want to get paid what you’re worth you will have to negotiate, and you’ll also have to say “No” to the wrong opportunities.

If the payroll records for every major employer were made available to the public, none of us would be shocked to learn that some people get paid a lot more than other people do.

We have not been taught how to prove our value or how to talk about pay at work. We get shy and hesitant because we think that our boss holds all the cards. We think that the only way to get a pay increase is to change jobs, but that is not true.

It is true that when you ask for a pay increase at work, there is an underlying assumption that if you don’t get the raise you’re requesting, you will leave.

If you truly feel that you’re  underpaid, then you should be ready and willing to leave if you don’t get what you’re asking for.

The first place to look when you’re evaluating your pay level is the site Salary.com. Payscale.com also has good salary information. Both of these sites, however, can only tell you what employers are paying other people who have the same job title you do.

The larger the organization, the more likely your job title is depressing your earning power rather than enlarging it. To get paid what you’re worth you may have to brand yourself as more than just another job-seeker with a standard job title.

You can do this if you can tune your senses to the business environment around you and explore the question “What kind of Business Pain do I solve?”

Let’s say you’re a mid-level Finance person. You are good at what you do and you know it.

You don’t meet a lot of people who do the same kind of work you do that have your instincts, your strategic and communication abilities and your quick problem-solving abilities.

What are you going to do — brand yourself as a mid-level finance person with strategic and communication skills? That’s incredibly lame and impotent. No one will care that you give yourself those labels.

When you apply for jobs, there will always be a candidate with more years of experience (as though that mattered!) and more certifications. You can’t win that game.

You have to look for hiring managers in pain. Luckily, they are everywhere! When you reach out to a hiring manager with your personalized Pain Letter you won’t talk much about yourself.

You will talk about him or her and his or her problems! That’s how you’ll get the hiring manager’s attention. Maybe your most recent job title was Senior Financial Analyst.

When the hiring manager emails you or calls you to talk about the pain that you talked about in your Pain Letter, they’re going to ask you what you expect to get paid.

You might name a figure that is twenty thousand dollars above what most Senior Financial Analysts get paid. Then the hiring manager will say “I can’t pay that much for a Senior Financial Analyst.”

You’ll say “That’s okay. I can come in as Assistant Controller” (or whatever title makes sense in your function).

The key to this approach is understanding the Business Pain your target hiring managers are facing. You have seen their movie a dozen times. Forget your skills and your traditional responsibilities, and focus on Business Pain instead!

People pay money to make their problems go away.

You can use the same approach in your current job, but you have to be willing to leave if your pitch doesn’t work.

You can call attention to the biggest, gnarliest and most expensive problems your boss is facing and you can say “I can take these on and solve them but I need to get rid of my current responsibilities and I need a $20,000 pay increase.”

The only people who are successful with this approach are the people who actually try it. That’s the biggest hurdle for most people. They are afraid to claim their worth. There is an invisible membrane that keeps them quiet.

When you step through that membrane and tell your boss (or a hiring manager) and the universe — not to mention yourself — what you expect, watch the energy change!

Ask anyone you admire how they got to their state in life and they’ll tell you the same thing. You have to know what you want, and you have to grab it.

No magical fairy is going to float by and sprinkle fairy dust on you to make your dreams come true – unless I’m a magical fairy and that’s what I’ve been doing throughout this column. Food for thought!

Topics:
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This article was written by Liz Ryan from Forbes and was licensed as an article reprint. Article copyright August 7, 2015 by Forbes.
The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Fidelity Investments cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any statements or data.
This reprint is supplied by Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC.
The third party provider of the reprint permission and Fidelity Investments are independent entities and not legally affiliated.
The images, graphs, tools, and videos are for illustrative purposes only.
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