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Have you ever had the suspicion that you're not being paid exactly what you're worth? A lot of people have, but how can you know for sure? How can you assign a dollar amount to your value? Is it even possible?
The short answer is "yes." Here are a few tips for figuring out your magic number—or at least a figure close to what you should be making at your current position.
Research using several sources.
Googling is usually your first step in solving almost any conundrum, and answering the question of "How much am I worth?" is no different. Start by searching sites like Payscale.com, Salary.com, Glassdoor.com, or even the Bureau of Labor Statistics. On these sites you will probably find wide ranges in figures, so you'll have to factor in where you might fit within those ranges. Where you fall on any given position's salary range is going to be determined by a bunch of factors unique to you, such as your job experience and education. The more experienced you are, the more advanced certification you have, the more likely you will be to end up higher on the salary range.
As you can probably tell, Googling probably won't turn up a definitive answer to your question, but it is a good starting place to see if you're in the ballpark of what you should be earning.
Know that location matters.
Your geographical location is another big factor when it comes to how much you should be earning. Check local salary statistics on the Bureau of Labor Statistics site to get a sense of the average pay for your area. The results will be very different in a small town as opposed to a big city. For example, according to Payscale.com, the average salary in New York, New York, is $69,115 while the average salary in Binghamton, New York, is only $44,275.
Consider your resume.
How many responsibilities do you have? Are you doing the work of two or three people? Is your workload equal to your assumed pay grade? Have you been rewarded for any of your efforts or achieved anything or contributed anything noteworthy to your company? Answering these little questions will help you answer the big one. The more bullet pointed accomplishments you have, the better your case when asking for a raise toward the higher end of your earning spectrum.
Talk to people.
When appropriate, you can ask other people in your field how much they're making. Don't necessarily inquire directly, as direct salary talk is still considered an etiquette breach. But do consider asking for their advice or feedback on what a fair compensation package might be considering your personal details. Some people will probably be happy to help and even willing to share their own specific numbers.
Recruiters are a great resource for concrete information on what similar positions pay. They can also provide valuable insight into how well particular companies pay compared to other companies in your field.
Plan for the future.
Don't get nearsighted about your current position or think only in terms of your current annual salary. Think about growth opportunities, the potential for your position to evolve, and the trajectory of your career once you've paid your dues at a lower level. If you're at the lower end of earning for your career right now, just make sure you're doing all you can to set yourself up for promotions into the upper levels. If you have a goal in mind, you can structure your career to reach it.