As a Career Consultant, a common question asked by many job seekers is, What am I worth”? There unfortunately isn’t a quick and easy, one size fits all, answer to that questions. There are various things that factor into “worth”. First recognizing that the core of the question is how much will an employer pay me, how much money can I ask for and get in the job market? The short answer, it depends. First it is important to realize that a combination of skills and experience as well as demand for those skills dictates wage in the job market. Simply said people’s worth (ie:wage) correlates to the value and contribution they can make to an employer. It is important to realize that a person’s salary level does not become a characteristic they are defined by on an ongoing basis. For example if someone makes $100,000 per year in their last job it doesn’t mean that they can command $100,000 per year for any job they do. Wage is related to skills and experience required for a job. Let’s say if a person made $100,000 for managing a department of a company their wage was commensurate with skills and experience for managing people, programs and budgets. If I hired the same person to paint my house, they would not be worth $100,000 because the skills and experience required of that job is less than a managerial job. When job seekers apply for jobs at a lower skill and experience level they cannot reasonably expect to be paid the same wage.
Market demand also factors into worth. If a job seekers skill set is in high demand, they can command a higher wage. For example IT professionals were in high demand during the Y2K conversion. Once Y2K came and yet those IT professionals skills were in less demand and were then therefore worth less in the job market. They couldn’t necessarily command the same salary.
Companies use benchmark data from within their industry and in a given market to determine compensation structures and therefore wages. They determine what certain skills and experiences are worth. It is recommended that job seekers use tools like salary.com or o*net to get an idea of what certain jobs pay across the country so that they have a better idea of what they are worth.