How to Get Paid What You're Worth, According to a Harvard Professor
Are you getting paid what you’re worth? Do you know what you’re worth? Do you know what others in your profession make? If you answered no to any of these questions, you’re not alone. As women, we’re more likely than not to get paid less than we deserve, less than our male counterparts, and less than we could. In a recent panel entitled “Get Paid What You’re Worth,” More magazine teamed up with Harvard Business School to put forth a series of proven ways we can—you guessed it—get paid what we’re worth. Inspired by this panel, we decided to dig deeper and offer you seven ways in which you can boost your earnings. Scroll through to learn how to know your value and request commensurate pay.
You can’t get paid well without asking for it. Money is one way in which a company can show its employees that their work is valued and respected. And asking for a salary commensurate with your value is one way to show a company how much you value yourself. I’ve made the mistake of taking the first offer that comes my way before. After the glow and excitement of that new job wore away, the lowball first offer I took started to sting. I wasn’t mad at the company; I was mad at myself for not having the guts and confidence to ask for more. The answer could have been no, but at least I would know that I had tried. I haven’t made that mistake again.
Information is power. According to Elizabeth Weingarten, deputy director of the Breadwinning and Caregiving Program at the New America Foundation, “Women miss a huge piece of that when they remain in the dark about wages.” Hannah Riley Bowles, research director for the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard Kennedy School, agrees: “Reach out beyond convenience networks. Really think about where you are getting your information and make sure that it isn’t biased. If you’re in an organization or an industry where men are being paid more than women, and the guys are asking the guys, ‘How much do you get paid?’ and the women are asking the women, that’s not discrimination—they’re just going to sample and come up with different numbers.” Listen to Bowles and go outside of your comfort zone to sample numbers from the full pay spectrum.
In a Harvard Business Review article, Whitney Johnson states, “We often overlook our best skills—our innate talents—simply because we perform them without even thinking.” Johnson offers a personal example: One colleague of hers once wondered aloud, “I don’t understand why you don’t value what is such an apparent strength.” The strength Johnson’s colleague was referring to was an exceptional ability to see opportunities for cross-pollination across different industries. Upon reflection, Johnson realized that while she did value her ability to “think across silos,” she valued her skill of building financial models more, because “it was so painstaking to acquire.” Malcolm Forbes describes this scenario as follows: “Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.” Remember your strengths when asking for a raise. Sometimes they are too obvious for you to recall.
When asking for a raise or higher starting salary, give yourself wiggle room. Hiring managers always do, so if you don’t ask for something more than the first offer, you’re likely to leave money on the table. You want to follow the same logic. Ask for more than you think is fair, because companies will undoubtedly negotiate you down from your starting number. But convince them to give you as close to what you want as possible by framing your request in regard to future performance. Talk about what you can do for your company and how you can fill and go beyond the position you hope to fill.
Don’t even think about asking for a raise without having the data to back up your ask. Present your manager with stats that prove how much monetary value you added to the company or by how much you exceeded expectations. If you had an idea that generated X-amount of sales or views, show that. We recommend keeping a documented record of all of your contributions to your organization so that when the time comes to negotiate your salary, you have tangible data to support your request.
According to James R. Williston, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, your current pay is largely influenced by your starting salary. Williston argues that by switching jobs, you can break the cycle of a low-paying wage. He also advises considering positions or industries where women have historically been under-represented.
More often than not, women undervalue themselves. We have to learn how to understand the value we offer and not assume that the market will shortchange us. “Sadly, too many women tend to devalue themselves. They give away their time and skills for free or bargain prices because they don’t believe they’re worth more,” says Forbes. Think about you true value, not what you think you will earn. Dedicate your time to building your confidence, researching the true value of your abilities, and owning your strengths.
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Have you ever countered a salary offer? How did you feel after doing it? Share with us in the comments.