The Art of Finding Work Trending

Getting The Salary You Want Is Your Responsibility

The number of people who accept a job and then complain about the pay afterwards amazes me. Didn’t they know the salary before accepting the job?

While money isn’t everything, feeling you’re getting paid fairly for your work is vital to your self-esteem and overall well-being. Getting the salary you want is your responsibility. 

Speaking of getting the salary you want, you probably hear all the “entitlement talk” about getting paid what you’re worth, which is highly subjective. The “get paid what you’re worth” movement causes many people to overestimate their worth to employers. 

Finding a job that offers the compensation, benefits and perks you desire starts with showing your value to employers. The passive (READ: lazy) attitude of, “I need more money, so I should be paid more,” is common. The onus is on the job seeker to show their value. 

Before embarking on your job search journey:

  • Critically assess your skills and experience. (create a list)
  • Brainstorm how you’ll show employers your track record of adding value to employers.
  • Research salaries in your job market. 
  • Establish a realistic target starting salary, along with benefits you want.
  • Envision how you’ll present yourself (e.g., resume, LinkedIn profile, interviews), so you’re answering the question: Why are your skills and experience worth paying for?

Career success begins with self-awareness. Being self-aware during your job search is crucial to accepting your weaknesses and evangelizing your strengths. Hence, you’ll gravitate toward jobs that capitalize on your strengths employers are willing to pay for. (Employers don’t pay for weaknesses.

As well, firmly knowing your strengths will empower you to convincingly explain (READ: sell) why your skills are worth paying for. On the other hand, knowing your weaknesses will help you determine what weaknesses hinder your career so you can work on overcoming them.

Keep a work journal.

20 years ago, I started keeping a work diary, which has proved invaluable. I highly recommend you do the same. When you’re preparing for an interview or want to ask for a raise, you’ll be thankful you’re keeping a work diary. Before leaving for the day, note your day’s accomplishments, results you achieved, conversations you had, challenges you overcame, milestones you reached, new skills you acquired, fires you put out, etc. 

Your work diary will be invaluable when preparing for interviews, especially when it comes to providing examples of your achievements and creating STAR stories. Additionally, your journal will be your best friend when you ask for a raise since you’ll have many reasons why you deserve one. 

Whether you’re negotiating a starting salary or asking for a raise, you need to build a case. Your work diary will provide the evidence (e.g., process improvements, revenue generated, monetary or time savings) you need and may have forgotten.

TIP: When talking about your accomplishments and results, use numbers to convey your value.

NO (responsibility statement): “I inputted customer orders.”

YES (accomplishment statement): “I inputted no fewer than 60 customer orders per day, with an accuracy rate of 99.5%.”

The achievement statements demonstrate how candidates deliver value to their employers, value that’s worth paying for.

Establish firm boundaries.

When you set non-negotiable boundaries regarding compensation, benefits, vacation and sick days, and working hours, you’re in control of your job search and career.  

I’ve lost count of how many interviews I’ve ended because a box on my non-negotiable list—I have 20 boxes—wasn’t being checked off. I don’t want to be one of those employees I mentioned earlier who accept a job and then complain that they’re underpaid. 

Getting the salary you deserve requires you showing your interviewer how your knowledge, skills, experience and abilities will benefit the company and—this is critical—not settling for anything less than the salary you want.

It seems logical that if you only take jobs where you’ll be paid what you feel you’re worth, you’ll always be paid what you feel you’re worth. Never hesitate to say no to a job opportunity. If an employer or job doesn’t feel right or ticks off all our “wants,” walk away! When you walk away, you free yourself to continue looking for the job and employer that’s right for you. 

Employers understand money. Next time you interview, demonstrate how you made money for your previous employers or saved them money. This is how you create value for your services. (As an employee, you’re providing a service to your employer.) The more value your services provide, the more money you can ask for your services.


Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job. You can send Nick your questions at [email protected].

Nick Kossovan
Nick Kossovan
Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job. You can send Nick your questions at [email protected].