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This is a topic that I think is vitally important for any woman working in digital. I'm hoping that everyone reading this will already be able to answer the question, "how much should I get paid for my job", but if not, and even if you do and you want to make sure that you do know your worth, then please read on!

A cautionary tale

About six months ago, a friend of mine was moving onto pastures new from the company she'd been with since leaving university. She'd done a number of different jobs in her time at the company and had amassed a wealth of experience covering technical SEO, outreach/influencer marketing, content marketing and more. Because she'd joined as a grad she was chronically underpaid for what she was doing by the time she left, given her skillset, as any pay increases had been incremental, rather than benchmarked vs her actual responsibilities.

When applying for roles, she'd listed her current salary in the "desired salary" field, because she had no idea what was a reasonable amount to put and also because her decision to leave wasn't financially motivated - she wanted a role with new challenges and opportunities. As a result she was happy to earn the same amount she was currently making, if the role was the right one.

Undervaluing your worth limits the earning potential for your future career - research shows that getting paid less in the early days of your career can have a significant impact on how much you make years later

When she got offered a job (which was in no doubt as she's brilliant) and the details of the package came in, her new company had offered her a salary a few thousand below what she'd listed as "desired" - a usual tactic as companies naturally tend to want to pay the least they can to secure a candidate and this is often the beginning of negotiations.

My friend explained that their offer left her earning less money than she was making now and that ideally, she'd like to earn more money if anything in her new role, given the increase in responsibility etc that she'd be taking on. At the very least she didn't want to take a pay cut! After some back and forth, her new company agreed to meet her current salary, but stipulated that any further increases would be dependent on her performance in the role.

This story made me very sad for a number of reasons:

  • She didn't know her value and therefore went in to salary negotiations at too low a figure - perhaps expecting that her worth would be seen, recognised and potentially rewarded by her future employer
  • My friend didn't reach out for advice to those of us who could have helped her better understand her value - I've hired for similar roles in the past and could have given her a salary range to ask for given her experience and the job she was applying for
  • This undervaluing could potentially set back the earning potential for her future career - research shows that getting paid less in the early days of your career can have a significant impact on how much you make years later

A lot of this comes down to the fact that (particularly in the UK) we're really uncomfortable talking about money. We also generally lack the confidence to ask for what we deserve - hoping instead that if we're really doing a good job that recognition in all its forms will naturally follow.

We need to be bold, believe in ourselves and support each other to make sure that every woman in the workplace knows her worth!

Why this is important

This isn't important only when changing jobs. You can use the tips I'll give you to help understand your value to negotiate for more within your current role if needs be. Someone I know has recently gone through this herself and once she gets to the end of the process she'll have come out with a 28% pay increase. 28%!

What I'm not going to do is give detailed advice on how to tackle the negotiation process - there's so much advice already out there on how to do this and I believe the problem starts earlier on - with women not knowing how much they *should* be paid for what they currently do. There's no point going into a negotiation without a good idea of what you should be asking for!

That said, I do have a couple of quick tips when salary discussions do come up, either in interviews or when you're discussing remuneration for a promotion/job change.

  1. Always go in higher - the basic of any negotiation! Start with a number bigger than the one you want so it gives you some wiggle room. Remember, shoot for the stars, but land on the moon.
  2. Never take the first offer - even if you like the amount on the table. If you don't want to ask for more money, ask about other parts of the package, such as holiday allowance, pension contribution and other perks that might be just as, if not more valuable to you!
  3. If you're asked to state your desired salary for a role and you have no idea as to whether the figure you have in your head is reasonable (an increasing issue in the UK with many job specs appearing without stated salary ranges), ask the employer to tell you what they think is a reasonable amount, based on the value the role is expected to add to the business and based on the salaries of other people at a similar level. I've seen this work well on multiple occasions and it stops you pitching yourself too low (which you struggle to backtrack on), or asking for an amount that will get you laughed out of the room.

How do you work out your value? Here are my top tips.

1. Look at similar roles

There's a couple of ways to evaluate what similar roles pay. You can have a look at job specs for roles like yours, being offered by similar companies (if you can find some that feature salary bandings on them). The second way is to look at sites that offer salary benchmarking, such as Glassdoor, or even recruiters such as Michael Page.

This is a great way to understand whether your current salary is in the ballpark of what's reasonable.

2. Identify the value you've added to your organisation

In your role, perhaps you've created a process that saved the company money, or increased efficiency or profit? Maybe you've had some involvement with sales, or customers and have in some way generated extra money for your business. It could be that you've taken on extra work beyond your job description. Chances are you've done something that has added value that can be quantified financially. Or, you may have knowledge and skills that nobody else has - which couldn't be easily replaced if you were to leave.

If you want to stay in your current role but revise your pay, this tactic can help. It's much easier to ask for more money when you can put a figure on the value that you've added through your work, or via your continued presence within the business.


3. Harness the power of your network

This is the step I believe has the potential to really change things. I want you to speak to your friends, former colleagues, mentors, LinkedIn connections - anyone in your network who is in a position to help you get a feel for your worth. Your spouse or partner may work in a similar industry and could give you additional insight.

I believe this is important because as long as we aren't comfortable discussing money, we won't feel comfortable speaking up. Only by empowering ourselves and each other will we have the confidence to challenge the status quo and ask for what we deserve. The more of us who are willing to open up and share our experiences, the more we'll all benefit.

4. Speak to a trusted recruiter

It may be that you're not in a position to do any of the above, then the best thing to do is speak to a trusted recruiter, even if you're not necessarily looking to change companies. Decent recruiters are always looking to make connections with skilled and talented people and will be more than happy to help you understand what your skills are worth, in exchange for being the one you call when you are looking to move on. A good recruiter will know your industry and a great one will have relationships with key employers and will be able to evaluate your experience and skills objectively.

Even if you are able to do one or all of the above, it's still worth getting a second opinion from an agent. It can be difficult to find a recruiter that you can trust and short of asking people for recommendations, it can be a case of trial and error. If a recruiter won't help you though, that's a sign in itself. Check out LinkedIn and try again.

That's it!

What I want to give you today is a starting point - it's not the whole solution, but combined with negotiation and the right employer, you can begin to make headway. In striving for equality, it can feel like everything has to come from us - that we have to do it all for ourselves. While that may be true to a large extent, if we help and support each other, it'll be that bit easier and we'll get to where we want to go even quicker.

On a final note, I want to remind you all that there is a very clear distinction between your "value" and "worth" in a professional setting and your value as a living, breathing human being. I'm a sucker for validating myself through my work and I constantly have to remind myself that my worth as a person is not defined by my success at work or by how much I get paid. It can be difficult to remember that in a world that places a premium on status and professional success, but if we can, we'll be so much happier for it!

arianne donoghue

arianne donoghue @ariannedonoghue

Arianne is Paid Media Development Manager at Epiphany. You’ll often find her online or at events talking about all things digital. When not doing that, she knits, cycles and listens to podcasts at double speed!