True Worth? Who Knows?
First, a caveat: I do not know the "true" worth on anything - that is a question for your pastor :-)
Instead of going down that philosophical path, I will recast the questions:
- How much do employees like me, not just employees with the same job title, get paid?
- How much is the work I do worth to my employer?
Why these two questions?
The answer to the first question represents the "market price" for the work you do; i.e., what you could be paid if you were hired by a "typical" employer.
While your employer may agree you are worth a lot to the company, if the level of pay you want is much higher than the market price for your set of skills in your area, convincing your employer to give you a raise may be a tough sell.
Hence the first step in understanding what you should be paid is knowing your market price.
The answer to the second question is critical to understanding what your employer will do in response to your request for a higher wage, even if you are simply asking to be paid the current market price.
Getting an Accurate Market Price for Your Job
PayScale's salary survey is a great way to investigate the first question. PayScale can tell you what other employers are paying employees to do the same work you do.
There are a few tricks to get an accurate market price report from PayScale:
- Accurately answer all the questions, like responsibilities, years of experience in field, company size, etc.
- If you think a job title different from your own more accurately reflects your duties, use the "My What-Ifs" feature in My PayScale (where you end up after completing an initial, free, survey) to check out other job titles.
- To find other job titles, look at job listings on job boards like monster.com. For example, the duties of an "executive secretary" or "office manager" may be closer to your set of duties than those of the typical "administrative assistant."
- Don't be surprised if the market price does not change much: unlike most salary surveys, we do not just match on job titles. All the other questions you answer can affect price as much or more than the job title you use.
For example, the pay of "administrative assistants" varies widely. Here in Seattle, "admins" are paid from $25,000 to over $55,000 per year, depending on experience, duties, and industry. However, once you specify industry, experience, responsibilities, etc., the wage range narrows sharply.
Will Your Employer Pay More?
This brings us to the second question. You may be doing a job that the market says is worth more than your current pay. Will your employer pay the higher wage?
There are three possibilities:
- Your employer values your work as much as the market, can profit from it, and is just ignorant of the market rate.
- Your employer values your work as much as the market, but cannot profit from it as much as the typical employer.
- Your employer does not value your work as much as the market.
Let's look at each of these possibilities in turn, in the context of someone like our readers, who have seen their duties expand without an increase in pay.
Admin or Webmaster?
My classic example of job creep is an administrative assistant who has taken over creation and maintenance of the company's website. "Webmasters" generally paid more than admins. Can an admin in this new role earn higher pay?
Case 1: High Profit Website Done Well
If your employer profits from the website, e.g., the site drives a lot of sales leads that are valuable to the company, and recognizes that you are doing a professional job as webmaster, then you are in case 1).
Bring your boss a PayScale report showing what Webmasters in your area are paid, and you should be in good shape for a raise.
Case 2: Low Profit Website Done Well
If your employer cannot profit from the website, i.e., the "worth" of your work is low for his/her company, he or she will be unwilling to pay a higher market wage, even if they recognize that you have done a professional job.
A great example of this is non-profits. A non-profit employer may value your work highly, but simply cannot "profit" from your work sufficiently to afford a higher wage.
If this is the case for you, and you want a higher salary, you will need to find another employer. Your employer will be sad to see you go, but should understand.
Case 3: Employer Wanted an Admin Not a Webmaster
An example of case 3 is when the employer does not really even care if the company has a website, let alone whether you have done a good job creating it or not. While you may be doing something highly valuable to the company, it is not what you were hired to do. The employer may not be prepared to recognize the additional work with higher pay.
This scenario is not uncommon. A good friend once worked as a stocker for K-Mart. He also was a computer wiz, and, over time, took over debugging their point of sale system, automating the nightly price updates, etc.
For this additional, highly-skilled, work, he was still paid minimum wage as a stocker, the job for which he was hired. Even though he knew his additional work was highly valuable to K-Mart, making store run better and more profitably, K-Mart just did not care. Needless to say, he found a new employer.
If you are in this case, you are unlikely to convince your employer for a raise with market data. Your choices are:
- Accept the lower pay and stop doing the additional duties: why kill yourself if the work isn't valued?
- Accept the lower pay and continue doing the additional duties, if they are fun: my friend liked messing with computers more than stocking shelves; he basically could learn about computers while being paid.
- Find a new employer: you will be replaced by a lower skilled, less able, employee, who won't do the additional duties, but that may be all your employer really values/wants.
In any case, the first step is to find out the market price your unique set of skills and abilities. The PayScale Salary Calculator is a quick and easy way to compare positions. When you want powerful salary data and comparisons customized for your exact position, be sure to build a complete profile by taking PayScale's full salary survey.
Dr. Al Lee