"What are your salary expectations?" This is a question you are guaranteed to be asked when looking for a job. It may make some squirm, but the response is not only critical to your chances of landing a suitable role, but can have a big impact on quality of life and job satisfaction, so squirm or not, the answer must be considered very seriously.
When it comes to salary, the past is not always the best predictor of future
What your previous employer paid you is not necessarily what you are worth, and in isolation this figure is not a suitable basis for how you set your expectations moving forward. It may be that your previous role was in a high paying industry, your boss was very generous (lucky you!), or the business you worked for was very profitable. It is important to consider whether any of these factors may be contributing to you now pricing yourself out of the market for new opportunities, particularly if you have your heart set on a career change, on working for a smaller business or in an industry type that is in high demand (think sport, fashion and entertainment!).
On the flip side, it may be that you have been underpaid in your previous role, or are coming from a business or industry that is notorious for paying below market rates. In this instance there may well be a strong opportunity to recalibrate your market value and importantly, gain a better salary for yourself moving forward.
So how do you find out what your worth?
Here are some quick tips to help you on your way:
Ask an expert: If you are working with recruitment consultants you respect and trust (and you absolutely should be!), be honest with them about your current or previous salary, and ask them what they think your market value is, and probe them about what they are basing their response on. Remember that it’s in their best interest to get you the best salary possible but within a realistic range, so listen to their advice.
Assess the playing field: Research similar roles to those you are interested in and ascertain what those roles are paying, access salary surveys, talk to your network!
Know how strong your hand is: Research how in demand your skills are in the market (as this can shift with market conditions), and assess what the demand / supply scenario is in relation to the candidate and job market you are operating within.
Understand the whole package: Determine what other benefits and perks are important to you, rank them in terms of their priority and value to your world (such as extra annual leave, health benefits, and flexible hours) and consider whether these factors are on offer when assessing all opportunities.
Set a range: Establish your target salary and know your absolute bottom line. Be clear and upfront about the range, but be smart about how and when you are prepared to flex your expectations within that range.
Believe in yourself: If you’ve done your research and assessed your market value thoroughly, you will be confident to justify your expectations and therefore in a stronger position to negotiate when the time comes.
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