Key takeaways

  1. The first step in getting the compensation package you deserve is to define the value you bring to the table as a professional
  2. Compensation is one part of the equation - knowing what you value is critical to making the best decision
  3. Salary is an important consideration but you should also account for workplace benefits, stock compensation, and career development opportunities
  4. There are many resources available to help you make an informed decision, but only you can determine what's most important to you and what you bring to the table
  5. Every aspect of a new job can have a ripple effect on your life so proactive planning is essential to navigating the decision

If you’re thinking about changing jobs, exploring a new career or asking for a raise, your first thoughts might be, “What should my salary be? What am I worth? What do I deserve? How much should I ask for?”

Those are important questions but the work environment has changed rapidly over the last 12-18 months and people are re-evaluating what they truly value, from salary to benefits to flexibility. Professionals have more opportunities than ever before, as the Great Resignation has caused many to re-evaluate what they want from their work life.

Most advice focuses on how to maximize your salary. While money matters, there is a much bigger picture to think about, including your career, life goals, finances, work-life balance, and of course, your happiness.

That being said, when it comes to your job search, it’s key to keep in mind that you’re not just negotiating a salary. You’re aiming for a total package that matches the value you bring as a professional and one that reflects what you value most on a personal level.

The bottom line - your professional value

The first step in understanding your worth is determining what value you bring to the table as an employee.

What are the things your employer values? For starters, it can be your level of education, experience and expertise in the related job or field. Your background and certifications may add value too, if they matter to your employer. If you’re a salesperson with tech experience, for example, you may be more highly valued than another salesperson who doesn’t have that background.

The second step is to analyze the company you’re interested in, their competitors, and the industry overall.

Those factors can significantly affect your market value, and what the employer is willing or able to offer. Key areas to research also include the size of the company, what stage of growth it’s currently in (start-up, funded start-up, mature, etc.), and the industry. Some industries, such as tech, tend to offer stock awards. Other industries may typically include bonuses as part of the compensation package, or are more flexible when it comes to paid time off.

Know what you personally value

With the dollars and cents out of the way, think about what you really value, and about what trade-offs you’re willing to make. This means asking yourself a series of questions:

  • Do you want a stable and consistent income, or do you want the up-side potential of a bonus or stock awards? 
  • Are you willing to bet on yourself in a position that earns commissions?
  • What level of work-life balance do you want? 
  • Is a shorter commute or the ability to work remotely important to you? 
  • Do you want a job that’s a stepping stone to career advancement? 
  • Are you looking to gain a certain type of experience? 
  • What kind of company culture do you prefer? 
  • Do you like a fast-paced work environment? 
  • Do you care about the mission of the company?

If you have a partner or a family, it’s important to spend time talking about what you value together, and how the answers to those questions will affect everyone involved. Keep in mind that there are no “right” answers. What matters are the answers that are right for you.

Look at the entire package

There’s much more to consider than just your paycheck, you must also consider your total take home pay, which may include your salary, bonus, or commissions, and how much risk is involved.

Benefits can make up a large percentage of your compensation so they must be evaluated carefully. Understanding all the benefits a company offers is critical. Some key benefits include: 

  • Healthcare - Do they provide good health insurance and cover some or all of the premium?
  • Retirement - Do they have a retirement plan (like a 401k) and a good matching program? 
  • Other key benefits - what about disability insurance, a health savings account (HSA), estate planning and legal advice programs, and health and wellness benefits?

If your goal is to climb the corporate ladder, you should consider if the company will pay for your education, such as college courses and certification programs. A flexible schedule, more paid time off, and maternity or paternity leave should also be considered. The key is to evaluate what is important to you before you make your final decision. 

Be well informed

There are many resources you can use to see average salaries and other key information. Check LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, and Payscale to get an idea. Look at job boards for your industry, as well as professional and trade associations and ask people in your professional network. Networking events can also be good sources of information. While these resources won’t give you a complete picture of your value, they’re a great start.

Plan your way to success

A job or career change, promotion, or even a new compensation package at your existing job will have a ripple effect on your life. If you have a family, it will have an effect on them as well.

Make a proactive plan for the impact a new job, career, or salary will have on everything including your cash flow, insurance coverage and benefits, taxes, savings and investments, and retirement planning. That way, you can make more informed decisions and be in control of the next chapter of your career and ultimately the life you want to live.

To help you navigate all of the decisions and options to consider when making a career change talk to a CFP® Professional at Facet.