Women: Earn what you're worth
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"Most women are not getting paid what they are worth because they settle for less; either because they lack the confidence to ask for more or because they fail to recognize their own self-worth," says Mary Lyn Miller, veteran career consultant, author and founder of the Life and Career Clinic.
"These women are not lacking talent, ability or education," she says, but when it comes to asking for more money or setting aggressive earning goals, many of the women she meets in her workshops are quick to say, "Oh, I couldn't possibly do that."
With women earning just 78 percent of men's wages (based on a 2003 study by the U.S. Department of Labor), how can you avoid settling for less?
Follow these steps to help you realize, and receive, what you are really worth:
Step one -- Explore your beliefs: Miller encourages women to examine their beliefs about why they are not earning as much as they would like. She says that "In many cases your beliefs are what brought you to where you are today."
Miller says that to attain what you truly desire you need to break down negative programming you learned growing up -- those that made you feel that you were not good enough, or strong enough, or intelligent enough.
Step two -- Take care of yourself first: Women are far more likely to think of others first. "I tell women to stop taking care of others and take care of yourself," Miller says.
They may be concerned that the timing isn't right to ask because the company is going through financial difficulties, or may be afraid that it might seem selfish or greedy if they ask for more money. "You have to learn to put yourself first. This isn't about being selfish, it's about getting paid what you are worth."
Step three -- Know what you are worth: Career counselors often say women are less in touch with going rates in the job market than men are. Make sure your expectations are based on realities in the marketplace.
Check external sources such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, online salary calculators, compensation surveys and industry indexes to determine what others in your field and with your education and experience are earning. Talk to management recruiters and check online job postings for salary ranges for similar positions.
Step four -- Prepare your case: Being a nice person or a hard worker isn't reason enough to get a raise. Document your accomplishments in writing and show how they benefit the company. Provide concrete examples of how you have met or exceeded individual and team goals. List your major responsibilities and identify new responsibilities that you have recently taken on at work.
Step five -- Understand what your company values: Listen for clues about skills and attributes your senior leaders value. Then, position your strengths in those terms.
Be prepared to focus on your leadership and teamwork skills: Show how your contributions provide a positive return on investment to the department and the company, and talk about your accomplishments in terms of brand building and strengthening customer relationships.
Step six -- Set goals: "You have to intend to make more money in order to do so," Miller says. That takes more than wishful thinking. It requires setting goals and milestones to mark your progress.
If you really want to make $100,000 someday, the first step is to put it in writing. Then determine what it will take to reach that goal. Is it possible to earn that in your current job, at the company where you work, or in your current profession? Do you need more education or more experience?
Step seven -- Ask for what you want and negotiate until you get it: "Higher earners tend to negotiate; underearners don't." Miller says that once people discover what they really want, many are too afraid to do anything about it.
Women often find the whole idea of asking for more money a source of great discomfort. They fear confrontation. Think of negotiating as having a win-win discussion with your boss. Know what you want and why you deserve it.
Be prepared to ask for more than you think you can get, so you have some room to negotiate if your initial suggestion is rejected. If you're maxed out at your current job grade, pursue a promotion instead of a raise. Discuss what the company would have to pay to replace you. Ask your supervisor to describe what he or she would consider "fair" compensation for someone with your expertise and responsibilities. Request more at-risk pay or a bonus or incentive based on achieving personal or departmental goals.
If you've done your homework, you'll know what you should be paid and why. In most cases you'll be surprised by the outcome. The worst someone can say is no, or not yet. Then you must decide whether you should stay with your current job or look elsewhere. If you make a move, you could end up earning significantly more than you currently make.
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