It’s one thing to read about all the open jobs in the United States right now. It’s another thing to drive through towns and see “hiring”, “open jobs”, and “great rates” posted on signs, billboards, and windows, in nearly every town I pass.
I’m currently on a road trip, and it’s fascinating seeing the signs. Most hourly jobs I’ve seen on signs are $14-$24 an hour. It’s in nearly every town.
I started reflecting about how the dynamic of power between employer and employee has shifted. A few years ago, employers had more power. Now, it’s employees.
If you’ve been thinking about making a job change or if you’ve been wanting higher pay, now is an excellent time to make the leap or negotiate.
Let’s talk about knowing your worth, how to negotiate, and what it takes to make a job change.
A Personal Story
Before I begin, I want to tell you a personal story. I left my job in September. You never really know your worth until you find another job or leave. It’s the same as selling a house. You can get a comparable analysis, but until you put the house on the market, you never really know.
When I left my job, I was well paid. My salary, benefits, and health insurance were all great. They were not as good as some of the larger employers in Seattle, but they were good for a small-to-medium sized company. I knew that based on industry data.
What was interesting is that when I gave my notice, I received an offer of trying to work remotely and questions such as, “Is there anything we can do to get you to stay?”
I had already made up my mind by this point, but I found it fascinating that there was more room for negotiation. A company that traditionally looked down upon working from home, had us come in regularly during the pandemic, and was basically back in the office full time by mid-August 2021, in the middle of a pandemic, was willing to have me try working remotely.
You never know what’s available unless you ask.
I tell you this story because many people underestimate their worth. They get comfortable in a job and stop exploring what else is possible.
Some of the highest pay raises people receive are when they move to another company. I’m not saying to quit your job and go to another job every year, and there are plenty of careers where staying in a job can actually pay you more. My role was a perfect example. Financial planners traditionally make more the longer they stay with a company. I was with my last company 10 years.
But, if you are considering making a change or have been thinking about exploring another employer, now is a wonderful time.
Know Your Worth
The first step in deciding to make a change is knowing your worth. Unfortunately, salaries are not often shared publicly, and even less data is available on benefits, such as 401(k) matching, cost of health insurance, etc. Those can add up. For example, a company that covers your health insurance may be footing a $400 bill per month while another company covers none of it.
There are resources to help you determine average salaries in your field. Below are a few websites to help.
This is a good place to start, but my best recommendation is to try to talk to people in your field. Ask them, “What is an average salary range for X years of experience?” Talk to recruiters. Ask them, “What sort of benefits should I expect?” If you have a friend in the same industry, consider sharing salaries. Or, if you aren’t comfortable with that, ask them for a range.
Website data is fine, but it’s never as applicable to you as talking to someone, like an HR manager, who knows the industry data.
They can also be a good resource to help you determine the benefits side of the equation. Is it common to provide a 401(k) match? How much equity compensation should I ask for? Is it a company that is more open to negotiating?
I know it can be intimidating to talk about money, but it’s the best way to learn. It’s also empowering. I hear story after story about women who are paid less than men. If people talked more openly about what salaries they saw in their field, people would have a better idea of their worth, and likely feel more powerful to negotiate a higher salary or better benefits.
As I’ve learned in life, it rarely hurts to ask. Most people are too afraid to ask and miss out on the opportunity.
Once you know your worth, it’s time to take action.
How To Negotiate
If your salary is right in line with the average in the industry, it might still be time to negotiate. Employers know it’s difficult hiring right now. It’s usually cheaper to keep an employee and pay them slightly more than it is to find a new hire and train them. Unfortunately, some employers don’t always recognize the full cost of onboarding a new employee, but the good ones should.
Chris Voss, a retired FBI negotiator, has a blog dedicated to salary negotiation and an excellent Forbes article on negotiating your salary.
Read his work, as well as others to learn how to negotiate. My best tips are to be kind throughout the process. You don’t need to bulldoze over someone blatantly demanding a 25% increase.
Start the process by demonstrating your value. Share with your boss the types of projects you have been working on and how it has benefited the company. Have you taken on extra work by covering for employees because you are understaffed? Tell them.
You don’t want to go into negotiating without practice. First, write down your accomplishments, the extra projects, and anything else you want to share. From there, practice with a friend or family member. Have them be your boss and play out the scenario how you think it will go.
It doesn’t matter if the actual scenario is anything like your mock scenario. The key is to practice building confidence. If you are confident, you’ll be better at sharing your story.
Once you’ve practiced and are feeling more confident, schedule a time with your boss. Remember not to jump right into the salary conversation. Most meetings start with a casual conversation. After that, be direct by telling your boss, “I appreciate you taking time to discuss my career. I’d like to talk about my compensation.” From there, discuss your accomplishments, focusing on the most important ones, and go through what you rehearsed with a friend.
Hopefully you are successful in negotiating better compensation or better benefits. If not, a no is still a yes to something else – you just don’t know what the yes is yet.
The no could be yes to exploring a new employer.
Preparing to Make a Job Change
Even if you are not preparing to make a job change, it’s a good time to practice interviewing. Most employers are hiring right now, which means it is an easier time to interview. It may be a good idea to interview with another company even if you don’t plan on leaving.
There are two benefits to this process:
- You gain confidence interviewing
- You might be surprised by a job offer or make a connection for later
Most people are not very comfortable interviewing. Going through the process of interviewing can help build confidence so that when you are ready to interview for a new position, you are not starting from scratch. You already will feel comfortable because you’ve done it more recently.
Although you may not be looking to leave your employer, you never know what sort of offer you may receive. Perhaps you’ve never been interested in another company because you have not explored it. It’s impossible to know what every employer is doing, and even if you felt like you knew the roles at every company in your industry, sometimes new roles are created. It could be your dream role.
I’ve heard of people who felt adequately compensated and had not planned on looking for a new role, but decided to interview on a whim and received much higher offers than their current positions.
If not, you at least have a connection with another company for later. If you are unhappy with your job a few years down the road, the company may already be familiar with you, making it easier to get your foot in the door.
Let’s say your interview goes well, you have an offer, and you are ready to accept. Now it’s time to create a plan to leave your job.
One thing to note is that it can be risky to quit your job without another offer. If you have savings you can fall back on, then maybe you feel comfortable doing it, but I would not assume that because it’s a good job market you can find another job instantly. The economy can change rapidly and the hiring process can still take time.
As you think about leaving your job, do you want to take a break? Have you negotiated time before starting your next role? Are you ready to jump right into it?
If you are taking time off, how will you handle health insurance? Will you sign up for COBRA? Do you know the cost? Will you explore the healthcare exchange?
What about disability insurance? Does your new employer have a policy? Do you want to explore an individual disability insurance policy before leaving?
There are many questions to consider before leaving a job. Think about all the benefits you have been receiving. If you are taking time off, which of those need to replaced immediately?
If you are not taking time off, familiarize yourself with the new company benefits.
Before giving your notice, know how your industry normally treats people who are leaving. Some companies walk you out the door immediately. Others want you to stay on to transition projects. Be prepared for both scenarios. You don’t want to assume you’ll stay on only to find yourself out the door that same day.
Summary – Final Thoughts
It’s an excellent time if you are looking to make a job change. Many companies are struggling to find good candidates for roles. Many are offering higher compensation and are willing to negotiate other benefits if it means bringing on a great team member.
Even if you are not looking, it probably would not hurt to look at other options right now. At the very least, it can validate that you are in a great spot, well compensated, and on a good trajectory. It may help clarify new roles you want to grow into at your current company.
Employers have been in a strong position of power over the last decade, and it’s interesting watching the power dynamics shift. Employees are demanding more – more remote work, better pay, flexibility in how they work.
Anecdotally, most people I talk to are considering some type of change in the next year or already have made a change. Employers are going to have to do more to keep people, and unfortunately, it may be a little too late for some. How companies have behaved and treated workers over the last few years is not easily forgotten.
As an employer, if you always had a certain mindset and it’s shifted during the pandemic, share it. If you are considering making positive changes, share it. Employees appreciate open communication. If you don’t share it, your employees may be looking at other opportunities without knowing the one thing they want right now you could provide.
To all the employees navigating these interesting times in the job market, good luck! Know your worth. Do your research. Ask for what you want.
You are your best advocate.