I’ve spent some time self-reflecting recently, and I have felt underpaid for the work that I do for a while, but I have been having trouble finding a job that pays what I am worth. How can I convince an employer to pay me for the value that I know that I can bring? (Below is my job history story)
Job #1: When I was fresh out of school, I was looking for a job that would pay me around $60k. Ultimately, I was passed over several times for positions, and being a fresh grad, eventually, I realized that I have no leverage, and the longer I didn’t have a job, the longer it would hamper my career, so eventually, I accepted a job at $50k. Within the first several months, I proved to be a complete success at my job, and within 9 month (which was my total experience in aggregate), I was promoted, and received a 5% raise. Ultimately, I stuck with the position, a little bit longer before leaving.
Job #2: When I was looking, I wanted to get a salary around $80k. I remember talking to a recruiter, who I came in to meet. I remember, when I told her my salary expectation, she was like “based on your years of experience, I can’t help you find a job at $80k”, and she ended the conversation and walked me to the door. The job that I ended up accepting (for a variety of reasons) was around $65k. Within a few months, I proved to be a success. I was given responsibility that was 30-40% greater than my peers at an equivalent level. (However, I wasn’t being paid extra to do it.) While I did get a promotion, they accompanied it with even more responsibility (50-60% more), and after 4 years at the company, I was only making $81k, which is still less than what I was looking for when I first started (when adjusting for inflation). Ultimately, I demanded a 2nd promotion because of the workload, and they declined, so I started looking again.
Job #3: When I tried looking again, I was searching for a role that would pay me $120k. However, companies would either ask me if I would come down in salary, and if not, they would not interview me. Their reason was that I didn’t have a manager title currently, so I wasn’t worth the money. (Ultimately, I felt that I did have the experience of a manager from Job #2, the issue was that they did not want to give me the promotion that I earned). Ultimately, I came down to $100k (and even then, I still faced issues with companies demanding that I go lower and/or accept a lower title), but I did find a job at $100k with the title that I wanted after 8 months of searching. Again, after 6 months, my boss gave me a glowing year-end review. I had done way more than he had expected in a short period of time, and he gave me the maximum allowed year-end raise of 5% (which HR pro-rated to 2.5% since I started mid-year, which I guess covers inflation).
When I look at it, I have always been paid 20% less than the value that I believe I bring ($50k vs $60k; $65k vs $80, $100k vs $120k). Even though, after a few months, all of employers can see that I am phenomenal at my job, yet none of them want to pay me what I am worth at the outset. Further, because of how salary increases work in the corporate world, I’m never going to get that raise at my current company, and other companies will decline to interview me because I don’t have enough on my resume (it’s like I’m a teacher without the job security). What can I do to get paid what I am worth? I feel the only thing that employers care about is your last job title and dates of employment, not what you can do for them or your skills and abilities.