How to decide what salary to ask for based on your experience

If you've been shopping around for a job, whether it's your first or your fifth, you've probably faced the question dreaded by all job hunters: what sort of salary do you expect to make? This is a particularly tricky and uncomfortable question for most of us.

For one thing, most people are taught that talking about money is taboo. It's considered rude and most of us are not comfortable naming a figure. For another, many job seekers aren't quite certain what to ask for. After all, there are many factors to consider, such as covering household and personal expenses, types of benefits, plus receiving adequate compensation for experience and education.

Regardless of your comfort level, salary savvy is an important part of finding a job. After all, if you accept a job offer that is way too low, you could be setting yourself up for future salary shortfalls. But how do you figure out what to ask for in the first place?

The salary you make is based primarily on three factors: location, education and experience. Location is important because companies often figure their standard salaries based upon the local cost of living. Education is also important. Formal training in your field is often extremely valuable, and certain fields, such as engineering and academics, require that you have at least a bachelor's degree, if not a graduate degree, in order to be considered. In fact, according to statistics, people who hold a graduate degree receive almost 44 percent more money than those without one.

However, the most important factor in salary calculation is experience. No matter how much formal education you have in any given field, application of that knowledge through experience in the workplace is far more valuable than abstract training. After all, knowing something intellectually is one thing. But applying that knowledge to the real world is quite another. So, taking your level of experience into consideration when deciding what to ask for is especially vital. But how do you do it? How do you know how much you're worth?

  1. Do a self-evaluation. How much experience do you really have in your area of expertise? Do you have a relevant degree? Can you point to concrete successes and projects you've handled at your last job?. If they're relevant to the job you're applying for, they should be added to your experience.
  2. What is the going rate for the job in your area?
  3. What type of salary is the company willing to offer? Although you might think it's rude to ask, the only way you're going to find this information is if you inquire, so if you're pressed to give a figure on your salary expectations, counter with a diplomatically-phrased question about the company's budget for your position.
  4. Consider other forms of compensation. If a company has offered you a job, but is unable to pay you a salary that reflects your experience, don't write them off just yet. There are ways a business can pay its employees other than money. For example, consider negotiating for perks or, flexi time. If you have children, the latter can be especially valuable.

Finding a good job is often difficult. Finding a decent job that pays you what you're worth is even harder. You might find it very helpful to keep a running list of your accomplishments in the workplace so you can pinpoint your successes and demonstrate concrete examples of your success.

Regardless of how much experience you have, though, remain professional at all times. Remember, whether you've been in an industry for five months or five years, you're not exempt from scrutiny, so don't assume that because you have more experience than any candidate, you're a dead cert for the job. Most interviewers will remember your professional demeanor better than they'll remember the details of your resume.

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