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What’s your real worth in this job market?

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in Your Office Coach

Question: “I’m not getting any decent salary offers during my search for a new job, so I need to figure out whether my expectations are reasonable. I do know that I'm being underpaid in my current position. I served in the military for several years and currently work for the federal government. Next year, I will complete my business administration degree.  Do you think I receive low offers because I have not yet obtained my degree or because I'm not marketing myself well?”  — Worth More Money

Marie’s Answer: Starting pay is quite important, because future increases are usually based on a percentage of salary. However, salary negotiations make many people uncomfortable. Here are some helpful suggestions:

•    Your unsatisfactory offers may be triggered by the low salary in your current job. Many organizations automatically offer new hires a certain percentage above their present pay level. However, that figure is frequently negotiable.

•    Research typical salaries for the jobs that you’re considering, to establish realistic expectations. Possible sources of information include professional associations, salary comparison Web sites and acquaintances in human resources. Networking with people who hold similar positions also can be useful.

•    When you receive an offer, ask where the proposed salary falls in the pay range for the position. If the level seems low, explain why you believe your experience should place you higher in the range. You might also consider asking for a guaranteed increase upon completion of your degree. 

Many managers and recruiters will be open to negotiation, so don’t be afraid to make a reasonable counteroffer. Just be prepared to explain why you're worth it. 

If your job search is getting you down, see "Fighting the Job Search Blues."

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