career

How to find out exactly what you're worth at work. And what to do next.

Lisa Wilkinson this week proved that knowing what you’re worth – and acting on it – can be a powerful thing.

Of course, not all of us are able to walk away from contract negotiations with one media company and go across to another for a reported $2 million pay packet. But whether or not your wage stacks up against your colleagues in your industry is a valuable piece of information to have in your arsenal. Especially at your next annual remuneration meeting.

So how do you find out exactly what you’re worth? Is it as simple as secretly comparing notes with your workmates?

Listen: Jessie, Mia and Holly talk about getting paid what you’re worth on Mamamia Out Loud:

Well, no, that’s not the best method, according to Inabox Group chief financial officer Deb Zimmer – who has been on both sides of many pay and contract negotiations.

Zimmer says that while your best mate at work may tell you what salary she’s on, it’s not actually going to be very useful information.

“Most companies have policies about staff not discussing their salaries. So if you find out that the person next to you earns more than you, you can’t really use that information with the company.”

“Yeah, ask your buddies at work, but don’t use that as a source of proof with your employer.”

She adds that there could also be good reasons why your co-worker may be doing the same role as you but getting paid more. For instance, they may have been at the company for 20 years and recently moved into a lower position, but are still being rewarded for their loyalty.

Zimmer says the best way to find out your worth is to speak to an experienced recruitment consultant.

Deb Zimmer from Inabox Group has had this conversation many times. (Image supplied.)
ADVERTISEMENT

"The one source of the truth that gives you up to date information that's very relevant, especially for your skill fit, is a recruitment consultant," she says.

"They'll give you a view on what the market's doing now. Sometimes the market's really hot for certain people and then other times it's not.

"These guys have the most access to the most reliable information because people generally do tell recruitment consultants their actual salaries."

And if you don't know a recruiter, Zimmer suggests reaching out to friends or family to see if there's any they know to recommend.

"Just give them a call. Tell them what you do and ask them if they can help you."

"Most of the recruitment people I work with are smart enough to work out that one day you could be a candidate or a client. They should be willing to give you that information."

While this is the best way to get the most up-to-date accurate picture of your place in the industry, Zimmer suggests another method you could try: hopping on to Seek.com.au

"Just go on Seek and type in your current salary range and your job and see if jobs come up in that range or not."

So, you've found out you're being underpaid. Now what?

If, thanks to your keen detective work, you've just discovered you're getting paid less than people in similar positions at similar companies, Zimmer says you've got good grounds to ask for a pay rise.

However, timing is everything. If your annual review and remuneration discussions take place in June or July (like many companies) then asking for a pay rise in November may not go down well.

Zimmer suggests bringing it up if the discrepancy is significant and is going to make you unhappy for the next eight months, but to gauge your manager's reaction.

"Bring it up... if they seem unhappy you'd say, 'I just need to know at the next salary review, you will hit my salary at the market rate.'"

So you may not get a pay rise now, but you've put yourself in a good position for next review, making it clear what you expect.

There are exceptions of course. Zimmer says she herself found out she wasn't being paid fairly shortly after taking a job - and her manager dealt with it swiftly.

"I was in the position where I got the job and I knew that someone in my team who I was managing was actually being paid more than me.

"I had an honest conversation with my line manager where I said, 'I'm getting paid less than this person, and I'm meant to manage this person.' And he was able to take it to HR and have them correct it straight away."

Remember ladies, be bold. Know what you're worth, and ask for it.

FROM OUR NETWORK
00:00 / ???