How much should I make at my job?

At some point, we all wonder if we're getting paid fairly. Here are some ways to assess what salary is right for you.

How much should I make at my job?

Do the research to know what you're worth.

No matter how long you've been in the workforce, you will need to ask yourself, "How much should I be making?" at the start of every job search throughout your career. You should even be asking the question annually before your performance review. According to Monster's 2020 State of the Candidate survey of 1,000 full-time and part-time employees in the United States, 73% said salary is the most important factor when considering a job offer, with 58% of candidates saying they have turned down an offer because the salary was too low. Care to guess what the top reason was for why employees started their last job search? They wanted a higher salary (40%). 

Now, in some cultures, bargaining is the norm. A buyer or seller makes an offer, and the other party either accepts or counters the offer. The two negotiate until they strike a deal or one party walks away.

When you're negotiating your salary with an employer, do you know what you're doing? Do you have any idea of what you're truly worth? This is how to find out.

How do I find out my worth?

To be a good salary negotiator, you must know what a good deal looks like. First, research your fair market value. One easy way to do this is by using Monster's salary guide. Also look to recruiters, competitors, and the US Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook to get a good idea of what others in similar positions are earning. Note that your years of experience and geographical location influence salary ranges. 

Networking is the key to getting fresh information. There's no better way to assess how you're doing than to schmooze with professionals in similar fields. Identify people who have the same position you have or want. Attend professional association meetings or trade shows, and connect with other job seekers online to compare duties and responsibilities, staff size, etc. Investigate the opportunities for job seekers with your skill set in the same company, different companies, different sectors, and even different industries.

When networking, don't ask people, "How much money do you make? How much should I be making?" and expect a civil answer. Instead, ask, "Does this salary range sound right for this kind of job in this kind of company?" Chances are they'll reply either, "Wow! Where do you work, and how can I join you?" or, "Well, that seems low for someone with your experience and level of responsibility." When you combine their comments with the salary information you already have, you'll have a better idea of how you want to approach your salary offer.

How much to ask for

Many companies have salary structures for their organizations. Each has a range in mind for any specific job. If you have a target salary within a realistic range, you'll negotiate from a stronger position.

Rules for negotiating your salary

  • Don't be greedy. Seek a win-win agreement with a new employer. This cements good relations for you and the interviewer, and could save you from a lost offer if you hold out for the maximum.
  • When an employer asks for your salary requirements on a job application, indicate that you are negotiable. If you're asked to provide your current salary, respond with, "Will discuss during interview."
  • Never initiate salary discussions in an interview. Wait for the interviewer to bring the subject up, even if it's postponed to a second interview.
  • Avoid explicit comparisons to your current salary. You're negotiating the strengths you'll bring to the new position, not past salary.
  • Always assume the offer is negotiable.
  • Never accept an offer at the interview. Express your strong interest, but state that you always evaluate important decisions carefully. Negotiate a date when you'll contact the interviewer with your decision.
  • Discuss benefits separately from salary. Your list of benefits can include insurance, tuition reimbursement, relocation payments, stock options, bonuses and outplacement upon termination.

When asking yourself, "How much should I be making?" remember that better opportunities can pop up at any time. But like the lottery, you have to be in it to win it. Regardless of how content you are in your current position, it doesn't hurt to keep your doors open. Not sure how to do that? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent to you when positions become available, so you can be among the first to apply. Work for a company that recognizes your value and properly compensates you.