In the March 27, 2018 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks us to focus on the big questions of value and worth.
I’ve read your many columns about how to negotiate salary, how much to ask for when applying for a new job, what not to say about my salary history, and about why salary surveys (and websites) aren’t to be relied on. Now I’m doing some introspecting, trying to look at the big picture of my value and what I’m worth in the world. I wish I had started thinking about this 15 years ago.
Do you have any big-picture suggestions about figuring out what I’m worth and about how to increase my value in the world? Know what I mean? Not just salary and money, but value. Thanks.
Anyone can use the search box at the upper right of this page to find articles about “salary,” “pay,” “negotiate,” and other such topics. We’ve discussed all that a lot. I think there’s good advice in the articles that will turn up — and even better advice from readers in the comments of each one.
- Revealing my salary earned me a lower job offer!
- Don’t blame women for the gender pay gap!
- Can’t negotiate a higher salary? Ask for more money.
- Beat The Salary Surveys: Get a higher job offer
Worth: The big picture
But I like your big-picture question. It does indeed demand some introspection and even some chewing of the philosophical fat. It really is a big question: What am I worth?
Maybe even more important, How can I be worth more?
And you’re right — this is something to think about again and again, not just when considering a job offer or negotiating salary. I typed “worth” and “value” in the search box and realized I’ve never tackled those tough topics directly — though I’ve wanted to.
Value: Who says?
I think the big mistake people make is that they try to view their worth, or value, in absolute terms. That is, they think there’s a number — a certain amount of money, or a money range — that they deserve based on their experience, credentials, knowledge, skills and so on. (See Too rich to land a job?) I suppose there’s an argument to be made that we each have some kind of inherent value that employers should pay us for.
But I’ve never bought into that. I think value and worth are in the eye of the beholder. It’s why sales people exist! Their job is to make something they’re selling seem more valuable to you so that you’ll pay more to get it.
When it comes to jobs, it seems employers, the job market, government labor and economic data and — of course — job boards and job-related websites, all want to tell you what you’re worth. They think they can figure it out by interviewing you — then they expect (demand?) that you accept their judgement.
Is your head spinning?
Maybe worse, employers define the value of a job by… defining the job. Then they limit themselves to hiring only someone who fits the job definition rather than someone who can do other, unexpected stuff to make their business more successful! This begs the question, are employers advertising for a bag o’ keywords, or for desired outcomes?
All this can make your head spin. Each issue I brought up above is probably worth (ha-ha) an article and a long discussion (and loads of comments!).
The Cardinal Rules of Worth
So now I’m going to try to do what you asked. To introspect. To focus on the big picture.
Here’s my stab at what worth is and how we can increase it, and maybe it’s too ambitious. But I’m worth more when I’m ambitious…
I think when we consider big ideas, there really aren’t any answers — just big stuff to think and talk about. And we all know the purpose of this forum is for us all to think and discuss. So I expect everyone will have something to add and something to say.
What is worth? Value? How do we judge and grow our worth in the world? How do we benefit from the worth of others? In what ways can we express our worth (rather than our desired salary!) that will make it relevant to others (and worth paying for)?