Determining Your Fair Market Value

By Paula Santonocito

As a rule, jobs in major metropolitan areas tend to pay higher salaries than positions in small towns. Jobs in certain U.S. cities, where the cost of living is higher, like New York City, for example, generally come with better pay than jobs where the cost of living is less, like in Jacksonville, Fla., as an example.

What this means to you will depend on your circumstances. Are you willing to relocate? Is it cost effective to relocate? Are you willing to commute? Is a commute cost effective? As important, is a commute conducive to your lifestyle?

In other words, you have to realistically assess pay in the context of a job you would actually consider.

Take into Account Your Marketability

When looking at what positions pay, it’s likewise essential to be realistic about your marketability. Employers have become very specific about qualifications, and job ads reflect what skills and experience are required.

Don’t ignore these requirements, and don’t make assumptions.

If a company is looking for someone with 10 or more years experience in a field, for example, don’t assume that you could land the job with five years experience, especially in this competitive market. In a similar vein, if an educational requirement for a position is an MBA and you lack the degree, this isn’t a job you should be using as a point of reference when assessing your fair market value.

What’s more, it works both ways. You may hold a Ph.D., but if it’s in medieval literature and your career path has taken you in a corporate direction, the degree won’t mean much in terms of earnings power.

It’s important to honestly assess your skills, experience, and credentials. Determine what you bring to the table, and how it matches up to what the market offers. Put another way, you are attempting to price your ability in the marketplace and determine what people (employers) will pay to buy it.

Consider the Entire Package

When trying to figure out your fair market value, don’t overlook advantages you might have, however slight they may seem.

For example, as a single woman, you might bring flexibility to job that requires a lot of travel, assuming of course you want to travel for business. Or you may have volunteer experience in an area that fits with a particular company’s passion, and would therefore make you more attractive to that organization.

It’s true that in many instances employers have an advantage right now and can hire qualified people for less than they once paid. However, it’s also true that smart organizations recognize top talent when they see it and will pay competitive wages to hire the right people. The bottom line is, you need to be realistic, but don’t sell yourself short.

Finally, don’t forget that salary is only component of compensation. As has noted before, it’s important to look at total compensation in order to determine what a job actually pays. The same principle applies to determining your fair market value.

With a little research, analysis, and self reflection, you can figure out what you’re worth in today’s job market—and make informed decisions about your career.


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