Houston (and Texas) IT Jobs Blog

Monday, August 15, 2005

CrispAds Blog Ads

6:05 AM     How To Know What You're Worth

Here's a contentious question that every headhunter has to ask: "So, what kind of salary do you think you're worth?"

In my days as a Headhunter, I have received many different answers (from many of you, by that way!) that range from low self-esteem "I'll take ANYTHING!" to the arrogant and out-of-touch "I'll need a $50K sign-on bonus plus at least $125K to even CONSIDER any position."

As you may have guessed, both of these candidates have the same problem. Neither one knows what they are truly worth and, as a result, send out negative messages by answering without knowing.

So, as part of my "service to the community" (at least, that's what the judge called it), I thought I'd give a little perspective on how to KNOW what you're worth.

(This is Part 1 of How-many-ever-it-takes for this series)

One side-note here: Read this alone in a dark room where nobody can see you and noone knows that you're reading it. It will help you be a little more honest with yourself without losing face in front of everyone else.


The first step to knowing what you're worth is knowing what else you need, other than money. All this means is that you, if you're human, have some flexibility to what you'd accept. You need to take the time to figure out under what conditions you would take less money.

For instance, "if the job is within 5 miles of my home" is one reason some candidates that I've spoken with would take less. Some others are: "If they have a history of promoting from within", "If they'll provide training", and "If they have a great tuition re-imbursement program", "If they have great benefits". The list is potentially endless.

Of course, money is still a big piece of the pie:


Most of the candidates that I've spoken to have, at some time or another, found a salary survey to justify the salary that they are looking for. Having a salary survey under your belt is a good thing, by the way. You can find several of them here:

Salary.com Survey
PSR, an industry consulting group, IT Salary Survey
JobWeb Salary Survey
Certification Magazine IT Salary Survey
DICE.com IT Rate Survey
ComputerWorld IT Salary Survey
Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine Salary Survey

The downside to a salary survey is that every single person I've spoken with that has looked at one determined that they should be on the highest end of the salary range. Obviously, this is unrealistic because everybody can't be on the high end.

In order to be a *little* realistic, here's some tips for using salary surveys:

A) The more local it is, the better - While some of the above-listed salary surveys have regional settings, the most accurate look you're going to get is from one produced locally. For instance, JDA Professional Services, a Houston-based IT Headhunter, has a Houston-only Salary Survey here. This will be more accurate than the others for the Houston area.

B) There's a REALLY wide range - The survey is made of data from all ranges of people in that job. For instance, JDA's Salary Survey says that a UNIX/Linux Administrator can make between $45K - $91K.

Keep in mind that the guy who started doing backups on the Linux network last week is in that number. And so is the guy that has been maintaining a UNIX-based network for the last 20 years.

Also, there are different size shops in that number. There may be a "UNIX / Linux Administrator" of 1 box at a small manufacturer in there. Also, there's a guy that is responsible for 200 Unix / Linux servers in a 24/7 environment in there.

You, most likely, fall somewhere in-between. There are VERY few people that make up the top of the range. Statistically, it is unlikely that you are one of them. Unless you've got 20 years in at a huge, 24/7 shop, don't assume that you're at the top of the range.

C) Just Because You're An "Administrator" At Your Company Doesn't Mean You're An "Administrator" In The Survey - Titles vary wildly from company to company. Especially in IT, there is a fine line beween a "Systems Administrator" and a "Systems Engineer", for example.

In other words, just because your title is, "Lord High & Mighty Over All Networks" (at at 20 user shop) doesn't mean you should be looking in the "CIO / VP of IT" titles for pay. Or even "IT Manager". Whether you like it or not, you're a Network Admin on the lower end of the scale.


A lot of candidates who have been inundated with the "what the market pays" arguement from lots of headhunters will often say, "What does it matter what I make now? It's the market that matters." Well, yes and no.

Here's the thing: Most hiring managers figure you're paid about what you're worth, more or less. At least, when you were hired, you were paid about what you were worth. Your current employer may not have kept up with skills learned, time in position, or raises (which are the best arguements for why you deserve higher pay), but that was what you were worth when you were hired.

It's true (especially over that last few years) that many IT Professionals have taken less salary than they were earning before because of the "minor blip" in the industry. But, if that's true for you, you'd better be able to show where you were earning more (AFTER 9/11) to justify that statement.

Don't lie about what you're making because more and more companies are checking that information up-front. And most will check eventually. If you lied about what you were making, the company assumes you'll lie about anything to get what you want from them. This usually ends any relationship you have/had with that company.

I know it hurts, but pretty-much, the era of 30% jumps from job to job has been over for 5 years. I'm sorry. Suck it up. Learn a few new skills.

Which reminds me. In Part II, we'll talk about skills, what happens when what the market will pay and what you make now collide, as well as other important stuff in figuring out what you're worth.


click to send to a friend ---> 


Post a Comment

<< Home

Hit Counter
Earthlink DSL Service