Knowing Your Worth (and Getting it) as a Young Professional

Personal Branding

When searching for a job, most established professionals make it a point to provide potential employers with a resume that’s filled with hands-on skills, past accomplishments and industry accreditation. As a young professional who’s just entering the workforce, however, you may not have that luxury. In this case, it may take a little more effort to get what you’re truly worth.

Assessing Your Level of Experience

You’ll never receive what you’re worth if an employer is unable to see your potential. This problem is only compounded when job seekers are unable to see the potential in themselves. As such, the first step to entering the workforce as a young professional comes in the form of determining your value as an employee.

Take some time to think about all of your career experiences thus far, including any part-time or full-time jobs, temporary assignments and even volunteerism. Apart from looking good on an entry-level resume, this type of experience can be equated to professional positions of the same capacity when trying to determine your initial salary expectations. In many cases, volunteerism and community service can even serve as a stepping stone or point-of-entry to your future career path.

Selling Your Experience and Transferable Knowledge

Because you won’t have many skills, achievements or statistics to get your foot in the door, you’ll have to rely on whatever experience you have thus far. Even if this experience doesn’t relate to the type of work you’re seeking, it’s important to show what you’ve learned, any additional training you’ve received and any transferable knowledge you may have. Armed with this knowledge, a hiring manager or interviewer will be able to make a much better determination regarding your potential for success with their company.

You might even consider creating a functional resume in order to draw attention away from your short career. Whereas the typical resume lists an applicant’s career history in chronological order, starting with their latest position, the functional resume foregoes the initial chronological listing in exchange for details about your skills, academics and volunteer experience. This lets an employer know exactly what you have to offer without getting distracted by your career timeline.

Determining Your Salary Expectations

When searching for a job, it’s crucial that you maintain realistic expectations regarding your initial salary requirements. This is especially true for recent graduates and young professionals who are just now entering the workforce for the very first time. In some cases, you’ll have no other option but to prove your worth through hard work, dedication and diligence.

In fact, recent studies by Wakefield Research conclude that 42% of college seniors expect an entry-level salary of $50,000 or more. In stark contrast, 48% of employers surveyed only offer starting salaries of $35,000 or less for new hires. As you can see, there is some discrepancy between a young professional’s self-perceived value and their real-world value. However, there are some tricks that can help you gain a better understanding of salary trends and expectations within your industry of expertise.

Comparing your volunteer experience to that of a professional in a similar capacity is a great way to account for the lack of monetary compensation in such roles, while simply researching job postings that are related to your desired position can give you some insight into the going rates for your profession.

Regardless of the methods you use, keep in mind that these figures are meant as a rough starting point, as opposed to a hard and fast rule.

Moreover, there are also some online tools you can use in order to decide on a realistic salary for a young professional in your chosen industry. LiveCareer’s Salary Calculator, for example, even lets you input your exact education level when searching for results. This information, along with your zip code, can provide quotes that are more accurate and consistent than some of the other salary calculators on the internet.

Ensuring Success During Salary Negotiations

Now that you have a strong understanding of your experience level, transferable knowledge and expected salary, it’s time to enter salary negotiations. Although some may be less concerned with their pay and more concerned with landing a job at all, today’s millennial generation isn’t so easily satiated. To put it bluntly, many young professionals already know what they want and they’re determined to make it happen.

As long as you’ve done your homework correctly, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for the salary you think you deserve. Your salary or wage expectations should already be realistic and in alignment with the current trends and standards for your chosen industry. As such, most reputable employers should be able to meet your expectations or, at the very least, respond with a reasonable counteroffer.

Whether you accept their offer or not is ultimately your decision — just try to avoid any lowball offers or employers who refuse to offer a competitive salary. Employers like this tend to have high employee turnover rates, little to no benefits and very few opportunities for career progression or advancement.

Demonstrating Value and Improving Your Worth

It can be difficult for a young professional to get their foot in the door with an established, reputable company. However, as long as you have a clear understanding of your current worth, realistic salary expectations and the desire to improve your worth by leading a successful career, you should have little trouble demonstrating the value you have to offer within your chosen industry.