Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could bump up your salary to a figure you know you deserve before you’ve even had a chance to put a resume on a prospective employer’s desk? Well, we’re not able to give you a magic wand you can wave to make that happen, but we can provide you with the next best tool: information. The more you know about your position and your competitors, the better you’ll be able to accurately judge just how much you’re worth. It’s a concept called salary transparency, and it has people sharply divided on the topic.
The Ins and Outs of Salary Transparency
Salary transparency is just what it sounds like: knowing how much everyone else makes so you can compare your salary to theirs, and get an understanding of why you’re paid the rate you are. The two most common ways of looking at this include:
It’s a good idea because it prevents employers from benefiting from the secrecy, not allowing them to hold the upper hand. If employees know what everyone else’s salary is and what the reasoning behind it is, the theory is it’ll motivate them to continue improving their own job performance because they know what it takes to get to the next level.
It’s a bad idea because it’ll create jealousy and infighting among coworkers. Do you really want to know that not only are you the lowest-paid in your department, but that you’re the lowest-paid because of a seemingly measly reason? And while you may be curious to know what everyone else’s salary is, you probably don’t want them to know what you’re bringing home every two weeks. How much you get paid tends to be a private matter, and usually something you’d like to keep just between you and your employer.
For the most part — and this is concerning non-unionized jobs, as those tend to have a very clear and transparent pay scale in place — employers have opted not to tell all about how your and everyone else’s salaries are calculated. But sites like Glassdoor and PayScale have opened up the doors to salary transparency, giving employees everywhere a chance to get an honest look at how much their position is worth. These sites, and others, take into account the kind of position you’re working, the city you’re working in, how many years experience each salary roughly equates to, and the skills necessary to garner such a wage. And in turn, you’re better armed to walk into an interview and negotiate smartly and efficiently, rather than blindly accepting the first offer that comes your way.
Make This Work to Your Benefit
While all job seekers can benefit from knowing how to adjust their salary up before they even start the process of handing out resumes, salary transparency affects women in particular. They account for more than half of the non-tipped workforce, with the scales tipped even more lopsidedly in tipped environments. As well, women tend to be seen far more often than men in low-wage sectors (e.g. food and beverage, sales and retail, personal care and healthcare), and knowing what their true salary should be — they still make 77 cents to their male coworker’s dollar — will help them combat pay discrimination.
But before you start demanding a certain dollar amount, it’s imperative to do your research first. There’s no sense going in and asking for 50% more than what you think you’d be offered if your position just doesn’t pay that. What you want to do is check where you are within the percentile: if you’re around the midway point or higher, you’re doing okay and it wouldn’t make much sense to start negotiating for more. But if you’re below that, then you’ve got a pretty strong hand to move forward with. If that’s the case, then start making a list of your objective accomplishments so you have a leg to stand on, showing your prospective employer exactly why you’re worth the dollar figure you’re proposing (or current employer why you deserve a raise).
Remember, knowledge is power, and the more you can know about your salary and position in advance, the better equipped you’ll be to parry any employer’s deflections about why you should be getting less.