Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Because You’re Worth It…

"It's not that we're saying you're not WORTH it, we're just saying you might want to consider going in a bit lower, just for now."

I'll never forget that moment. 

The recruiter had acknowledged my achievements, confirmed I was in fact over-qualified for the role and that she was confident I would have a good experience with her client. Yet to ask for the range of money I had already been earning elsewhere? Surely I realised how lucky I had been and that this wasn’t something I could expect just anywhere? Surely I had to understand I would need to position myself lower, make compromises...

It was true, I remember thinking. I had enjoyed a stroke of luck as far as right place and time goes. Having just finished working for a brilliant and forward-thinking creative organisation, where hard work, loyalty and ambition was not only valued but rewarded, I was buzzing to take on the next adventure. Had it been easy? Of course not, it’s called hard work for a reason. Had the experience been worthwhile and incredibly rewarding? Most definitely, and it had allowed me to grow and polish a set of tools and experience I felt could lend themselves well moving forward.

Deciding to move on I had felt confident, inspired. But after a few interviews, with the increased pressure to accept what was apparently 'average' or 'normal', I started believing them, questioning myself. 

Was I being overly ambitious? Asking for more than I deserved? Was I positioning myself too high for my age/background/age/role/did-we-mention-age?

Eventually I agreed to take on a contracts at a much lower rates, explaining it by telling (convincing) myself (and others) the jobs sounded interesting on paper. I spent the next few months feeling like a bit of a fraud. Yes, the slumping savings account hurt, but the knock to my confidence was far worse.

Because it’s not just the cheque, is it. Along with the acknowledgement that I had to step down in order to move up came the other questions – Am I good enough to do this job? And if I am, why does my pay package suggest differently? Am I not working hard enough? Compromising enough? Am I speaking up too much? Showing too much initiative? Should I back down?

As I started believing, I could hear myself entering negotiations with “Well I was hoping to stay around X, but...”

Bad call.

Because if I walked into an interview openly offering to negotiate myself down, why would anyone hand me a freebie? “Oh no honey, of course you’re worth. I’ll just take it out of my own piggy bank!”

It took a year. 

I accepted longer term contracts and repeatedly apologised for my success record thus far, down-playing myself in order to fit the mould. But as it chipped away to my confidence  the other side of myself was getting fed up. The girl who had been taught from a young age to speak up if I wanted to be heard, to take chances if I wanted to move forward, to work hard and dream big...

So a year later I sat at a lunch meeting discussing a job offer, and the man ‘interviewing’ me asked about what sort of rates I charged (I was still officially freelance, which can mean a lot or very little depending on your employer). I blurted out a number. It was higher than anything I’d earned before, but if I'm honest still a little lower than what I expect a confident man going for the same position might have asked for. He didn’t bat an eye - just nodded, jotted it down and said that sounded workable.

I’m sure it wasn’t by any means the highest he’d been quoted for the job, but I also didn’t walk away feeling I had sold myself short.

The next time I received the same response, and the next, and, well, you get the idea. 

Sure, freelancing has involved a crash course in learning how to price and negotiate for myself, but the bottom line was always about having the confidence to say, “This is what I do, this is what I bring to the table, and this is what it costs.”

A while later I was back in a recruitment agency for a ‘touch base’ meeting. The same advise was handed out, and I knew then I could never find a place to grow somewhere I was being asked to shrink down.

Now please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying all young people should go out there and demand the world with nothing to back them up. Heavens knows that happens too, and sometimes when you’re told that your experience doesn’t match your rates you might need to consider there could be truth to the statement.

However, don’t ever let anyone convince you to feel less than you’re worth. Women, in particular, I find adhere to this a lot. We are told our qualifications and results are great, but yet there seems to be an odd sentiment of encouraging the candidates to ‘know their place’ and expect less simply because that’s the done thing.

When it comes to your worth never sell yourself short. Because it isn’t just a salary, a rate, a price tag. You’re telling them what you are worth, how much you believe in yourself. At the end of the day it is up to you to PROVE your worth and ASK for the rewards. No one is obliged to do that for you. 

Equally they won’t judge you for standing up for yourself –  after all, how could you convince a potential employer that you'll be capable of standing up and negotiating on behalf of their company if you can’t even do it for yourself, your number one asset?

So to anyone out there being told to sell yourself short, take a long look in the mirror. Are you worth more? Go, ask for it, regain your confidence, say it with intention. Never stop proving you’re worth it with hard work and results, but equally don’t apologise for your achievements. 

And for good measure... It was Equal Pay day yesterday. Women on average still earn 78 p to every man's dollar in the US.  In the UK that's 85 cents to a man's pound. 

It's 2015. Get out there, know your worth and don't be afraid to ask for more. 


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