What am I worth?

This has been something on my mind lately. Admittedly, a lot. It’s about my monetary value when it comes to jobs. I am currently a visiting scholar, a board member on a state chapter of an international organization, a gifted parent education liaison for a local school district, and on the planning committee for three conferences. All of this I love, but none of it is paid. I know my work is important, but really, when it comes to jobs, what am I worth?

We all wonder that. Here in the United States it’s taboo and considered rude to discuss salary. I’m going to break this taboo today, so avert your eyes, my American friends! Or look and you may just learn something.

In 2002, my first salaried job was as assistant manager at a retail clothing store for teens. They decided I was worth $25,000 per year.

In 2004, at my second job, a for-profit university decided, as a financial aid counselor, I was worth $22,000, but agreed to match my salary at the time after 90 days.

In 2006, my third job, which I got just after graduating with my Bachelor’s, was as a financial aid assistant doing data entry and answering questions at a private university. They tagged me at $31,000.

When I left this university in 2012 after being there for six years, a promotion, and earning a Master’s degree, I made just over $40,000. I was a Financial Aid Coordinator.

In 2016, just before graduation with my PhD, I applied for a director position. I was called by the person doing the hiring. They suggested I apply for a coordinator position. The top salary they could offer me: $32,000 per year.

Now, today, in 2017, I am applying for jobs and have been for the past six months. I am being selective, only applying for jobs where I can get behind the role and the mission of the organization. I am getting turned down for jobs without an interview. Jobs I get offered are without pay, but “will be good experience” or “resume builders”. The worst (unsolicited) offer I received was to write courses for someone in exchange for resume tweaking and “LinkedIn optimization”.

I’m 34 years-old. I have been working full-time since I was 16. I have completed two internships, three degrees, and am wicked smart. I am creative, personable, and have a sharp talent for seeing problems in plans way ahead of time. Why is it so challenging to get an interview, or to get a job offer, or to get the salary I deserve?

But what is it I deserve? A recent chat with someone had placed my worth at significantly less than my husband’s, even though we have similar length of experience and I have two advanced degrees.

In all of these experiences, is there a bias because I’m a woman? You bet. I don’t imagine people would feel comfortable doing or saying these things to a man. But how do I get what I deserve?

Are you getting what you deserve? Maybe not. I heard employers will pay you one-fifth of what you’re worth to them. Do not sell yourself short. Trust me, they’re still getting a deal. Stand up for what you deserve.

For me, maybe I’ll give the job hunt a break, but something inside says maybe I’d miss that really awesome job I would love. For now, I’ll just keep working on what I love and when that paid offer arrives, I won’t accept anything less than what I deserve.


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