Today’s blog post is from guest blogger Marzenna Almendro. We’re delighted to have Marzenna’s article feature on the Cerebral Wattage blog and hope to see more from this author in future posts! Check out Marzenna’s other work at:

If you don’t feel like you are being paid your worth, your motivation and enthusiasm towards work may dwindle. Rapidly. So how do you know if you are being remunerated fairly? What is fair? Perhaps you’re interviewing for a new role — when the dreaded question comes up “What are your salary expectations?” what is the appropriate response?

A friend of mine, let’s call her Susan, used to be one of the restaurant managers for a popular eatery in Johannesburg. Because the restaurant was rather large, opened for breakfast and closed late at night, two restaurant managers were in charge of the day to day operations. Their roles were identical — the only difference being that they rotated their shifts to ensure there was always one of them on duty.

One day, Susan stumbled upon her colleague’s payslip — let’s call him John. It probably wasn’t the “right” thing to do, but curiosity got the better of her and she wanted to know how much less — or more — John was earning in comparison to her.

Susan decided to take a peak and was left god-smacked when she learned that John was earning R 10 000 more than what she was — doing the identical job. She was in a dilemma: Should she approach her manager to ascertain why she was being paid so much less? What would be the consequences of doing that?

Ultimately, she decided that she needed to know, and her manager’s response was, “John negotiated better when I interviewed him.”

Susan resigned a month later.

It makes business sense to get the best candidate for the job — at the most competitive price. It certainly was not Susan’s employer’s fault if she was happy to work for the offer they made her.

How do we ensure we are getting paid what we “deserve”?

Every employable person has experienced at one point or another the anxiety that is common when negotiating their salary or fee. Whether you’re a full time employee / contractor on the market seeking work, or looking at applying for an internal position, here are a few tips to avoid any regrets:

  • No one will see your value if you don’t see it within yourself

Asking for money is unpleasant for most people. You often don’t want to ask for too little but you also want to be paid more than just “getting by”. At the end of the day, it comes down to how much you value your experience, your skill set, and ultimately yourself. If you don’t value yourself, it would be a near impossible feat to sell your value to someone else.

  • Research

With information at your fingertips, Google what the typical salary is for your profession, paying attention to your years of experience, your location in the country, as well as the economic climate. Be realistic.

  • Decide on a figure

Decide what your minimum worth is. What is the amount that you are willing to work for, that you are happy with, and can pay the bills … with a bit extra? After you have a figure that is aligned with what the market is willing to pay, add about 10% more to reach a final amount so that if you are negotiated down, you are still comfortably off. Otherwise, you will just be left resentful.

  • Never accept the first offer

Seasoned negotiators never accept the first offer; instead, they thrive on the “to-and-fro” process, and accepting the first offer robs them of this pleasure. Even if you think the offer is exceptional, chances are there is always room to negotiate a little further.

  • Money isn’t everything

Money, in my experience, is the most short term motivator. I saw it first hand when awarding an employee an increase, only to have to deal with the same recurrent issues I had with that person six months later as their motivation diminished quickly. Money only inspires one for so long. When seeking a new job, choose a job that speaks to what is important to you, and aligned with your values. If that’s working close to home, having flexibility to be with your family, having the opportunity to further your education — make an informed decision based on the pros and cons.