Jessie looked at the contract offering her a new job. She was very excited to finally have found this opportunity. She looked at the figure on offer as her package and other benefits stated. While she had an idea of the salary scales for this type of role in the market, she was not sure if this was a fair offer or not, and if she was worth more. Jack in another part of the world was grappling with a slightly different career context, but the same issue of needing to define what he was worth. He was due for a performance review that could either result in promotion or a job search, maybe a career transition. John wanted to prepare well, but he was not sure of how best to assess, represent and communicate his worth.
Each of us has been faced, at some point, with the need to define: What am I worth in Career Terms? This is a critical component of the career planning step, self-knowledge. Career here is defined as the sum of all the work you do and roles you hold, both paid and unpaid, as well as capturing any learning you may be doing. What would the measures be?
For any product or service on the market, there is an attached value. Value could be in terms of cost of the product or service, social status symbol, brand association, sector recognition awards or quality stamp etc. In the same way, you, the product in the labour market, you have a value that can be quantitative or qualitative in nature that is also exchangeable for a certain value. Knowing this value is critical for many reasons. These include, having self-confidence about your worth, the ability to communicate this value to others, as leverage in any work related transaction or negotiation. Other benefits include, you can monetize your value, it helps you build your brand and profile, as well as assist you in positioning yourself in the job market.
5 Areas to Assess Your Worth in Career terms
Below are 5 areas that you can use to assess yourself and answer the question of your worth in career terms. Please note that this is from your perspective, but to be more objective, you could triangulate your self-assessment with 360 degree feedback from other people who know you and your work, as well as benchmarking yourself against market indicators/criteria.
Knowledge, Education and Training – What do I know?
We invest a lot in our education and training so that we are assessed and accredited as knowing something in both theoretical and sometimes practical terms. The world of work also recognizes and rewards us based on the qualifications we have and what we know. Every job or position outlines a set of education qualifications you need to have, competencies you need to be able to demonstrate and desired knowledge areas. This external standard of measuring your eligibility for anything is a measure and benchmark you can use to assess your worth. There is also what you know from life experience, which should be valued knowledge and skills, so factor that in as well. Furthermore, by continuously learning and upskilling to remain relevant, advance in your position, you can increase “your value”.
Skills – What can I do?
A skills assessment will be able to tell you which skills are your strengths and the experience you have is useful in helping you assess the level of expertise you have in their use. The commonly used four levels are: novice (just starting out), practitioner (having practical experience), expert (deeply knowledgeable) and master (expert and able to teach, mentor and coach others). There are three core clusters of skills that we need to be successful in our lives and careers. These are:
- Technical work skills are those skills you have that enable you to perform to a satisfactory or excellent level in a work area, and this is ascribed a certain value in the world of work.
- Soft/essential skills are interpersonal and relational skills that allow you to work with others successfully e.g. teamwork, communication etc. These are assessed as part of interviews, performance reviews etc and ascribed a value as well.
- Personal management skills such as planning, organising, time management, resilience, health and wellness practices are increasingly factored into assessment of job candidates, performance reviews of employees and they are ascribed a value. For example, if your emotional intelligence is low, this is identified as a development area as this impacts teamwork, self-management and leadership ability.
All the above can be transferable skills meaning they are applicable from one context to the next, which is also an important area of self-assessment. You may not have experience in a specific context, but you have skills that can be transferred, moved from one experience and applied to another. We often shortchange ourselves here, by not valuing and packaging what we learn in our life experiences.
Experience and Exposure – What have I done and Where?
Experience is what we showcase as what we have done and are able to repeat or adapt to different situations. This is our “product promise” as well as value proposition to employers, in partnerships and to our own clients. The more we develop knowledge, skills, experience in an area we either confer upon ourselves or others recognize us as experts, which increases our value. There are also variations in experience assessment. These are depth, breadth, multi-disciplinary, multi-country and cross-sector experience.
In the assessment area, what you have done is strengthened by where you have done it. Exposure is something that people take for granted, but it has a huge bearing in assessing your worth. There is a difference between someone who has never travelled and one who has done so and interacted with people from other countries. Here one would be considering: digital exposure; physical travel and knowledge of other locations and in the same country, as well as abroad; cultural exposure is now key in diverse workplaces with people from different countries, exposure to different work or schooling settings etc. Cultural competence has become very important in a globally networked world where workplaces have diverse people and business is done with people form different countries and cultures.
Network value and Recognition – Who do I know and Who recognises my value?
There is an adage that says: show me your friends and I will tell you who you are. We can modify this to say: show me your social and professional network and I will tell you what you’re worth. Who we know, on personal terms, those key contacts that proactively unlock opportunities or listen to our requests for help, they are part of your value.
Those who know us and recognize our knowledge, skills, abilities, and expertise, and proactively refer and vouch for us, they can also be counted towards our worth. This is because recognition is the social proof, beyond yourself, that you are worth something to those who confer that status upon you. Additionally, awards that you have received are also a measure of your worth that you can talk about.
Quantitative Benchmarking – How much is your time and expertise worth per hour, day, month or year?
This is last assessment area can be quantified. This means quantifying your total worth in monetary terms, that is, the combined value of your time, knowledge, skills, expertise and network value per hour rate, day rate, plus monthly or annual package. Despite our values and politics, in a world mostly driven by capitalist measures, this is a very important measure. We know its important, but most of us are socialized to be humble about this aspect, wait to be conferred a value in figure terms and not negotiate for what we are truly worth. This latter statement should be read through the lens of age, race, ethnicity, gender, education, background and other diversity differences. You should know for yourself the self-limiting beliefs and structural issues that impact your quantitative benchmarking and work through these.
Some practical ways of knowing how much your time and expertise are worth if you are in an economy that does not assess payment value based on hourly rate:
- If you have little or no work experience, review entry level roles you qualify for, then divide the salary and benefits package (quantitative figure) by a 40-hour work week to get an approximate hourly rate. This will increase the more you gain in skills, experience, training, networks and exposure.
- For those with various levels of work experience, take your most recent salary and benefits package (quantitative figure) and divide it by a 40-hour work week to get an approximate hourly rate. For a day rate you multiply your hourly rate by 5-8 hours depending on what is considered productive work hours, excluding breaks, in your context.
NB: these hourly and daily rates need to then be benchmarked against several external market variables, such as your economic environment, professional association rates, salary scales in the market etc. This is important to ensure you do not undervalue or overvalue yourself.
I know this now seems technical, but there is so much value tangible and intangible value in this exercise and having this information. This means when you search for a job, you have a level you are aiming for, you can also negotiate contracts, from an informed position. This also helps you make decisions about how you use your time, and the causes you decide to gift your time to.
As part of developing our careers and navigating the world of work, we try to capture and communicate our worth in various ways. These include CVs/Resumes, LinkedIn Profiles, Twitter timelines, Instagram feeds, Facebook posts, Youtube Channels or in Podcasts, in the tangible work we do, in interviews or reviews, using the written word, through conference or event presentations, webinars and other platforms. Each of these offer us an opportunity to put our best foot forward to achieve career success. However, to do this, first you need to be able to answer well the question: What am I Worth in Career Terms? I hope this blog is a useful resource in that regard.
Ennie Chipembere, Career Coach and Learning Expert
LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ennie-chipembere-chikwema/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/EnnieCareerCoach/