not for students for graduates for beginners for professionals not for executives


In my recent post, I stated that I want to focus more on individual competences. To motivate the topic a bit, I would like to start off today with something very practical: How to improve your salary. 

Understanding your own value

The salary you earn is based on several factors

  1. The perceived value for your work
  2. The company or business branch you are working at
  3. The region you are working in
  4. Your ranking of competences and your skill set  for this particular position
  5. The job position

Depending on those five different aspects, it is quite easily to understand why you earn what you earn. Let us discuss each aspect on its own and try to analyse how you can succeed in finding a higher salary.


Figure 1: Distribution of a jobs income by different companies

The statistic of your job

Every job has a certain range of expected salary. It is related to the requirements you have to fulfill and how much value it delivers. However, you can easily check what others earn. There are websites like glassdoor that have some statistics about job salaries. If you manage to find statistics, you will have a feeling how the overall distribution of the salare for your position is. In Figure 1 this might be the green overall curve. In the company you are working in, the distribution might be different. Rarely, I asked what other people earn in comparison and they are open from time to time.

You cannot use this specific information for discussion but you know where others are and what is possible. If you are already on the upper edge, it is sometimes difficult to discuss payments. So let us assume that you are working for company A. Then you can just move along the red distribution and the likelihood for a increase will get smaller. Too improve your salary you have to evaluate your relative chances. In the case above it is easier to get to a certain higher salary by company C (yellow) than company B (blue). However, it will get more difficult to get into company C. The best chance is to apply at both companies and take the better offer. You can always say no and it is a free market – so why not use it?

Perceived value

One of the first items you can check is whether your work is appreciated in a way that is also reflected by your income. This does not mean that you have to ask yourself whether you are competent in your job – just if you create a benefit for your company that can be summarized in a money equivalent.

Where have you optimzied processes? What did it save? Did you have a good idea that was included in the business? Did it expand the market? Try to find suitable numbers by educate guessing and then take it as a base for your salary discussion with your boss. Even, if he or she is blocking, you can take another leap and ask what you would have to do to get a raise of e.g. 10 %. If they cannot answer this or are blocking here as well, honestly, you can move on to another department or company.

The company and business branch

A certain industry or business branch pays a higher salary than another. It might be good to look into industries. For example, maybe you can switch from a food oriented industry to a automotive industry. They are paying better, but might be more demanding. Try to think here a bit out of the box and track similar job offers on portals but without you sticking in your comfort zone. Think out of the box, see your experience from one industry as a addition and a possibility to reflect on another industry. Sell this as your asset for the company. It will give you a good chance of the winning edge.

Your work region

The bigger the city, the more likely it is that you are paid more but the expences might increase in similar matter. In the end, your gain in salary could be eaten up by your daily expenses. This one is very tricky and you should think hard of adapting your budgets in a very mild manner when you get the bigger paycheck. Estimate your spendings and recalculate your budget for the new situation. Include the moving costs and time spent for getting into the new region. 

Also, even if you do not move. Do not forget that time is your most important good. If you are stock daily three hours in traffic jam, you might lose more life quality and time than worth it. Budget your traveling time as oppurtunity costs into your budgeting. It can be an eye opener.

Competences and skills

On this part you have to be honest with your own: Is the competence you have in expectation of your job? This means: Are you good enogh? How good are you? 

Here a problem is sometimes occuring: Selfawareness can trick you in both directions. You can either think you are far better than you are and you can think you are far worse than you are. You have to put up some intelligence by asking your collegues where your weaknesses are for your job. If the statistics show that you can learn still a bit, you should. Since you are already in the position, you can directly concentrate on practical training. 

If you really need then to have a hard fact that you are advancing, you will need some kind of official certification to give you credibility. Certificates have the benefit of giving you external credbility. As well, you can show that you are willing to learn and progress in your art or trade. Here the message of progression is very important: You are still passionated about what you do and are still interested to learn. Most people are not and that is an asset. In some cases, it is already enough to make a small two or three day seminar to show good will to keep up with time. Usually, you can also cut taxes from the seminars cost. The best case is to let your current company pay your education. But even if they do not have budget for it, you can use your money to pay on your own because it is an invest and usually these pay manyfold back.

With better skills and education, it is more likely to jump into better positions for salary discussions and for finding better paid positions at other companies. But it takes more time to invest the training into yourself. So, do not underestimate the long-term planing on compentence gaining. Take your personal improvement into your own hands.

Another job

A very last point is that you might just have a bad job picked. Not by company or business branch or your competence level – just by what you are doing.  In Figure 1, this relates to the green curve. How about if the curve is very bad for example if you are a gardener but you have the skills for an engineer. Then, try to be an engineer or try to find a job that reflects a similar job description as what you are doing right now(gardener) but is paid better (landscape architect). Again, reflect, think out of the box. Adapt. 



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