Career advice: Know your own worth

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Achieving your dreams and working towards your goals is a lifelong pursuit.  It can be much harder than you assumed, and it’s natural to feel impatient or stuck at times.  But the worst thing you can do is give up or settle.  It may be about the journey, not the destination, but that doesn’t mean you should stop trying to get where you want to be.

Some of the most common reasons people settle for less than they deserve include a tendency to feel overly grateful for opportunities (especially since the recession), wanting to be appreciative of what they have instead of complaining about what they don’t, and judging themselves on their mistakes instead of their accomplishments.  All of these habits are part of trying to be a better person, but if taken too far, they turn into unhealthy behavior.  Unfortunately, women have been shown to be prone to succumbing to some of these habits.  Studies show women still make significantly less than men, and a huge reason behind this inequity is their avoidance of negotiating.  Of standing up and saying, “This is what I can do and you’re lucky to have me.”  They don’t know what they are worth and wait for someone to come along and tell them.

The most damaging thing you can do is doubt yourself.  To assume you haven’t gotten what you wanted because you are not worthy and never can or will be. You stop seeing yourself and your own value clearly. But success is based on many factors, including timing and luck. Here are a few tips on knowing your own worth in the workplace, and realizing how much you have to offer the world.

Be Determined

You have the right to earn what you want. Be proactive and persistent. If you are given a chance to pitch a proposal for a new project and it’s rejected, try and come at the idea from a new angle.  Do more research, ask for feedback, rework your presentation and try again.  Even if your boss did not ask for a second pitch, offer it anyway.  If you interview for a company you really want to work for and don’t get the job, beef up your resume with some new skills or experiences and try again.  Show them your determination, your flexibility, and your passion.  Remind yourself what you love about the work, why you choose it, and focus on that instead of yourself.  Forget the past (unless it’s to learn from it), and don’t take rejection personally.  Remember that there may be a lot of reasons you don’t get what you want on the first try that have nothing to do with your value.  Know that you ARE good at your chosen profession, and even more importantly, that you’ll keep working and adjusting until you become the best.

Keep Track of your Accomplishments

Start a work journal. At the end of every day, write down what you accomplished, completed, or even just tried.  This includes giving feedback to a coworker on their project, especially if they used your ideas and valued your judgement.  At the end of every month, look back and take it all in.  See how often your hard work and input helped your company reach its goals.   Look at what you’ve done, not what is left to do, because the latter keeps growing and will never end.  Just focus on the next step. Judge your work on your efforts and accomplishments and not your rewards.  Then when you begin to notice the quality of your performance improving and peaking over time, you’ll be inspired to start a dialogue and ask for the rewards you now know you deserve.

Check the Facts

If you feel guilty asking for more money because of the state of the economy, because you don’t want to be seen as ungrateful or demanding, or because you simply have no clue how much your skills and experience are worth in the current market, do some research.  Look to see what people in your field make and what responsibilities the position usually includes.   You might be surprised to find you make significantly less than you could or do a lot more then you are expected to, given your title or compensation.

Take that horrible habit we have of comparing ourselves to others and use it to your advantage. There are many online sites you can use to check, including’s “Salary Index”,’s “Salary Search”, PayScale’s website, Monster’s salary wizard and their Career benchmarking section, and the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook . If you’re really curious you can reach out to others in your industry that you trust, tell them what you do and how much you make, and then find out if they think that’s reasonable. Never ask them what they make – that’s bad form – but they may be willing to give you some much needed perspective.

See Yourself Clearly

People treat you the way you think you deserve to be treated. What you accept and encourage.  The more you want something, the more you assume everyone else wants it, and the more you feel grateful that you got it when they didn’t.  It never occurs to you that THEY are lucky to get you as an employee.  That although everyone wants to do it, they were thrilled to find someone as good at your job as you are.  That you are considered a prize.

A good way to start is by developing daily Affirmations and Visualization techniques for yourself. Some examples are:

  • “My boss isn’t any better than I am. He/she is just another person in this world and I am just as good as they are.”

  • “I deserve that job or promotion just as much as any other applicant.”

  • Picture yourself in the new position you want, doing the work you know you could do if given the chance.

  • Picture, down to the detail, what your normal day will be like when you’ve achieved your next goal.  Where you’ll live, what your routine at work will be like, and what you’ll have to talk about socially when you are proud of what you do.

Challenge Yourself

Last but never least, keep pushing yourself.  A big reason that many people feel stuck or mediocre comes from falling into a rut, waiting to be noticed.  If you do the same level and kind of work everyday and expect a new and different result you may be disappointed.  Challenging yourself by doing new things you aren’t sure you’ll do well can be satisfying on two levels.  It will help prove to yourself how much you are capable of, and help you prove to your boss or prospective employer what an asset you are.  Even if you fail the first time, try again, and think about what trying says about your dedication, openness to possibilities, and ability to learn.

Remember you are unique, nobody can do anything exactly the same way you can, and know just how special that is.