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How To Ask For What You’re Worth

First of all, the whole concept of one person being “worth” more than another is profoundly disturbing. I’ve been to Mumbai and seen whole neighborhoods of children living in pipes.

Finance is a very crude discipline, yet it is a prism through which all human activity flows. Money is a way of keeping score, but it is certainly not the only way.

Still, we all have to live, and part of that living is asking for what you’re worth.

The best way to figure this out is to make some assumptions about what value you will produce for your employer, and how that value will be measured. As long as you “give back more than you take” you will be a net positive. Every buyer wants a bargain, and every seller wants a deal. So imagine you are the buyer.

What, at the end of the day, will you get for your money?

  • the ability to generate sales?
  • the ability to serve clients (who in turn generate sales)?
  • the ability to save more money than you cost?
  • the ability to just keep the lights on?

You guessed it –these are listed in order of “financial goodness”, and probably every hire is made for a combination of reasons.

Say you come up with a really big number, more than the “buyer” was anticipating. Put it out there, but insert the magic phrase, “This is what I would be comfortable earning two years from now, based on the following results (which you enumerate because you looked at the discussion from the buyer’s perspective). Can you help me get there?”

If your buyer looks faint at this point, the next best step is to offer to work three or four days a week for the lower rate. Or ask for every other Friday off.  Never give something away without getting something back.

The other key point is to make sure you are projecting (eg acting) the part. In improv, we focus on physicality, emotion, and tone of voice. Mice don’t make $50,000, and neither do pompous jerks. You want to walk into the room and make sure every piece of visual information matches whatever number you think, from the buyer’s point of view, is fair.

You are creating a believable world where your salary wish comes true.

Write and share your stories of asking or being asked for money. That way we can all learn.

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