Building Your Street Cred to Get the Salary You Deserve

Once you know how to earn credibility in a job environment, you can ask for - and earn - the money you deserve.

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Building Your Street Cred to Get the Salary You Deserve
Image credit: Thomas Barwick | Getty Images
VIP Contributor
CEO and Author of Career Rehab
6 min read
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The following excerpt is from Kanika Tolver’s book Career Rehab. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

According to the Macmillan Dictionary, “street cred” means “respect or admiration among young fashionable people, especially in a city.” In urban communities, people are seeking validation from their peers or people beneath them in the social pecking order. Individuals with street cred have nice cars, clothes and a strong influence on how people think and feel.

This is similar to the corporate world, where professionals look up to industry leaders and their managers for their accomplishments, salaries or job titles. But here’s something I’ve learned over the years about the concept of “credibility:” We’re seeking it from other people when it should come from ourselves.

Corporate credibility is about you validating your marketability by selling yourself into new opportunities. You did the work, developed new skills and expanded your network. But always remember self-credibility starts with you clapping for yourself. Too often, professionals seek outside validation and start to lose sight of what they want for themselves because they’re focusing on what they think others want for them.

As professionals, we have to know our worth if we want to get paid fairly and treated equally at all times. You’re not rehabbing your career to get lowballed and disrespected — you’re doing it to create limitless opportunities for your personal brand. That’s what corporate credibility is all about.

Related: How to Work the Room Like a Network Hustler

Money: Know your worth

For some professionals, asking for more money is a touchy subject. Most professionals feel validated simply when they get a job offer. But when you don’t see yourself as just an employee but as a brand, you’ll always know your career worth. The best way to define your career worth is by getting the salary and benefits you feel you deserve.

When I interviewed for IT roles, I viewed myself much like an all-star athlete, a Grammy Award-winning musician, or an Emmy Award-winning actress, since I’d worked hard to earn my college degree and certifications and to become an industry expert through challenging career experiences. Salary counteroffers were normal in my industry. They’re almost like a bidding war — musicians, actors and athletes negotiate for more money when they sign contracts, and career professionals should do the same. If you know your worth, you can take steps to get the money you deserve.

Most professionals focus mainly on their annual base salary when negotiating their job offers, but there are a few other ways to get the money you deserve. You can always negotiate the following monetary incentives in your job offer package. Here are five ways to get more money in the deal:

  • Annual base salary. In most cases, aim for a $10,000 to $15,000 pay increase when you’re interviewing for new roles.
  • Paid time off (PTO). You’ll earn PTO hours for each pay period. With more experience, you may be able to get a few more hours per pay period. For instance, if most new employees earn six hours per pay period, see if you can get eight or nine hours instead.
  • Annual training budget. Always ask if the company pays for professional training classes each year. This will save you money on training that will help enhance your personal brand.
  • Performance bonuses. Some organizations offer a performance bonus structure that gives high-performing professionals a monetary bonus.
  • Relocation costs. Companies that have larger hiring budgets can pay relocation fees for new hires when they’re moving from another state for the job. This is awesome because it can cover packing your items, the cost of moving your household and your vehicle, unpacking your items at the other end, real estate transaction costs and turning on your utilities.

Related: Preparing for Showtime: The Job Interview

Before negotiating your next offer package, be sure to do your homework by using one of the top free salary comparison tools (according to FitSmallBusiness) on Indeed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Salary.com, PayScale and LinkedIn Salary. Check these sites out to compare what you’re earning now with what you want to earn. With all the work you are putting into building your personal brand, it’s important to use salary comparison tools so you won’t get lowballed.

Ask for what you deserve

Once you’ve validated your corporate credibility by building a solid personal brand, it’s time to get the pay you deserve. But even after using salary comparison tools, most professionals still don’t feel comfortable asking for more money. Glassdoor reports that 68 percent of women don’t negotiate pay, compared to around 52 percent of men.

Related: Why You Need to Start Dating Jobs

Don’t let your age, gender, or race dictate your counteroffer — pay should be based only on your professional qualifications. If you’re interviewing for a company and you feel you’re not getting a fair job offer, then the company probably does not value diversity and equality in general. One way to make sure you’re getting what you deserve in an offer is to validate the key deal points before you counter. Here are four ways to validate your job offer:

  • Location. The cost of living where you’re located increases or decreases your annual salary.
  • Years of professional experience. The length of your career will measure whether you deserve a junior or a senior-level salary.
  • Professional certifications. The number of professional certifi­cations you hold determines whether you qualify as an expert.
  • Education. Your college degrees always add value to your expertise as a professional.

When you know your worth in those terms, you’ll be willing to walk away from job offers that don’t make sense. Professionals who really have strong corporate credibility are willing to pass up a lowballed job offer, because they have respect for their own personal brand. They have career power, and they know they control their career trajectory.

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