Your Questions Answered: How Do I Know What I'm Worth?

Raffi Sapire is a salary negotiation coach, entrepreneur and former venture capitalist based in New York. She delivers answers to personal negotiation questions to your inbox each week at NastyGap, and this week she’s answering questions from the #BUILTBYGIRLS community.


How do I know how much I'm worth based on my skills, certifications or grade level?

First, you need to know that there are two important numbers to identify before entering into a negotiation.

  1. Ask Number. This is your ideal, best case compensation package. It should feel slightly outrageous (hint: it is probably not!).

  2. TOB - This or Better. This is the minimum amount you are willing to accept before walking away to some other, more attractive opportunity. You want to always be increasing your TOB. You increase your TOB by interviewing for other jobs and getting other job offers.

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Going back to the question, "What do I ask for?" The Ask Number is the number you want to focus on. The biggest mistake I see is someone accepting a job as soon as it goes above their TOB. Your future employer also has a TOB. You want to get as close to your future employer’s TOB as possible.

Now here are 2 steps to help you define your numbers: 

Step One: Get the Title/Role
Your market value depends on the industry, your location, and your experience + the value the job brings to the company. First, look at the scope of responsibility, the title, and do your own market research on what the range of that salary is for someone in your city. Maybe you’re not sure what the title is. You could spend some time browsing Angel list for example, and when jobs resonate with you, you realize, “Oh, that is the job title and scope of responsibilities I want!”

Step Two: Do your Research
Do not anchor your new job salary to your current salary. Instead, use market research to identify a number

  1. Use Public databasesPayScaleAngelListGlassdoor, and Buffer are all good resources.

  2. Ask 5 peers in similar roles at other companies (do not only ask women!)

  3. Create your own compensation database using a professional community on Meetup, Google Groups, Hangout. Maybe you could send a survey to majors in your college, or alumni. Send an anonymous survey that collects Base, Bonus, Years Experience, City, Size of Company, Equity. It is important to collect information on *all* of the components of a package because research shows that it's so important for women to not only research our base salary, but also bonuses and any other pieces that are specific to your industry. One study analyzed the starting salaries negotiated by men and women who were entering the workforce after earning their MBAs. On average, women accepted salaries that were 6 percent lower on average than those negotiated by the men. That is already pretty dramatic - but the annual bonuses negotiated was even more surprising: Women’s were 19 percent lower than men’s on average. The main point? Don’t just do research for your base salary when figuring out what to ask for. 

Read more from Raffi here and subscribe to Dear Nasty.