Career Success: "Fair" Compensation - And Can You Get It?
Career Success: "Fair" Compensation - And Can You Get It?
Financial compensation (salary/wages) might not be the only measurement you use to determine whether you’re in a good place in terms of career success, but it’s often one of the top factors you look at. If you’re out of work and looking or considering a move from your current job for some reason, you’re probably including compensation as something to think about.

It’s a complex situation and one that’s compounded by trends in hiring and retaining employees. Whether you’re at or near the top of the management rung or much farther down the hierarchy, it’s an issue that can and likely will affect your choices and your future well-being in one way or another.


We’ve been hearing for a long time about a “skills gap.” (For a rebuttal on that, see Ask The Headhunter’s recent post.) However, what if you have strong skills but still can’t land a job–or at least not one that pays you a reasonable living wage?

I was interested in finding out more after I read the ATH post, so I checked out the Pew Charitable Trusts article it referenced and read the entire piece. Among other things, what you’re good at, know well, and maybe have substantial experience in doesn’t necessarily track with what you can achieve as far as compensation goes. And education is only part of it, so getting more education isn’t necessarily the answer.

The compensation that employers can’t afford to pay–or in many cases won’t pay–presents many job seekers with a conundrum: How can I get a job within reasonable distance of my home that pays enough to support me and my family?

According to one survey mentioned in the article, reasons for difficulty in finding workers were multi-faceted: “a lack of applicants with the right skills was one reason. But there were many others, including location, low wages and undesirable shifts.”

Another factor was that employers really wanted employees with work experience in a similar role. As the article said, “The focus on work experience suggested that employers were being too picky. They wanted to hire someone who could be fully productive on day one. But at the same time they weren’t willing or able to pay enough to attract that perfect candidate.”


Those of you who are in the senior management/executive ranks already know that competition is stiff partly because there are fewer opportunities at that level. However, if your experience and expertise are in demand, you can often negotiate your way to a fair compensation package. Other job seekers might be less fortunate or less well positioned to achieve that outcome.

If you’re in the “less fortunate” category, what can you do to increase your odds of getting a job with fair compensation? Of course, there’s no easy answer! For some job seekers–particularly at lower levels–it’s a tough road with a lot of roadblocks.

One approach that’s at least worth trying involves cooperating with other people who face similar challenges and working toward your common goal. I don’t mean establish a formal organization–just a collaborative relationship.

Other factors might be beyond your ability to exert much leverage. It appears increasingly obvious (as the Pew Trust article pointed out) that many employers are either blindly or willfully sticking with hiring practices that contribute heavily to their inability to fill positions. The skills gap is real in some cases, but it’s far from a one-size-fits-all explanation.

As I said earlier, education isn’t always the answer; however, in one way it makes sense to look at some form of this as a tool to increase the odds in your favor. Never stop learning, but don’t limit your self-education to a formal academic program. Sometimes “work smarts” can be gained in non-traditional ways and be more effective in the long run.