Employers often determine the salary of a position, and the corresponding title based on a number of factors, such as responsibility level, market pay, qualifications necessary to be successful in the role, return on investment & where the role falls in the hierarchy of the field, industry or organization. When it’s time to grow remember that your confidence level needs to match the categorical employment tier of the role you are seeking.
Often times I meet with clients who are ready for growth, and I always start the conversation off with “what is your salary goal for your next role”. It Is not uncommon that I get someone who is making $35k and their response is “I want to make 6 figures”. My philosophy remains the same on each call, I never tell a client that their salary goal is too ambitious. I always tell them that the market will determine rather or not their salary goal is realistic. I go straight to my favorite job board and proceed to source positions across multiple industries that pay $100k. I look at the titles, the companies, the responsibilities, and the qualifications. Page after page, no position fits their qualifications, so I start to drop the salary down by $10k until I start seeing what the market has their skill & education level priced at. Here is a position that pays $60k and you are qualified for it! I send them the role and ask, “what do you think”?
That’s when the hesitancy comes, they often say things like “I don’t know about this”, “you think more highly of me than I think of myself”, “how am I qualified for this”, “I would not have looked twice at this position”. So, you mean to tell me you wanted $100,000 a year but you are intimidated by the $60,000 a year positions? I proceed to explain exactly how they are qualified for the said role and typically they say, “okay let’s target roles like this”. Then I work hard writing the resume, I excitedly send the resume and they say “I didn’t do any of this”. This always gets me because in most cases all I have done was reworded what they did to align with what the vacancy they will be targeting asks for.
“Up-sells products & services to meet sales goals”
Their new resume:
“Conducts root cause analysis to identify customer pain points then uses internal product knowledge to recommend products & solutions that solve the customers stated & unstated needs”
You did do that rather you realized you did it or not, and if this wasn’t the process that you used when “up-selling” and you just randomly offered products and services to the customer to meet a sales goal maybe you aren’t qualified for positions that pay $60k.
Once you leave the $49k range and creep into the $55k+ salary band you are no longer at an entry-level pay so the vacancy advertising the posting will include more complex jargon, the employer will expect you to understand how your contributions relate to the bottom line. After all, you are asking to be introduced to “mid-level” employment and your task is to demonstrate entry-level mastery for your field or industry.
So, I ask “how did you decide what products & services to up-sell to the customer”.
The client: “well I look at their account and like for example if I see they keep going over on data usage then I will recommend they upgrade to the different package to save money”.
I merely restated the client's process from a competency-based perspective using the competencies listed in the qualifications & responsibilities of the vacancy the client wants to apply for. There is this $100k appetite paired with the confidence of a contributor that makes minimum wage. If your lack of confidence bleeds into the resume writing process just imagine how it will ooze out in the interview. The interview is like the first date! What candidates often fail to realize is that employers want confident candidates. You can meet all the requirements on paper but if you don’t believe it neither will the recruiter.
In fact, it’s far more complex than that. Recruiters and hiring managers assess the demand of the business, the client base, the internal culture, and how the company wants to be viewed by the general public. Have you ever spoke to a customer service representative that just didn’t sound like they knew what they were talking about? How confident did you feel speaking with them? Did you feel that they were competent enough to solve your problem?
As you seek out more complex higher-paying opportunities it is critical that you have the confidence and the courage to perform in the role. Employers overwhelmingly would rather hire a candidate that is missing a few of the qualifications than someone who has all of the qualifications and no confidence.
Often times the lack of confidence is related to IMPOSTER SYNDROME. Imposter Syndrome is the phrase used to describe a person who questions their abilities to the point that they feel like a fraud and fear that someone is going to pull the rug from under them. It causes candidates to overlook opportunities that they are 100% qualified for, makes them feel like they are lying on their resume or in the interview despite their ambitious salary goals. Those with severe imposter syndrome even question if they will be fired after being in their roles for years, for lying or misrepresenting themselves even when they have not.
If you go into your interview and reduce yourself to “just an administrative assistant” that’s exactly what you will get in return. If you go into an interview fully embodying yourself as an Administrative Professional who supports executive operations by ensuring all obligations are fulfilled on time, under budget, in compliance, and at the capacity outlined by executive leadership you will be viewed as a project manager, operations manager or more.
Ask yourself what part your role plays in the grand scheme of the entire operation. Would the company be able to exist if your role did not exist? You are more than “just a”, just a customer service professional, no you are the voice of the customer, you capture critical data needed to refine operations and improve the user experience which directly drives retention. Regardless of your title or pay you to hold the power and ability to market yourself so long as you understand how your experience prepared you to perform in your next role and have the confidence to make a compelling business case by way of your resume & interview.
The truth is you don’t even have to understand it to be qualified, sometimes you need an intervention to assess the qualification itself. You can do this through research by asking managers, and cross-functional workgroups how the work that you do impacts the organization as a whole or how it impacts more complex operations. Be bold enough to confront your imposter syndrome. Is your name on that degree? Did you really work at that company or was somebody else showing up every day pretending to be you?
I’d be doing you a disservice if I lead you to believe that some of your imposter syndrome isn't justified. Some of your imposter syndrome is directly linked to the fact that you don’t know what is next, you don’t understand how your current experience relates to your “dream job”, you’ve never stopped to look at your employment data to identify the trends that define what you like the most, where you perform the best, where you fall short, and you lack the ability to assess what you have, what you’re missing and how you will strategically collect the experience needed to fill those gaps as it relates to short & long term career goals.
Your career is a journey of self and professional development, you don’t stop developing after graduation or after one raise/promotion. You career will inevitably be linked to your overall happiness, it’s one of your main sources of income and the place where you will spend most of your time.
Everybody is capable of obtaining fulfillment in their career, it won’t be perfect but it can sure as hell be much more than misery, discomfort, and the root of unhappiness. There is literally something for everyone, different companies have different cultures, values, and beliefs. Some value education, some value experience, some value a combination of both, some are conservative, some are liberal, some are passion-based. The opportunities are endless and as we travel on our career journeys the goal should always be using data from our experiences to refine and improve our approach, each move we make should be more fulfilling, more rewarding, and strategic with the intent of accomplishing something that will make us better.
This is why it is critical that all professionals seek career coaching, planning, or counseling regularly throughout their careers, starting the summer before their junior year for optimal results. Better late than never after all preparation is the key to success! Whatever you invest in will yield a return.