The #1 question I’m asked from my career coaching clients is “what salary can I expect”.  Clients deserve to know before they start their job search. Not knowing their expected compensation creates huge anxiety for my clients.

However, you can’t simply go to Glassdoor, LinkedIn, or other job boards.  If you do, they will provide you with a massively wide range.

Therefore, let’s discuss ways you can accurately discover your value in the marketplace.

Accurate salary discovery seems impossible

Because more companies are going in-house with recruiting, there are fewer 3rd party recruiters with accurate information.  Along with state restrictions limiting the ability of a future employer to ask a candidate’s salary history, you can’t just discover your expected salary with a simple phone call.

I did a quick LinkedIn search for an NYC based “Director” and discovered:

  • Investment Banker: $250-$400K
  • Solutions Architect: $165-$250K
  • Social Media Marketing: $150-$275K

However, how can you (post-COVID) plan where to live, where to send your kids to school, what car to drive, etc. with these salary ranges?

It seems like an impossible nut to crack.

Accurate salary discovery is actually really easy

By having a handful of strategic networking conversations, you can easily determine your estimated market value. You conduct strategic networking conversations when you want to learn information, any information including expected salary.

In my 3 part blog series on networking, I describe specific steps you can take to find and speak with targeted professionals with whom you share a commonality – university, former employer, and LinkedIn 2nd connections.

Leveraging LinkedIn to speak with professionals who have the target position in your target industry, you can ask the tough questions.

Yes, even the salary question.  However, not just salary, but the whole compensation structure.

  • Base
  • Cash Bonus
  • Other incentives (stock options, restricted units, etc.)

Since the goal of a strategic networking conversation is information only, discussing salary is a perfect topic.

However, be careful. You don’t want to ask or imply you are asking about the professional’s salary.  You describe your unique background and ask the range you can expect.

After a handful of calls, you will know a very tight range.

My client wanted to move out of investment banking but was unclear of his future salary

My client felt burned out of investment banking with 80+ hour weeks.  He wanted to work for a public Fortune 500 company in an investor relations role. Leveraging the contacts he had created over 20 years was an enormous value-add.

However, he had no feel for his expected salary range, even though he was sure he would enter at the Director level.  He and his family were nervous.

He networked and found the answer

I showed him how to identify 100 professionals including Managers, Directors, and VPs at Fortune 500 companies. They were in investor relations’ roles or a related job function. He searched professionals that were alumni from his university or former employer.

He sent all 100 LinkedIn invitations with a general note asking if he can join the professional’s LinkedIn network. I instructed him to never mentioned the reason for his connection request.  After 30 professionals accepted his invitation, I advised him to use a short, four-part request for a call:

  1. Use the professional’s name
  2. Be transparent about his intention
  3. Ask for career advice while never mentioning the word “job”
  4. Request a 15-minute call

5 professionals agreed. Amazing!

He discovered he could expect $240-$260K with a maximum bonus of 20%. After 2 years of working for the company, they could offer him stock options.

He felt so much more secure knowing what to expect.  In addition, using this information in his salary negotiations, he got to the top of his range.

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