How much is my time worth? Most people don’t ask themselves that question enough, but more importantly, most people only equate “worth” to “how much money” they’re making. Doesn’t work like that.
For the past three years, I made good money; I ran both a consultancy and brokerage business and had 3 payment models: 1) Consultant – paid hourly (made a ton of money here!) 2) Consultant – paid based on attaining sales or marketing metrics (more risky, but made a ton here also) 3) Brokering deals and taking a 5%-10% cut of revenue on a monthly basis….(this worked in my favor as well). So clearly, I had figured out how to make money. What I hadn’t figured out was how much I was worth. Really worth. Because all I was looking at was the monetary piece.
So living this seemingly great life, working 20-30 hours / week and making more money than I’d ever made before, I SHOULD have been happy; even thrilled. And I should have felt like I was getting what I was worth. But I didn’t. I felt empty. Almost all the time.
Then I had a meeting for a potential consulting client and when I met their team and understood the mission of the company, I followed up the meeting with an email stating, “You had me at hello. Let’s create a position for me”….and lucky for me, they did.
As we were going through the negotiating process, I realized I was going to be taking quite a salary cut. And I realized I’d be working 60 + hours / week, so not only would I be taking a paycut yearly, but hourly as well. I should have been bothered or annoyed; but I wasn’t. In fact, I hardly negotiated. Some of my colleagues that I was nuts (for not negotiating); and I had to explain to them, “money is just one way for a company to show me my worth. There are other factors I’m taking into consideration”.
So what were those factors and how did I determine what I was worth? First, I figured out what mattered most to me. And I listed the top 10 things that matter to me about a job. “Compensation” was relatively low on the list. What I wanted in return for sharing my skillset was as follows:
- I wanted to look forward to waking up in the morning. Every morning. Without fail.
- I wanted to be inspired and do something that changes lives as well as the world we live in.
- I wanted to be surrounding by people who are smarter than me; so I’m constantly learning and bettering my skill sets.
- I wanted to be mentored; by those who are patient enough to make me a better person both professionally and personally.
- I wanted to be a part of something that matters. Not just a company, but a family.
- I wanted the opportunity to be in a role where I could drive change in an organization and thus, drive change in an industry.
- AND I wanted to be compensated commensurate to what I had made previously.
So that being the order of my list, I found that my worth could not be 100% measured in compensation. I DID want to be paid “what I was worth”, but at the same time, had to balance money against all other assets; the other “wants” that really made me happy. So, I actually took less money. I didn’t want to negotiate. And we see articles all the time written about how “women negotiate “X”% less time than men” and there is “unequal pay in the workplace”. And these articles are informative and point out that women may be losing more than half a million dollars over their lifetime by NOT negotiating. But I wonder, could it be that women just realize there are more important things in life than money? I know in my view, “not negotiating much” was a concious choice. Could it be that women just see the “bigger” picture and realize that money is not the be all and end all? I wonder if anyone has ever looked at the gap between men and women being paid differently from that angle. Is it possible that there is a small segment of women who CHOOSE to make less money or who believe their worth is displayed in different ways? I’ve always wondered this….
And my response to my own situation as well as what I recommend to others is always the same: Set up a structure where you will get paid for PROVING what you’re worth. What you’ve done and your accomplishments in the past should lay the groundwork for you to GET a job. It should not dictate what you get paid. What you WERE worth in one job may not transfer to your worth in your new role. Take a lower base salary and set up a compensation structure where you make MORE money for each contribution you make. Define your contributions by quarter, define your goals; everything from strategic to tactile to driving revenue to cutting costs. Everything is measurable. Even one’s ability to “inspire others” can be measured. That is where you will find out your true worth. In looking at your overall contribution to a company, both quantitatively and qualitatively.
If you’re not willing to take the lower base salary and structure something measurable – how confident are you in your worth? Not enough for me to hire you…
Most often asked question, “How are you always successful?” My answer is always the same; 1) I’m not; but like any gambler, you only hear of the successes, not the failures 2) I never underestimate the power of a person; I seek out mentors, find people who are smarter than me; and I latch on! So it only made sense that my first guest post was written by Allison Cheston – Career Expert, Marketer, Mentor, and most importantly – authentically unique “Baby Boomer” who UNDERSTANDS Gen Y!
As a Boomer who spends a lot of time with Gen Y’s, I can attest to the value of connecting with all kinds of people to ask and answer questions, trade information and share expertise. It’s what I do, all day long. And judging by the number of people contributing on sites like Brazen Careerist, it’s a pretty popular activity.
Why is it popular? It’s the combination of the sense of community and the appeal of crowd sourcing. The idea that you can post a question such as “Do you know any branding firms in Chicago?”, and within several minutes to an hour, not only receive a list of firms but often, someone willing to connect you to someone at that firm. Without knowing you. That’s amazing.
The majority of Boomers don’t operate that way—most of them want to be able to check someone out before making a referral. All the books on networking, like Never Eat Lunch Alone and Love is the Killer App—they’re all directed at Boomers. Because Boomers always want to understand the purpose of networking, what is the end goal. Or they’re not interested.
It’s one of the great things Boomers can take from Gen Y’s. Of course there’s risk attached to it, but there can be great rewards.
Let me give you a direct example of the power of being opportunistic when it comes to networking. I’m writing a book: In the Driver’s Seat: Work-Life Navigation Skills for Young Adults. In the spring, I posted requests on Brazen Careerist.com, LinkedIn and Facebook, inviting Gen Y college grads to interview with me. Because these are Gen Y’s, they were responsive. They loved the idea of the book and they wanted to be part of it. Some of my Boomer friends asked if I was paying them. I was not.
One of the first people to respond and interview with me was Jamie Nacht Farrell. We hit it off, and she sent me a huge number of her friends to interview. And then she hired me to coach her. And then she became my #1 editor for the book. And now she is making deals for us to turn the book into a curriculum both for online use and as a companion product to a variety of career sites catering to young adults. And by the way, I live in New York City, Jamie lives in Dallas and there are 20 years between us.
This probably seems totally plausible to those of you reading this who happen to be Gen Y’s. But from where I sit, I can tell you it’s unusual. And that’s too bad.
The first two ingredients necessary: openness on both sides and a generosity of spirit. And Jamie has that in spades. Not to mention her genius for packaging and selling people and products. So we’re a great team.
The message: With risk come rewards. No matter what your stage of life, stay open to opportunities and network with people you might not cross paths with in your daily life. That’s the beauty of the Internet but you have to be ready to take advantage of it.
The smartest move I’ve made in my professional life was to take a salary cut.
When moving from my first “Corporate job” at 24 years old to my first “start up”, I took a pay cut. Why? I could see the value and ROI in a longer term investment. I left a company where I was the ‘best’ of about 1600 people to go back to the bottom. For what? I found my mentors. I found two businessmen who, between the two of them, encompassed everything I would ever need to be successful. What’s ironic about this is it is now about 6 years later and when I look back at those wondrous three years working with these two men, I remember what one used to say to me. He would say, “You should be paying ME for allowing you to work here because you are learning more than you would be in any MBA or Doctorate program”. Looking back now, he was right. I should have been paying him. Everything he taught me, everything I watched, the meetings that I had become a part of; he truly taught me not only how to build a business, but more importantly – how to build and successfully manage the people in that business. He was the best sales and marketing individual in my industry and I was his sponge.
His counter part, my other mentor, had quite the opposite skill set. He was master in operations and finance (yuck). That said, “if you want to run your own business one day, you have to be able to have worked in all areas of the business that you will be running”. I did. I learned operations, I learned finance; and I even learned to like and see the value in both.
So, a year after leaving that business, there are so many lessons and conversations that run through my head daily, sometimes hourly. I feel that everything I do has their “mark” on it because they taught me to be the business person I am today. Looking back through this blog, most of my posts are things I’ve learned from them; and in my everyday life…their faces and voices run through my head constantly. To share a few of the key learnings:
1. Hold yourself accountable – don’t play blame games and don’t ever blame anyone else for something that is in your domain. If something goes wrong in your department or on your project, OWN UP TO IT. While your manager or boss may be angry, they are going to respect you more for coming to them vs. hiding it from them and trying to fix it on your own. Most importantly, take a step back and learn from your mistake; explain your learnings to your boss when owning up to your mistake.
2. Get out of your comfort zone – if you’re good at something, congrats! Now…GET OUT! If you’re comfortable in what you’re doing, you’re dead; you won’t grow anymore. Figure out ways to either scale what your doing, train what your doing, or change it in some other way. If there are no changes needed, get out and do something different. Ask yourself, “would you rather be in the minor leagues as the best player for 10 years?” or would you rather jump into the major leagues; you may not be the best in the beginning, but you will get there.
3. It is the manager’s fault if someone is terminated or quits – LOOK in the mirror every time you lose an employee. If you cannot look in the mirror and say, “I’ve done everything in my power to keep this employee”, you’re not a good manager. People don’t leave companies, they leave managers.
4. Treat everyone as if they are your most important client – this means vendors, employees, bosses, etc. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect; you will get more production out of treating people with respect than you will berating them.
5. Don’t waste your time doing something that has been done before. If you’re not innovative, you lose. Developing the same business plan and just “doing it better” is a waste of time; your competition, the company that was there first, will rise up eventually. Do something that has never been done and always have a unique value proposition. It’s all about disruptive technology.
6. Your gut is great for ideas, tests, and innovation. Data is better.
7. Test everything you can make a business case for.
I could go on and on, but that’s not the purpose of this post.
Unfortunately, as with all good things – the relationship came to an end. Since that time, I’ve worked with so many intelligent and innovative people. I take minimal and sometimes do not even charge executives that I would like to work with, simply so I can learn from them.
Interestingly enough, I have yet to find anyone that I want as a ‘mentor’. Not like “before”. Perhaps this is part of growing up? I’m not sure. There are a couple people who I want to take bits and pieces from, but no one I would work for FT to become an all around “better me”.
As with any relationship, I’m beginning to see that I’m “comparing” everyone with the best mentors I’ve ever had. I remember doing the same with boyfriends before I got married…and I remember being told by everyone NOT to do so.
Also analagous to any other relationship, I think the foot prints that were left in my heart and my head from these men will be there forever; and it’s time to move on, take my experiences with them, and build upon them.
What I’m stuck with; Am I getting too “old” to work with people I will learn from so entirely? Do I need to be in the same organization / work with them to do so? More importantly, will a day in business ever go by where I don’t think of my first two mentors?