9 Lives for Women Blog

It’s Not the Money, It’s the Money | March 13th, 2012

Most people like to make money.  Most women who have been volunteering their time for years love the idea of returning to work and actually being paid for their time.  But few returning professionals really think through how much money they will be comfortable earning.

In any circumstance money is a tricky issue.  In our society high earners are admired (if they’re also honest and philanthropic) and low earners are lost in the shuffle (unless they’re teachers, police officers or others in the “helping” professions).   It’s a fact that a lot of people tie their compensation number to their feelings of self-worth.

When it comes to money and returning professionals, I’ve always heard a lot of “should’s”.  Because I have an MBA, I should be making X.  Because I used to be a Wall Street VP, I should be earning Y.  Because most marketing managers earn Z, I should be earning that too.

The reality is that there are no hard and fast benchmarks about what you should or will earn as a returning professional.  The first thing that all job seekers need to understand is that it really does not matter what you think you are worth.  Companies set budgets and salaries based on what they feel the job is worth.  If they feel a marketing job is worth $75,000, then they will pay very close to $75,000 to any candidate—even if their resume includes a stint as president of the United States.

What companies cannot do is discriminate against a returning professional—or penalize her for time out of the workforce.  If you’re a former marketing manager who has continued to stay current with marketing trends, stayed involved with professional marketing associations, and worked fairly steadily on freelance marketing projects, there’s a good chance that you haven’t skipped a beat and you meet all the requirements for a marketing manager position today.  If you meet all the requirements and you are hired, you will be paid the full salary—regardless of the fact that you’ve spent time out of the workforce.

On the other hand, if you’ve been out of the workforce for 10 years and during that time the word marketing has barely passed your lips, it’s an entirely different story.  You may not be current and meet all the job requirements.  In that case you do have to expect to take a more junior role and earn a more junior salary.  Some might say this is discrimination against returning professionals—but in my mind it’s just about whether you meet the requirements of the job.

So what does all this mean?  It means that you have to be honest about how current you are in your industry.  You have to be honest about whether you really, truly meet all the requirements of a more senior level job.  And you have to be honest about the amount of money that you’re comfortable earning.

If you feel that it’s below you to earn a certain amount of money—think about whether  you’re likely to earn more money as an employee or an independent contractor.  Sometimes independent contractors can charge a higher hourly rate working on a project basis.  If you hustle, and do a good job marketing yourself as a consultant, you can do very well.  Then all your project work boosts your resume and qualifies you for a higher paying “in house” position.

If you absolutely need to earn a certain amount of money to cover your expenses, you may have to think creatively and cobble a few jobs together.  Perhaps you work part-time for a company and part-time on a side business that has the potential to bring in significant money in the near term.  It would not be unreasonable, for example, to have a part-time or even a full-time job and tutor kids at night.  (Tutors can make $100 or more an hour!)

However you decide to return to work, my point is that you have to be very honest and realistic about the money issue.  Too often women get all wrapped up in the excitement of returning to work, and then suddenly say when an offer is on the table “I couldn’t possibly work for that amount of money.”  These are often the same women who say at the beginning of the process that the dollar amount they earn is less important than the opportunity to work again.

So don’t fool yourself or anyone else. Regardless of your total household income, money will always be an issue.

  • Talk to current professionals in the field you’d now like to pursue to get a general idea of compensation.
  • Go to www.salary.com to get a VERY general idea of what people who hold certain jobs are earning in your area.
  • Be honest about how much money you need or want to make and decide if being an employee at one company will suffice.
  • Put your ego aside and realize that your compensation will depend on your current qualifications and what employers feel certain jobs are worth.

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