Friday 3 March 2017

Salary levels and self-worth on your return to work

Following on from our recent guest post: "5 steps to successfully negotiate your return-to-work role", Kate, our Lead Coach, shares her experience to help you to work out what salary to ask for and how to value yourself when you're negotiating your first role back at work.

  • How confident do you feel about knowing what you are worth?
  • How confidently could you articulate and communicate your value in monetary terms to a potential employer?
  • How confident are you at negotiating what you would like to be paid?

Salary negotiation is another phrase that along with mentions of “networking” and elevator pitch” can conjure up groans of despair and sheer dread! I often see clients visibly shudder when contemplating this subject.

The reaction above arguably applies to the majority of people who find this a particularly tricky area to negotiate. In the UK, it’s partly a cultural thing – we are too polite to talk about money! But if we don’t have these frank discussions with an employer it can lead to problems later on. Research suggests that whilst money alone is unlikely to be an intrinsic source of motivation for most people, if the money side is wrong and you feel underpaid and thus undervalued, then that is likely to become a source of de-motivation.

How does this work when you throw a career break into the mix too?

It can be particularly challenging for those returning to the workplace following a career break as you may be feeling out of touch with current salaries as well as convincing yourself that the break inevitably means that you must be penalised financially. As our guest blogger, Natalie Reynolds recently commented, “Many returners are more likely to gratefully accept any terms rather than to consider negotiating…” However selling yourself short is unlikely to be helpful in the long term and indeed could cause you problems later when it comes to moving into new roles. So what can you do to become more confident at negotiating your salary successfully first time back?

Get clear and confident on what salary you should be asking for

Collect up-to-date salary information upfront
  • Research the marketplace for the type of role you are seeking to gain a benchmark of the salary range that you can expect to be targeting. 
  • Be realistic - there is likely to a range dependent on variables such as the size of the business, the location, and how structured their internal salary grading structures might be. 
  • Consider how specialist your skill-sets are and how easy or not it is for employers to source these. 
This should also happen well before you get to the point of job offer - be informed throughout the whole process, ideally before you begin any form of job search.

Best ways to gain this information
  • Websites such as, and provide a plethora of advice and information on the market value for current roles as well as tips and information on approaching negotiation.
  • Professional membership bodies such as the ICAEW and CIPD may also have useful salary information relating to your specific professional field.
  • Ask recruitment consultants and contacts in the relevant industries. There are several recruitment firms listed on the Women Returners website who actively support the hiring of Returners; they will have a broad view of companies and what people in similar positions are paid.
Be clear on your value and believe it!

Salaries that are out of kilter with the role you are actually doing can lead to misunderstanding by future employers or recruitment consultants. Equally being clear on your financial worth is also a test that the employer understands the match of the role on offer with your skills and experience. Returners often believe that they need to take a role many levels below their skill-set and worth just to get back in the workforce, but our experience suggests that this will quickly be problematic as the role is unlikely to be a good fit (unless you have a clear rationale such as moving to a very different sector or getting a foot in the door in your ideal company). By the time you are at the point of negotiation have a good convincing story to prove your skills are up-to-date and to demonstrate the value you offer.

Be confident in the negotiation
  • Don't apologise for your career break when you enter into negotiations. Be confident that your skills remain your skills and they hold value to the employer.
  • Don’t answer immediately if you're offered a salary - deflect and say you would like to think about it. This gives you time to prepare your counter offer and state clearly and confidently what is behind the figure you have come up with.
  • Think about the broad picture – what is the total remuneration on offer not just base salary?
  • Explore the opportunities for trade-offs. If the company has a budget below where you would like to be, what can they offer in return? Flexible working perhaps, extended annual leave, or the opportunity to review salary within a 3-month probationary period rather than wait for an annual review.
  • Don’t be afraid to have a walk-away point. If you feel very unhappy with the salary, and don't have a clear rationale for taking the role or an agreed progression plan, ask yourself whether this role is a match with your skills and the type of organisation you want to work for.
  • Remember that pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to successfully negotiate what you want will be a surefire confidence boost for your return to work!

Posted by Kate Mansfield, Lead Career Coach, Women Returners

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