If You Know Your Worth, Why Do You Discount It?

Know Your Worth

I was recently concluding a phone interview when the interviewer asked, “before I let you go, can I ask what your desired salary range is?”

First, let me just say that while common, asking for someone’s salary range right off the bat is a major pet peeve of mine. She immediately apologized before I could answer, explaining that she realized it’s a sensitive topic with some people but the company doesn’t want to waste time pursuing someone only to find out that they can’t meet the candidate’s salary requirements.

I’ve heard this excuse before and it has never made complete sense to me. It’s understandable, sure, but if you’re so concerned about investing too much time in someone you can’t afford, why not include the range you are comfortable with paying when you post the position?

To me, the hiring process is a lot like playing Texas Hold’em—there’s a lot bluffing, holding cards close to the chest, and looking for “tells” or weaknesses that you can exploit in your opponent. I think the reason companies aren’t transparent about what they would potentially pay someone for a specific role is that there’s a chance the ideal candidate would be willing to work for much less.

Which brings me to my response—the figure I tossed out before really thinking about what I was saying was $5-$10k less than I currently (or most recently) made. After which I went on to add, “of course that range is negotiable depending upon the overall benefits package available.” As soon as it left my mouth, I regretted it.

The interviewer sounded pleasantly surprised. “That’s exactly where we’re looking to go with this position. To be honest, I’ve had people throw figures at me that were 3x that amount.”

(Likely) Reasons You Discount Your Worth:

If you knowingly accept less than you think you deserve or know in your gut that you’ve misrepresented your value, it is a pretty crappy feeling. And what’s worse is that once it happens it is often difficult to recover any lost ground. Using my experience as a “teachable moment,” I’ve been considering some of the reasons why I and people in general tend to discount their worth to avoid making the mistake again.

 1) You Lack Confidence

If you’re approaching a new experience or opportunity and feel uncertain about it, is it a nervous uncertainty or an excited one?

Lacking confidence in your ability to succeed at something that you’ve never attempted before is to be expected. If every goal, job, task, or project felt like a total layup, then what’s the point?

This is a situation where I believe the saying, “fake it until you make it,” applies. You might have three quarters of the skill and experience to tackle the assignment, but there’s that remaining quarter that presents an unknown risk.

It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you never attempt new experiences for fear of failure, you start to believe that you are incapable of those things because you have no evidence to show otherwise. If you fail at least you learned something in the process—either that it wasn’t meant for you or you need to approach it differently next time.

 2) You’re Afraid of Scaring Someone or Something Away

If you feel compelled to discount your self-worth to keep from scaring a person (i.e. a relationship) or a potential job offer away, that should be a sign that it’s not a relationship worth pursuing. If a person or an employer isn’t willing to recognize your value, it will be very difficult to maintain your self-respect, let alone any mutual respect.

When I worked in marketing for an architecture and engineering firm, the practice of intentionally low bidding to win work was rampant. In an extremely competitive industry, clients expected the best of both worlds—highly competent and qualified firms at the lowest price possible. There wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t hear someone complain that the industry had become commoditized, but who was to blame for that? If you consistently discount your worth it makes it extremely difficult to eventually ask for full value when you’re already doing the work for fraction of what your services actually cost.

 3) You Don’t Think You Deserve It

This one is pretty simple—if you don’t think you deserve something, how can you convince anyone else that you do?  I’m not trying to sound flippant but you have no place feeling undervalued if you can’t define what your value is or how to demonstrate it to others.

I once received a job offer where the salary was so low, I was literally rendered speechless. Instead of immediately rejecting their offer (like my gut had wanted me to), I responded a few days later with a counter offer that described the experience and skills that I could bring to the position and what I thought was a more appropriate level of compensation for them to consider. I hit “send” on that email knowing that I could very likely get a “no” in response and I was OK with that, because I knew I would never be OK with working for nothing.

I chalked my most recent experience up to not wanting to scare a potential employer away if my number didn’t match what they had in mind. Thinking back on it, I wish I had the courage I’ve had in the past to be forthcoming about what I want and not be afraid to ask for it.

If you’ve made this mistake before, how did you recover from it? What did you take away from the experience?



Don’t Follow Your Passion, Follow Your Personality

Direction Map - Heart or Head

When you’re in the gap that exists between jobs (whether that was by your choice or your employer’s), you have one of two goals—to find whatever employment that will have you, or use this precious time to find something that will help you avoid being in this unpleasant situation again.

The week I left my job I think I was still navigating the shock of having actually gone through with it. I was also overwhelmed with all of the tasks I wanted to accomplish and figuring out a logical order for where to begin proved more difficult than I had anticipated. First and foremost, I knew that if I wanted to be successful in my job search, I needed to define my ideal position. Telling myself that I just wanted something that didn’t make me miserable wasn’t going to help me find that.

A logical first step in this process was taking the time to consider all of the elements of my previous jobs that I enjoyed and did not enjoy. This provided some clarity, but not as much as I had hoped. I knew I wanted something that provided more autonomy, opportunities for growth, and a sense of meaning. These are all great qualities to look for in a company or organization, but they’re pretty generic and don’t help with identifying a particular role.

Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose

All of this reflection led to thinking about motivation and a class I had in graduate school. During one particular Organizational Behavior class, we watched this video of Daniel Pink, the author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, explaining how mastery, autonomy and purpose were key factors of intrinsic motivation.

The acronym MAP (mastery, autonomy, purpose) has stayed with me for the three years since I sat in that classroom and has served as a measuring stick for my career satisfaction. Every time I reflect upon what was missing from a particular job, it has always related to a lack of mastery, autonomy, or purpose. If you don’t have time to watch the video, the takeaway is that motivating people with financial rewards doesn’t work and science has repeatedly proven it. As Pink so eloquently notes, “humans are not smaller, better smelling horses.” So it only makes sense that we shouldn’t be motivated in the same ways.

Once I had figured out how I’m intrinsically motivated, I needed to determine where to direct my energy.

Passion Versus Skills

This TED Talk by Benjamin Todd, co-creator of 80,000 hours, suggests that following your passion in selecting a career path is a huge mistake—and it makes A LOT of sense. If I followed my passion from when I was five, fifteen or even twenty years old, I would either be She-Ra, a tattoo artist, or an illustrator. Instead of passion, Todd suggests considering what your best skills are and where you can use them to provide the most value. 

After getting to the heart of things like motivation and fulfillment, I still needed to refine what I wanted from a job in terms of environment, work-life balance, organizational role and culture fit. For these factors, I looked to the commonly-used personality assessment, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and a lesser known assessment called the Innermetrix DISC Index.

Assess Yourself Before Your Wreck Yourself

I recalled taking the Myers Briggs assessment years ago and getting one of the “introverted” personality types as a result, but I recently re-took a free version of the MBTI test since I had long forgotten which of the 16 personality types I was assigned. The Innermetrix DISC Index is also free through Tony Robbins site, but full disclosure, you will need to provide your email to get your results.

To be honest, I have never really put much stock in these types of assessments because they always seemed so rigid and black-and-white, where most people would agree that personality involves many shades of grey.

Regardless of my opinion, thousands of employers use these tests to evaluate candidates and their fit for a role or within an organization, so I decided to put my preconceived notions aside and try to extract some meaning from my results.

And I’m glad I’m not quite as stubborn to new ideas as my INFJ personality type would suggest. Combing through the results of my assessments, I found myself going through a mental checklist of qualities I know I possess but thinking about them in ways I never had before.

The Good News and the Bad News (about being an INFJ)

Some traits of my INFJ personality type that I recognize include:

  • A tendency to avoid office politics and gossip (as well as confrontation)
  • Dedicated, thorough and conscientious
  • Diplomatic
  • Modest
  • Perfectionist tendencies
  • Avoids risk and uncertainty (anyone who’s played poker with me can confirm this)
  • Craves order, independence, and autonomy
  • Not motivated by financial gain
  • Prefers to work independently or in small groups versus large teams

The flip-side of these traits, both good are bad, are:

  • I can be perceived as aloof and guarded.
  • People tend to dump work on me because they know I’m dedicated to getting the work done.
  • I am really good at doling out praise for others, but not so great at communicating my own accomplishments.
  • My perfectionist tendencies mean that I can sometimes hold others to impossibly high standards.
  • Waiting for 100% of the information can lead to delayed progress and a perceived lack of urgency by others.
  • I don’t get hung up on titles. I am happy in both supporting roles and assuming leadership positions when needed.
  • A private workspace can be hard to come by when so many companies institute open offices and combined workspaces.

TL;DR (Takeaways)

If you’re reading this and you’re completely satisfied with your job and your career path, I envy you, but more importantly, I recommend considering the aspects of your job, company, coworkers, and industry that you find fulfilling.

My first job was incredibly fulfilling for many years, but then leadership changed and so did my department structure and I suddenly found myself in a situation I had never been in before.

Even if you don’t experience a similar scenario, continuously working on being more self-aware can only benefit you throughout your life. In my pursuit of being more self-aware, I have learned how to be a better employee, partner, friend and all around human being.

Aside from personality tests or performance reviews, how do you assess yourself and your level of personal awareness?



If You Do One Thing for Yourself Today, Do This

If You Do One Thing for Yourself Today, Do This


Forget about your “To Do” List.

Forget about bills.

Forget about Facebook.

Forget about the imaginary race you’re running with everyone else.

Forget about your toxic coworker, friend, or family member.

Forget about the butthead who cut you off during your morning commute.

Forget about the coffee you spilled on your keyboard, lap or shirt.

Forget about the snarky email that you stared at in your inbox for too long, and your equally snarky response sitting in drafts.

Forget about the sad egg salad sandwich that you ate by yourself while staring at your computer screen wondering how you got here.

Forget about “that thing” you said the other day that you can’t stop thinking about because you’re worried it made you look dumb.

Forget about impressing people with your extensive knowledge of [fill_in_the_blank].

For 15 minutes (or more if you have it), sit in your car, go for a walk, or sit somewhere quietly and just breathe. Set a timer if you must, but don’t look at your phone. Don’t listen to music, just the sound of your breath entering and leaving your body.

Whatever thoughts come to you in the moment, don’t fixate on any one too long, just acknowledge it and let it pass. Try as best as you can not to let your thoughts wander towards the past or the future.

I swear to you, if you do this every day, you will notice a shift in your perceptions and your psyche. You’ll be more patient with yourself and maybe with others too.

When you’ve finished each session, consider the quality of your thoughts. Were they negative? And if so, where is the negativity directed—towards yourself or someone else? Are there opportunities to transition those thoughts into something positive?

Now go back to your list of “forgets.” Will any of those things matter next week, next month or next year?

What happens when you commit to a daily practice of listening to yourself without distraction and absolute focus is the realization that we spend too much time worrying about things we have little to no control over and, in the grand scheme of things, don’t really matter.

I’m not trying to get all Tony Robbins on you, but if there’s something that I’ve taken away from my current “experiment”, it’s this: what happens when you stop focusing on the things that don’t matter is you now have the attention and energy to put towards the things that do.

Besides, when was the last time worrying about something or being mad at someone who didn’t know it improved your life? If you have an answer to that, please leave it in the comments below!