You make a decent amount of money in your current position, so you’re financially comfortable. The only thing is . . . you’re miserable. The best thing about your job is that it pays pretty well. But while you’re ready for a change, you worry recruiters and hiring managers will take one look at your experience and think, “Nah, we can’t afford her.”
Feeling desperate, many people in this predicament mentally make peace with a pay cut before they’re ever asked to. Early on in the job search, they start dropping hints to hiring managers that they’re “affordable,” or that they’re willing to take whatever’s offered in order to do more work that they actually like.
Just so we’re clear, don’t do this. It will still leave you unhappy. Here’s how to get the job–and the compensation–you want without scaring budget-conscious recruiters away.
Check Your Market Value
Before you do anything else, figure out your market value–don’t just assume you’re overpriced. Look up the typical salary range for the position you’re pursuing (using Salary.com, Glassdoor, PayScale, SalaryExpert, and similar platforms), then estimate roughly where you might fall within that range depending on your skills and experience. That way you’ll know what you’re up against and can determine what you’re willing to accept. This is a smart first move in any job search, of course, but extra critical when you’re worried about “pricing yourself out.”
Change Your Vocabulary (And Compartmentalize A Bit)
When you’re thinking about making a career change, especially one that requires switching industries, it’s easy to assume you’ll have to lower your standards in order to get your foot in the door. This can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy. So your next step really is just changing your own mind-set: Take “overqualified,” “affordable,” and “too expensive” out of your vocabulary–and realize that appraising your value is fundamentally an employer’s job, not yours.
After all, landing a new job all depends on the strengths you bring to the table and whether you’ll actually enjoy a given opportunity to put them to use. Those are the two questions to focus all your energies on first. Even if you are willing to take a pay cut for your next position, that shouldn’t be top-of-mind for you just yet.
Play Up The Experience That Matters
Your job as a candidate is to relay the best version of yourself for the positions you’re interested in. Sometimes that’s as much about what you share as what you choose not to share. For example, it may mean nixing the fact that you managed a team of 15, or ditching some details on your extensive training and certifications in an unrelated field. Those are great achievements, but they may give the wrong impression to a hiring manager who has different priorities.
Instead, play up your other accomplishments that relate more specifically to the job description you’re gunning for, using any keywords that might be especially relevant. And avoid anything that might give hiring managers a reason to feel like your salary requirements will be prohibitive. If you can keep the discussions centered around the skills and qualities that illustrate you’re the best person for the role, you can influence what hiring managers choose to focus on, too.
Follow The Golden Rule
There’s a single “golden rule” that every job seeker needs to follow no matter what: Never discuss money until you have an offer in hand. Just don’t do it! Yes, you should know your market value and the salary you’re willing to accept, but always keep it to yourself, and don’t entertain the conversation even if you’re prodded into having it.
There are several ways to escape that dreaded topic during the hiring process. You can dodge the question altogether. You can change the topic by asking another question about the position’s responsibilities. Or, if you must, you can even state something as simple as, “My salary requirement is negotiable based on the job responsibilities and the total compensation package. I look forward to discussing all that in more detail once we’ve both determined that this is a perfect fit.”
But whatever you do, resist giving any hints that you’ll be willing to settle for less. If you do, you’ll be at a disadvantage during negotiations once you’re offered the position. Ultimately, the lesson is simple: If you go into the hiring process worried that you’re “overpriced” for your dream job, you’ll prove yourself right every time.
Adunola Adeshola is a millennial career strategist and the founder of employeeREDEFINED.com.