I recently had dinner with a group of friends. One of them got a very high-paying job offer. The catch was that she would have to be available to work late whenever she was needed.
Her kids are just at the age when they're on the verge of moving out. But that's exactly why she didn't want those hours--she doesn't have much time left with them while they're home, and to her, no amount of money is worth losing that time.
I've contemplated job offers before where the job seemed absolutely perfect for me--except for the money. It's great to do what you love. But if you're working a lot of hours, even if you love your job, you might be trading away other things that you love in exchange for not very much money, such as family time or hobbies or volunteering.
But just as you can't put a price on everything, sometimes you can't separate money from people. To ask for more money isn't greedy, although I think many have been conditioned to think so. Money is a tool, and like just about any tool, it can be used for good things, destructive things, or it can be damaged by improper use or thrown away by indifference.
When we're considering how much money we need to earn, I think too many of us sell ourselves short--for fear that we're asking too much, that we won't get the job, that we don't deserve more, that we aren't capable of making more...it's easy to get stuck in a low-earning rut.
And, to a degree, we might be right. Maybe the employer we're asking for that raise can't afford to pay more--maybe we need to look for another employer or another type of position. When we're thinking about how much to ask for, many of us go the path of least resistance, comparing our salaries to other people making less to make ourselves feel better. We might compare with other people in our workplace or in a similar industry, not realizing that people in a different industry with a very similar job description might be earning more. We might compare our earnings to what we made last year, not thinking beyond the annual incremental raises we expect.
I'm not saying that gratitude is an outdated virtue, just that sometimes we set our expectations too low because we don't see all the possibilities.
It's easy to do. If you're desperate for a job, it's tempting to grab the first offer, especially if you have bill collectors banging on your door. But if you know what you're worth, you can do so much more for yourself, the people you're responsible for, and maybe even others.
You have to do your homework to figure out what your time is worth. You can easily find out what people in your line of work (or intended line of work) make in your area by doing a simple online search. You can talk to people in your industry or course of study.
Not all jobs will give you both satisfaction and the income you want. Some take time. But before you get stuck in a dead-end job that will never pay you enough, consider what you need to make and how you might go about getting it before you assume it's impossible. The best place to take that first step is in your imagination.