As an executive recruiter, I’m constantly in the middle of market compensation conversations around how much someone is paid and how much a company is willing to pay for talent.
It’s an imperfect situation; a candidate may be more valued due to specific circumstances, like high attrition within a company or a merger that just took place requiring some level of continuity. It’s not uncommon for a company to put in place retention bonuses in these cases, sometimes significant, multiples of base for example. And to finally get serious about assessing compensation and handing out raises.
Or, a candidate may have enjoyed a terrific ride, seeing equity increase meteorically, perhaps a once in a lifetime experience. Many candidates don’t change jobs often (that’s one strategy to move your compensation forward with an average 7%-10% increase in base for each move, often more vs. staying put and getting an average 4% raise), or let their skills atrophy, or don’t take risks—all of which can put them on the lower end of the salary curve.
Being realistic and knowledgeable about your worth and the complexities of compensation separate those perceived as ‘junior’ vs. ‘senior’. Frequently I tell candidates they are in a terrific situation, their employer obviously loves them, they should stay put and should focus on being a strong contributor. On the other hand, there are a number of people who are grossly underpaid. But for the majority, those who take new roles every three to five year and work on contemporary subjects, they are paid ‘market’.
Building a close network of advisers, peers, and mentors can help you understand whether you are paid fairly. Recruiters, myself included, can be a valuable connection and asset. And building a mature relationship with your management can also be a source of invaluable information. And when I say ‘mature’–no whining, complaining, threats or drama allowed!
If you really want to know what you are worth in the market, the only way to truly know is to seriously consider taking another role and getting out there and interviewing.