Your questions show that this piece of information has alerted you to a number of factors
I’m a work-from-home mom and have been employed as a bookkeeper for the last ten years. I work an average of 15 hours a week and am earning $25 an hour. A friend recently mentioned that her employer was hiring and offering $75 an hour. It shocked me, and made me start to question my job.
It got me rethinking my entire role: Is there something else I can or should be doing? Am I underpaid? Should I be looking for a new job? But I don’t know if I’m ready to give up working from home — I do miss the social life of a workplace, but have a large family that relies on me to be around, which is also very important to me.
Any advice on how to make this decision?
~ Wannabe Entrepreneur
Wow — hearing that you could be earning three times your salary is definitely a good reason to start questioning your job!
A comment like that is enough to make one question many things, as you are. Your questions show that this piece of information has alerted you to a number of factors: market value, career focus, and personal values. Let’s define each of these, so we can give attention to all aspects of your question.
Market value is simply determining what you are worth in today’s job market. If you were to apply for new roles, what kind of salary range could you expect? Of course, there are things you can do to increase your market value.
Your career focus is your plan for your general direction: the roles you expect to be in, and the skills you utilize in your work. Many skills are transferable to new roles, and you may decide to focus on new roles that better fit your current professional interests and financial needs.
Personal values are the core principles of your beliefs and ideas about what is important and meaningful to you. When you’re clear on what your values are, they can easily act as a guiding force when making career decisions.
How can you determine and ensure you’re being paid market value?
Your first step should always be to check out the free websites that publicly share this information. Glassdoor.com, Salary.com, and Payscale.com are a few I recommend. Make sure to get the average for your location from more than one site to get a good general idea.
Next, to determine the real numbers even more specifically, the best thing to do is to start talking to people about it. Yes, I know it’s considered rude to ask people how much they make. But what about asking business owners? If you know someone who employs people in your position, ask them what they think about your compensation. They’ll give you an honest answer. You can also share your salary with people in similar positions, and ask their opinions without asking them for personal information.
Do keep in mind that salary info changes dramatically based on location, even for nearby cities that are within commuting distance — which is why many people commute! As a simple experiment, head back to those salary sites, type in your city with your job title, and then type in your friend’s city with your job title. Based on the numbers you shared, I’m venturing to guess that her employer is based in another city? Location is a simple explanation for salary discrepancy.
Lastly, do keep in mind that your annual income should keep pace with the rate of inflation. If your income is not growing by 3 percent a year, you’re essentially decreasing your pay annually. Make sure that at the very least, you’re not moving backwards!
Say you’ve done your research, and you’ve ascertained that you are being sorely underpaid. Time to make moves! You should prepare to have a discussion with your employer about your current market value. If that fails, I strongly recommend starting a quiet job search for a new role.
Maybe you’ve realized that even at a competitive rate, you’d still like to be earning more. How to increase your earning potential? Before we start looking in new career directions, let’s start by looking at what more advanced roles in your field would look like. As a bookkeeper, furthering your education can easily increase your earning potential. I’d suggest starting with a look at the certifications offered by QuickBooks, such as becoming a QuickBooks ProAdvisor. These courses do not require a degree, and are completely free, available on their website.
If you’re ready to take on a more serious education, it may be time to pursue an accounting degree, which would widen your options and increase your income considerably. Do keep in mind, though, most accountant roles involve full-time employment, and you likely wouldn’t be able to retain your current part-time schedule.
Lastly, let’s address how your personal values come into play with this decision. Clearly, being available for your family is an important value of yours. Juggling that with your personal social needs is the never-ending dilemma of many a mom! Another challenge that working from home creates is the feeling that you are always available for your family — possibly for things that they could manage well on their own if you were at an office (chef, driver, Google-checker?).
One solution is to create a serious home office, where you cannot be disturbed. That way, you save yourself travel, and are still home whenever you are really needed, for important things. To ensure you still get to fill your social needs, you may choose to find things outside of work, such as a gym, shiur, or local class. This requires a serious commitment to yourself to actually honor your time and needs, in both work and extracurricular activities.
If you feel that you won’t end up having the discipline or time to make that happen, a friendly office with a part-time job may be a better answer.
Wishing you hatzlachah on making this decision and getting paid your value while navigating your multiple roles!
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 875)
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