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3 Key Strategies For Professional Women To Determine Their Market Value In Today's Job Market

Written by: Meridith Ward, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


As a professional woman, observing the US job market becoming increasingly unstable, with soaring interest rates and the abrupt downfall of many mid-sized to large corporations, is disheartening. Regrettably, the industries that have been hit the hardest tend to employ large numbers of women, including the arts and entertainment, technology, construction, professional services, and other in-office jobs. To make matters worse, the cost of basic human necessities like food, shelter, and drinking water is at an all-time high, impacting everyone from low to high-income earners. For example, if you enjoy cooking, you may have noticed that the prices of staple products, like eggs, potatoes, butter, and sugar, have nearly tripled since March 2023. Or have you contemplated downsizing from a house to an apartment or relocating to another state lately? If so, you may need help finding a decent studio apartment with little to no amenities for less than $1700 a month, even in the outskirt areas of most metropolitan cities.

smiling business woman in eye glasses with her colleague at the background

Despite the challenges, most people don't necessarily need a huge salary to live a decent daily life. Studies show that fair and competitive compensation and benefits packages can support the needs of most households across all income brackets. But, of course, occasional bonuses and raises are always welcomed. However, with recent labor and salary reports indicating an ever-steepening slope for several professions, it's clear that employment is never guaranteed. Still, as a professional woman, it's crucial to determine your market value and demand fair and competitive wages and benefits. Whether you're currently employed within a seemingly stable industry, working multiple jobs, or trying to re-enter the workforce after experiencing a sudden layoff or termination, you deserve to be well compensated for all your hard work and dedication. By following the three key strategies outlined in this article, you will put yourself in a position to get ahead and stay ahead in today's volatile and highly competitive job market.

1 Identify your core competencies and skills.

When striving for success in your professional endeavors, deep diving into your skills and competencies is essential. By knowing what they are and understanding how your core skills and competencies align with the demands of your desired sector, industry, and targeted positions, you can confidently navigate conversations about your value as a potential hire, candidate for promotion, or leader of critical projects. Armed with this knowledge, not only do you hold the power to advocate for yourself, but you can also showcase your unique strengths in a way that commands respect and attention. The following definitions and examples will help you differentiate between competencies and types of skills and accurately identify your own.

  • Competencies are the use of knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors that lead one to do something efficiently and successfully or get the desired results in their career. For instance, one's ability to make sound business decisions is considered a competency. Another example of one's competency would be the ability to partner effectively.

  • Skills are abilities usually gained through training or formal education and are necessary to perform a job or specific task well. For instance, an accountant's ability to perform forensic data analytics is a skill. Another example of a skill would be a nurse's ability to deliver proper patient care.

  • In addition to acknowledging your general skills, you also want to identify your niche skills. Niche skills are highly specialized abilities or areas of expertise for which one receives recognition and is deemed a subject matter expert. Niche skills are usually hard-to-find, in high demand, and may also be extensively required to execute specific roles and critical projects. Therefore, promoting your niche skills can immediately separate you from the pack, causing you to become a company's most valuable candidate or employee. For instance, as of 2023, the top niche skills in the technology industry are artificial intelligence and cyber security.

Now that you have a good understanding of competencies, skills, and niche skills, remember, it's up to you to ensure that yours are recognized and utilized in the best ways possible. So go out there and show them what you've got.

2 Conduct a gap analysis.

As a professional woman, you deserve to reach the top of your career ladder. But with so much competition out there, it can be tough to stand out from the pack. That's why conducting a thorough gap analysis is beneficial when aiming to significantly increase your chances of success. Imagine the thrill of landing your dream job or getting the promotion you've been eyeing for months. With the right strategy, it's all within reach.

  • You'll start by researching the job market to find out what recruiters and hiring managers are looking for when making hiring decisions. Consider the value drivers they may attribute to successful employees. Since value drivers are also the foundation of a company's business culture, you will likely find supporting language within the company's mission and vision statement and throughout the job description. Examples of what decision-makers prioritize usually include hard and soft skills, education, additional training, experience, and industry knowledge. Once you know where you stand compared to the job requirements and business culture, you can create a plan to improve your credentials and enhance your competitiveness.

  • Consider pursuing further education, attending industry conferences and networking events, gaining certifications, or getting more experience through volunteering. For instance, to become a web developer, you should take courses in programming languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Alternatively, you could attend conferences to learn about the latest web development trends.

  • Providing concrete evidence of your accomplishments in previous roles is also important. Highlight specific projects you worked on that impacted your company's success, such as any systems, products, and services you helped create or implement to improve efficiency. Demonstrating your value through specific project examples will show potential employers that you can think strategically and deliver results, thus letting them know why you're the perfect candidate for the job.

By conducting a gap analysis and highlighting your achievements in ways that inspire confidence in your company's stakeholders, you will position yourself as a highly skilled and competent professional ready to drive results that ensure optimum outcomes.

3 Know when to walk away.

Now, let's talk about negotiating like a boss. I know how it feels to possess substantial experience and drive but also to be unemployed, running low on funds, and interviewing like crazy, only to learn that the team thinks you might be overqualified or too costly despite being the perfect fit for the position. Unfortunately, that situation is quite common for ambitious women in every industry. Yet, with all the value you bring to the table, constant rejection coupled with a keen sense of fear and desperation can hit hard. Those factors alone may deter you from negotiating altogether or cause you to accept the first offer before considering all your options. But that's just it! Even during these challenging times, we should always strive for what we truly deserve and never settle for less. Whether it's negotiating for a well-deserved raise, a promotion, or a job offer that meets our needs, we must always set ourselves up for success. To become a successful salary negotiator, keep in mind that negotiating can be a collaborative process where both parties work together to find a mutually beneficial solution. So the best approach is to be proactive and assertive to level the playing field and ensure you get the recognition and compensation you deserve.

  • Start by defining your non-negotiables. If you're searching for a job, your non-negotiables may include a flexible work schedule, a specific salary range, a company car, or the option to work remotely. Knowing your non-negotiables will give you the confidence to assert your worth and negotiate for the best possible outcome. For example, suppose you're offered a dream job, but it pays less than you hoped, and the employer is unwilling to stretch their budget. In that case, you can always counter by asking for additional benefits. You'd aim for benefits such as more paid time off, early evaluation for bonus opportunities, a raise or a promotion, and the chance to gain equity in the company.

  • Second, before you accept the next interview or join another meeting with your boss that could potentially turn into a money discussion, ask yourself, "What is the lowest offer I am willing to accept even if I don't receive a raise, promotion, or bonus within the next 2-5 years?" The lowest acceptable offer is called your walk-away price (I.e., WAP). Although your walk-away price is not to be discussed with your potential employer, it will benefit you greatly to identify that specific number, then take a marker and write it on the palm of your hand if necessary. Why? Because your walk-away price will give you grounds for a sensible counter to lowball offers or the confidence to walk away from a poor offer without regret. You'll thank yourself later because here's the thing, you may think waiting five years to earn more pay is a stretch, but let's face the facts. Over the past decade and especially within the past couple of years, it's been much easier to receive highly desirable salaries and hourly rates with significant increases just by switching employers. However, in 2023, many large and mid-sized organizations have either failed or are struggling to stay financially afloat. In addition, the US is now experiencing a recession, and we don't know how long it will take to recover, which brings us to the next point.

  • Whether you're targeting W-2 employment or 1099 contractor/consultant roles, researching the annual salary or hourly rate usually paid for the job you're targeting is always wise. You can easily do this by typing "Salary Calculator" into the search bar of your phone or laptop to access several websites dedicated to helping jobseekers identify realistic compensation expectations based on a percentage-based data report (as noted in the following explanation). Here's what you need to know to understand salary ranges according to a percentage-based data report:

If you are in the early career phase, your salary will likely be closer to the low-end or 25th percentile.

  • The 25th percentile marks the lower quarter of salaries earned for a specific job title.

If you are mid-level in your career, your salary will likely be closer to or around the 50th percentile.

  • The 50th percentile marks the midpoint or average range of salaries earned for a specific job title.

  • The 50th percentile is the most widely used measure of possible pay values for a specific job title.

If you are more experienced or have been in your position longer, your salary will likely be closer to the high-end or 75th percentile.

  • The 75th percentile marks the highest quarter of salaries earned for a specific job title.

Remember that the data reflected is impacted by numerous factors like location, specific job duties, educational background, and other qualifications. For instance, if you live in an area with a higher cost of living, your salary range may likely be between the median to 75th percentile numbers. In comparison, if you're in an area with a lower cost of living, your salary may be closer to the 25th percentile. It is important to note that wages may also vary significantly throughout different regions of the country for the same position title based on the responsibilities, the size and industry of the company, economic conditions, changes in the job market, seniority level, and more. In any case, if an employer cannot meet your non-negotiables or offer you a desirable salary and benefits, it's best to keep searching for better opportunities.

In conclusion, as a strong and capable woman, it is important not to let uncertainty stand in your way. It's time to take charge of your career and financial future. Determine your market value, set your own standards, and demand what you deserve confidently! And if you need any support or guidance along the way, InCharge Career Consulting™ is here to help you achieve your career goals!

This article was written by Meridith A. Ward, Founder and CEO of InCharge Career Consulting, LLC. For more tips, advice, guidance, and coaching to learn how to advance the ranks of corporate leadership or pivot into profitable entrepreneurship, schedule a 1:1 discovery call today by clicking here.

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Meridith Ward, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Meridith Ward is the Founder and CEO of InCharge Career Consulting™ and the She Is InCharge™ edutainment platform. In addition, she is an experienced career strategist, startup business consultant, leadership coach, headhunter, public speaker, and workshop edutainer. Ultimately, Meridith is passionate about and aims to help women cultivate powerful leadership skills and strategic relationships, gather the right resources, maximize their opportunities, consistently advance throughout corporate leadership ranks, and become full-time entrepreneurs.



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