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6 Ways To Establish Your Personal Worth At Work As A Recent Grad

Navigating the workforce post-grad can feel intimidating. This new environment and anxiety might cause you to sell yourself short. Sometimes this might happen subconsciously, such as not negotiating your salary or not sharing your ideas in meetings. This is a phenomenon that often resonates with women largely due to the fact that many careers are male-dominated, causing women to feel less-qualified (even if they are more than qualified). When you sell yourself short, you inhibit yourself from maximizing your potential and skillset. 

Establishing your personal worth in your career is important to create a work environment that allows you to thrive. Whether you graduated from college and now are in a career related to your major, or you’re applying to endless jobs to find the right fit, you have so many skills that you have fostered over the years that are valuable assets to any team, and deserve to be recognized. Here are six tips to establish your personal worth and not sell yourself short in the workforce.

Use caution with employers who promise you a higher salary later on.

Right after college, securing a higher-paying job would be the dream, but due to inflation, the presence of entry-level positions that offer good pay is decreasing. In a 2021 study done by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the data showed an increase in recent graduates stuck in low-paying jobs, which is defined as $25,000 or less a year, since 2020. This influx in low-paying jobs makes it even more important to make sure you’re obtaining a salary or pay that matches your responsibilities. In a sea of low-paying jobs, hiring managers or bosses might make false promises, such as implying that you could be paid a higher salary later on in your time at their company. 

Anjela Mangrum, a certified personal consultant, tells Her Campus, “It’s unfortunate how high-potential fresh grads are exploited into working for poor wages, with false assurances that they’ll get a raise once they ‘prove themselves.’ Ask yourself, aren’t your degree, your internships, and your current skill set enough to make you a credible professional who at least deserves the standard entry-level wages? Employers who have a habit of hiring on low pay rarely, if ever, provide fair compensation, no matter how qualified you are. If you must take such an opportunity, try to get it from them in writing that they’ll increase your compensation, and specify a time or an achievement that would warrant that increase.” 

If you’re not sure what the average compensation is for your position, there are websites that do the research for you. Glassdoor and Payscale use reviews, research, and job findings to help you evaluate your monetary worth. Even if you’re just working an entry-level position, you’re putting in the time and effort that deserves to be rewarded an adequate amount.

Keep applying or looking for jobs, even when you have one.

Though this might seem counterproductive, scoping out other job opportunities allows you to know what you’re worth. You can look out for higher-paying jobs at the same position as your or see how your position at other companies operate. Truly, it will help you see if there are better opportunities out there, or determine if you’re working too much for what you’re getting paid. 

Mangrum says, “Before you begin establishing your personal worth, knowing exactly what you’re worth helps. As a recruiter, the best advice I can offer young professionals is to keep interviewing for positions at other workplaces, even if you don’t intend to change jobs. This will also hone your salary negotiation skills and enable you to comfortably ask for more without risk. In my opinion, it’s a great way of staying updated with what other employers offer workers of your caliber, thereby revealing what your services are worth and giving you enough confidence not to sell yourself short.” 

Gaining confidence in your job application skills is a part of establishing your personal worth, which only comes with practice. The more you apply, the more you’ll learn where your skills fit into companies’ missions.

Set boundaries and goals for yourself from the start.

Establishing boundaries from the jump will ensure co-workers or bosses don’t walk all over you. According to WebMD, healthy boundaries increase self-esteem, make your values clear, enhance your mental well-being, develop independence, and gain a greater sense of identity. When you’re new to a job, you might want to overstep boundaries made for yourself in order to gain the appreciation of your boss, such as working overtime. However, Mangrum agrees that this doesn’t increase your worth as a professional. 

She continues, “All you’re doing is accelerating the speed with which burnout is bound to hit you. While being a loyal employee means going the extra mile every now and then, it’s good to say ‘no’ sometimes. Let your services be appreciated in their absence, once in a while, to avoid being taken for granted.”

Use the terms and knowledge from school to your advantage.

You might feel that after college you were just thrown into the workforce with no experience, but you actually have just graduated with one of the greatest assets — knowledge. Though you might have no physical experience, you have experience learning the technicalities of your field of interest, which can help establish your worth when applying for jobs.

Steven McConnell, Director of Sales & Marketing at Arielle Executive and a career expert, tells Her Campus, “If you’re a new graduate, chances are that your lack of experience outside of the walls of your alma mater could make you feel less valuable in the job market. Know that that is actually one of the greatest weapons you have. All the information you need to fit into the position you’ve studied for still clings in your mind. During interviews, be sure to throw in the technical terms you’ve learned and feel free to utilize the solutions you’ve thought of every time your educators presented you with a hypothetical-circumstantial question. Believe it or not, doing so is sure to leave quite a good impression on your recruiters and employers as practice in the field often makes veteran professionals lose touch with the basics and fundamentals provided during school and training.” 

Putting a foot down in the workforce also involves not being afraid to use your connections to your advantage. Connections with professors or past colleagues mixed with knowledge make up for the lack of experience. Personal worth is all about what you can bring to the table and advocating for yourself — it’s more than job experience. 

Act like you’re supposed to be there. (P.S. You do deserve to be there.)

Imposter syndrome, or perceived fraudulence, is defined as self-doubt that persists despite your accomplishments or experience. This phenomenon is very common for those in their 20s or post-grad. Self-doubt can be conquered by countering your own thoughts. This is easier said than done, but when you act with confidence, you’ll start to believe what you’re selling.

Interactive development consulting analyst Shriya Boppana advises, “Do not use language that reiterates what everyone already thinks of you as, a newcomer. Avoid ‘sorry, I’m new here’ or ‘this is my first job so please go easy on me.’ There is no need for anyone to go easy on you. You have all of the requirements needed to fulfill the job responsibilities. The only one doubting you is you.”

When you first introduce yourself to a professional in the field, assert your dominance — be firm in what you want to say and how you want them to perceive you. State your qualifications and show them you’re qualified right off the bat. 

Seek out mentors and sponsors.

Not selling yourself short starts with being an advocate for yourself, but it also helps when you have someone to advocate for you as well. A mentor will help you find your strengths and weaknesses, and guide you toward fulfilling your career goals. A sponsor’s role works to get you promoted and acts as an advocate for your skills and advancement. Both a mentor and a sponsor can help you establish your personal worth and be a shoulder to lean on when the workforce gets intimidating. 

The workforce is a competitive place, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your worth. Through practice, research, and mindfulness, you can establish your personal worth and not sell yourself short. In the long run, you’ll be able to gain more from your work experience. 

Hannah Tolley is a contributing writer under the Entertainment and Culture vertical. She covers entertainment releases, fan theories, pop culture news, and more. Aside from Her Campus, Hannah was also a member of the Florida State University (FSU) Her Campus team. During her time with the chapter, she served as a staff writer for three semesters, where she wrote biweekly pieces across campus, culture, and personal verticals. She also was a content editor for two semesters, where she led a team of 6+ writers and oversaw and edited their articles. Hannah was also an editorial intern for Her Campus during her spring and summer term of her second year in college. As an intern, she worked alongside the full-time edit team to curate timely and evergreen pieces across life, culture, career, and style verticals. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from FSU in May 2023, with a Bachelor of Science in Media/Communication Studies with a minor in English. When she's not dissecting the latest pop culture events, you can find her reading a cheesy romance novel or establishing parasocial relationships with fictional TV characters. She loves to rewatch her favorite shows (Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill, and Friends) or spend the day going down a rabbit hole of reality dating shows.