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Are we allowed to ask for what we’re worth?

Asking for what you think you’re worth when you are a college student at Drexel (with possibly more experience than the average college student from our 1.5 years of full time work in our program) without being looked at as an “entitled millennial”. The dreaded words… “entitled millennial”. How do we ask for what we are worth? Are we allowed to?

As a Drexel kid, I came into school ready to work. I’d been working since I was 15 and LOVED to hear that most Drexel students came to the university because we are promised 1.5 years of real-world (paid) job experience at up to three different companies. This all happens in a fluctuating schedule with academic terms. I value work and experience. So I wanted to be in an environment around others that did too. Like many of you, we know our internships/co-ops are giving us similar, if not the same, experience as a hefty job. We are doing big projects and having to learn A LOT. We’ve got work experience. We’ve got expertise.

Here’s the deal with my situation…

I am currently on my third co-op and I am working for myself on my own startup. I’m creating consumer solutions for mental health education. (justbebooks.com) With my first co-op, I was able to get paid well through a grant. This hourly rate allowed me to ask for a better pay rate on my second co-op. The hope is always to go up.

My second co-op boss told me a tidbit that still sticks in my head while I write this: “Unless you really love a job/project, never take a pay rate lower than your last job. Always work up.” I’ve tried to stick with this, but it’s not always possible as a college student and a young 20-something year old. I’m sure you all have your own antidotes of people telling you to just “take the job ‘cause it’s money’.”

For my third co-op, I am getting funding for my business through the school. However, I currently need to grab another part-time gig that helps pay rent. For this part-time job, I am assuming that I’ll get 1099’d (a paper you have to fill out saying that you’ll pay all the government taxes at the end of the year instead of the company hiring you). I’d ideally like to make about $25/hr (before taxes) and save out the recommended 33% out of my paycheck for my taxes at the end of the year. That’ll make my hourly rate after taxes be $16.75.

As a college kid, am I allowed to ask for $25/hr? I’ve had some push back on a few different contract projects while asking for the amount the market says someone with my skills is worth. I am anxious about what to do in this situation. Am I being entitled? Am I being ungracious? Am I valuing myself too high for my age? Do I actually have the skills I am thinking I have?

Am I allowed to ask for that $25/hr without guilt?

A quick philosophical/sociological tangent:

I do want to bring up a more philosophical and sociological note though… What I have heard in doing research interviews about mental health education is that we are teaching more information to kids at an earlier age than in the past. We’re crunching education and trying to teach more. We are also cutting down on needed play time for kids to add in more ‘learning time’. I’m wondering if we are learning more ‘work skills’ at an earlier age. For example, my friend just told me that her 12-year-old son gets invited to friends’ houses to do video editing for the friend’s YouTube channel. Our parents’ generation (and a lot of millennials) were NOT making videos/editing at that age. When that 12-year-old kid becomes a college student and is making really good films, how will he get to interact with his pay-rate negotiations?

Or maybe the ‘play’ is just changing as technology changes and brain development changes in generations… I digress.

The economy is also changing. Millennials have more debt from school loans. They are also, arguably, working more hours than people their age in the past (Here is one of MANY articles talking about work-life balance struggles of Millennials from overworking à believe me, WE ARE HARD WORKERS).

Basically, what I am getting at is, are we worth the money we are asking for? If we settle with the lower pay rates, we won’t be able to do what our society is telling us to do to be adults: move out of the house, pay off all of our debt, get higher education degrees … the list goes on.

SO, now that we’ve had some thinking time, let’s talk about some practical stuff…

You are ALLOWED to negotiate salary.

This is so important to remember. Employers have budgets. There is a range. You are allowed to ask for a better salary, better hourly wage, etc. You can also ask for supplemental options. Does the team promote events in your city? Ask for free monthly tickets if they can’t increase your hourly wage. Stipend for travel? Two professional development workshops/conferences a year? All viable options.

See what others are making for your skills – Understand the playing field.

There are TONS of salary calculators out there, here’s a list of six from The Balance Careers. Having an average salary range for your skills for negotiating a contract job can be really helpful. “According to ___, ___, and ___, people with the skills I showed you during our interview are getting paid between $ and $. Because this is our first project together, I can help you with the lower end of this range. After this project, we can renegotiate if we liked the outcome together.”

Measure your outcomes.

As Financial Highway suggests, start looking at your past projects and find ways to tell the narrative of your impact at work. Did you plan, test, then execute a social media campaign that dropped the company’s customer acquisition cost by 50%? Use these types of numbers to show you made an impact from your actions.

If you feel your price is high, raise your value to match it.

From Duct Tape Marketing, Stephanie O’Brien suggests a really neat re-framing tactic for how to look at your price and value. She says to imagine your worth in number value. If you feel it is too high, then find a way to increase what you are giving to your customer. In her article, “Stop Undervaluing Yourself and Get Paid What You’re Worth”, Stephanie gives a fantastic example of how she’s done this with a client. Stephanie was hired to help a client rewrite the ‘about’ page on her story for $75 on their one-hour phone call. Not only did Stephanie listen and record her client’s story, but she also taught her client a general lesson on storytelling, so her client could have long-lasting and versatile knowledge for future projects. Stephanie added more value to make that $75/hr worth it.

Good luck to you and hope all goes well. — Paris 


P.S. You are worth it!

Hi there! I am a passionate person who always has WAY TOO many things I want to do in life. My current passion, though, is my new business where I am working on consumer solutions for mental health education. justbebooks.com I love chatting and collaborating with cool people, so please reach out!
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