THE BLOG
09/26/2014 01:39 pm ET Updated Nov 26, 2014

Why Making More Money Comes Down to Perception

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By Stacey Hawley, Owner and Principal, Credo

Many women think that knowing the market "value" of a job will earn them more money. Wrong. Simply telling your manager that you heard that your friend makes $20k more somewhere else won't get you a raise. Market data is just that -- data. There isn't ONE right number for a role. There is a RANGE of numbers. It's your job to be at the top of the range. To do that, you need to convince the company you are worth it.

After almost 20 years as a Board-level compensation advisor, I learned why some women earn higher levels of compensation than others: perception. I encountered hundreds of women earning significant levels of pay. They understood their value and so did their employers. Highly paid women -- in any field, at any level, at any company -- understand the importance of perception.

Maximizing perception, to be specific.

Compensation is a game -- a high level, strategic game with winners and losers. To maximize their earnings, women need to understand this game, their role in the game and how to play it. Women need to convince the company that they should be paid at the high end of the range.

1. Learn How Your Company Approaches Compensation

Simply put, women need to understand which game they are playing. The compensation game varies by company, industry, stage of growth and a host of other factors. What compensation game are you playing? Identify your company's approach to compensation, its reward vehicles, the key decision-makers and their levels of influence. Research, one-on-one conversations and soul-searching helps unearth the answers to many of these questions.

You will learn that companies don't manage to a data point. They manage to a range. That is why perception is so important. You need your company to believe you should be paid at the top end of that range.

2. Determine your Powerhouse Personality

The crux of the issue as to why some women fail to maximize their compensation is that they try to be something they aren't. You can't sell swampland in Florida if you detest selling. Some women enjoy "working a room" while others would rather have one-on-one conversations. Other women comfortably tout their own performance while still others would prefer someone else extolled their praises.

I have identified four main powerhouse personalities: Assertive, Confident but Humble, Politically Savvy and Fiercely Loyal. In my new book, Rise to the Top - How Women Earn More by Leveraging Their Professional Persona, I describe each powerhouse personality in detail. I witnessed many women fail to achieve their desired compensation goals because they employed an approach that wasn't second nature. People see right through the mask. Don't be something you aren't. You will have a higher probability of success if you stay true to your core.

3. Leverage Your Powerhouse Personality to Earn More Money

Once you determine your powerhouse personality, you can better leverage your perception. Using the information you gathered about your company's compensation programs, leverage your strengths. The goal is to convince the decision-makers that the value of your contributions warrants higher pay. Think of your perception like a stock price. Positive perception increases your stock price while negative perception decreases your stock price. Your goal is to act in a way that increases your stock price. The way each powerhouse personality acts varies. Approaching your manager, responding to offers or negotiating employment agreements will vary based on the company's compensation approach each powerhouse personality's strengths.

Companies have a choice when determining how to pay people. There are guidelines but there is lots of wiggle room within these guidelines. Your goal is to be paid in the upper end. Increase your value. Leverage your powerhouse personality and earn more money.