When it comes to putting a value on what you’re worth at work, how do you go about this? And how can you negotiate the right compensation based on it?

How much are you worth to an employer? If this isn’t one of the first things you consider when beginning a job search, it can throw the whole process off balance.

One of the biggest problems with finding a new job is trying to work out what you’re worth. Countless candidates don’t realize exactly what value they can add to a company, which means they sell themselves short.

This can have an impact on job satisfaction, which could then result in yet another job search not long after you land a new role. But there are things you can do to help establish and express the value you can offer an employer.

find out what you’re worth

When you’re interviewing for new positions, you need to know where to position yourself in the market. This can give you the leverage you’ll need to negotiate your salary before accepting an offer of work. An old saying emphasizes the importance of this part of the process: You aren't paid what you're worth; you're paid what you can negotiate.

You can establish this by looking at what other professionals with the same job title or responsibilities as you earn. This can be done on salary comparison websites, which provide location-based information on what companies pay different professionals. You can also evaluate comparable job listings to find out what employers are offering candidates with your level of work experience.

Believing you’re worth the salary you want is the first step towards obtaining it. As Susannah Breslin, freelance writer and Forbes contributor, explains. “if you don't believe you deserve to be paid well, why would anyone pay you well?

acknowledge your accomplishments

Performance coach Cheryl Hunter told Fast Company candidates should take stock of where they’ve succeeded at work. She encouraged them to think about the times people told them they’ve done well. This includes performance reviews and 360 evaluations - so think about any instance at work where managers or colleagues have praised you for your work.

When you’ve quantified the value you’ve offered previous employers, you can set out what you’re capable of achieving for new ones. This is where your true value will come across to hiring managers. If you can help them solve a problem their business is facing, you’ll have one foot in the door.

According to author of Reinvention Roadmap: Break the Rules to Get the Job You Want and  Career You Deserve, Liz Ryan, you have to tap into what your potential employer needs and how you can deliver this for them, rather than explain what you’re good at.

Researching the organization will provide you with the information you need to help establish what needs to be addressed. Companies want to know how they can improve their performance: if you can offer examples of how you intend to do this, you’ll have an advantage over other candidates. This shows what you can contribute to the business, which will put you in a strong position for salary negotiations.

how to negotiate

Once you know what you’re worth, it’s time to actually put that into practice and tell hiring managers what salary you should be earning. A survey by Salary.com has revealed that just 37 percent of candidates negotiate their salary, while 18 percent never do. Meanwhile, Linda Babcock, author of Women Don’t Ask, found that just seven percent of women negotiate their salaries, compared to 57 percent of men.

The benefits of negotiating are plain to see. Ms Babcock found that those candidates who did negotiate were able to boost their salary offer by seven percent on average.

Once you’ve defined a range from your market research, you should ensure that you start at the top. Your new employer will try to bring you down, so starting near the bottom or middle won’t give you as much room to maneuver. You should also give a specific number, as research from Columbia Business School shows that candidates who ask for $54,750 instead of $55,000, for example, are more likely to receive offers closer to that figure. This is because employers think they’ve carried out extensive market research to reach that figure.

And remember that confidence is key. Amy Cuddy, of Harvard Business School, found that performing ‘power poses’ can raise testosterone and reduce the stress hormone cortisol, which leaves you feeling more in control of the situation. Use this confidence to be the first person to mention a number. This leaves you in control of the negotiation, not the hiring manager you’re taking on.