Stop Devaluing Yourself
About the Author

Michelle Aikman is a military spouse and career management expert.

Take a moment to rewind to the 90s. Do you remember pogs, Pokémon cards, and Beanie Babies? These were hot items, and you probably spent a small fortune on them!  

In their prime, consumers valued these toys but over time they valued them less and less, which eventually left them with no worth. Most of them now are at the trash dump, at a thrift shop, or in the free box at garage sales.  

In my opinion, these toys had misplaced value in the first place, but there is an important lesson we can learn from this example… The monetary value of something is directly correlated to the needs/desires of the person who is paying for them.  

Let’s apply this lesson to the job market. 

Employers size up candidates based on their comparative value then provide job offers to the top candidates. Depending on how much they value their skills and experience, employers determine the candidate’s worth on a sliding scale—hence the phrase, “Compensation based on skills and experience.” If an employer doesn’t value what a candidate brings to the table, then they won’t compensate them for it. This is one of the reasons why many experts recommend only including relevant information on your résumé.  

Employers take a similar approach when determining promotions and raises.  

What is my market value?

It is important that you adopt this perspective to be competitive and negotiate the best overall compensation package that you need and deserve. If you aren’t already, I hope you start viewing yourself as an item in the market that has value and worth — because employers certainly do! They want to hire people they like, but they also view hiring as a business decision.  

The first step to determining your market value is to identify what you have to offer. We live in a conflicted culture that values diversity yet does not place immediate (monetary or hiring) value on diverse experience and transferable skills. When we fail to place professional value on ourselves, we squelch our worth in the professional marketplace.  

Our value starts within ourselves. We as individuals are responsible for understanding and communicating our value. We can’t expect others to value us if we don’t value ourselves. 

Change your storyline right now!

After many years of meeting people who unintentionally devalued themselves, I identified three ways you can make an immediate change and ultimately experience a more satisfying outcome in your professional life:   

  • Strike the word “just” from your vocabulary. The word “just” should never be spoken when you answer the question, “What do you do?” For you stay-at-home parents out there, telling someone you are “just a mom” or “just a dad” is a surefire way to communicate you don’t see yourself as a meaningful contributor to society and that you have negligible value compared to those with paid jobs. Silliness. Strike it.  
  • If someone, including you, believes a skill or experience is not relevant to a professional endeavor then figure out how it is relevant and transferable. I am a firm believer all skills and experience are relevant in some way and so should you! Our gained abilities are cumulative.  
  • Give yourself the same pep talk you give others when you hear them devalue themselves. If you can’t find it in you, find a friend and ask them to do the dirty work.   

All of this boils down to one very important message — stop devaluing yourself today and every day. Your professional worth depends on it.

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