independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Culture of secrecy persists but upskilling is key if you really want to earn more

HOW much am I worth? It's a question that all of us ask at some time or another, but few of us really know the answer. In most companies, salaries are kept quiet. You probably have no idea what the person next to you is making, and companies like to keep it that way.

How much should you be earning, though? And where should you be working if you want to make the big bucks? Five years ago, the big bucks money was in construction and real estate. But not any more.

One of the hallmarks of the bust has been the savage pay cuts and salary freezes that many have had to endure. Despite the crash, it's unsurprising that chief executives in financial services are still the highest paid group in the country, with a salary of over ¿500,000 at the top end of the market.

However, there is a bit of a spread, depending on the size of the market. CPL Recruitment estimates CEOs in finance make ¿500k, while peers Brightwater reckons ¿385,000 is a fair figure.

Realistically, though, most of us are not chief executives in finance, and in truth there are wide variations between what you earn and what sector you are in.

If you lead procurement for a small retail business, you should be on at least ¿70,000 annually, and perhaps as much as ¿120,000, depending on your experience and the size of the company.

The technology sector has been one of the flagship industries in recent years but salaries are notably lower compared to 'old' industries. Still, ¿100,000 for a commercial director is pretty good money.

Despite the fancy titles you see bandied about today, recruitment specialist CPL's Peter Cosgrove says the best paid jobs are still the ones that are most in demand. "You have to always be refreshing your skill-sets so that you are considered a valuable resource," he says.

"IT developers, pharmaceuticals, social media experts, those who speak multiple languages, compliance professionals, radiographers are all in demand because there are not enough of them right now," he adds.

Reinventing yourself is, of course, easier said than done, but you just have to look at how quickly new jobs such as "social media experts" have emerged. Facebook is still less than 10 years old after all.

Apart from training yourself into a valuable commodity, the physical location where you work also serves to dictate what you earn. For better or worse, you still earn more if you are based in a city, and workers in Dublin still earn more than people doing the same job in the likes of Cork, Limerick or Belfast.

While the confidentiality over salaries remains, that is beginning to break down. Websites such as Glassdoor.com allow workers to anonymously post their salaries, along with details about their industry and experience. That can give workers a better idea if they are being paid the market rate.

A quick look at the site this week showed a software engineer at Hewlett Packard makes about ¿41,000, while a product manager at eBay earns close to ¿40,000.

One thing that CPL and Brightwater are clear about, though, is that languages matter. If you are working in tech support for a multinational and don't have a second language, don't expect to make the same as somebody doing the same job who has a second language. It won't happen.

The message is clear. If you want to earn more you need to keep up-skilling, even if it feels like you are running to stand still.

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