Hustle Mindset

From Salary To Total Compensation: Why Black Professionals Can’t Afford To Leave Money On The Table

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Money. Every single one of us is working for it, it’s why we’re logging into these computers everyday, but for some reason, it’s also something we’re scared to talk about. In a recent LinkedIn survey, 40% of Black professionals felt like they were underpaid, but get this; only 30% had plans to ask for a raise, and 34% of us feel the hardest part of job searching is salary and benefits negotiations. 

If we agree that we’re all working for money–Lord knows I work HARD for mine–then why are we so scared to talk about compensation? 

By traditional measures, the U.S. labor market looks pretty good on paper. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, the U.S. economy added more jobs than economists expected in February 2024, however, on LinkedIn we’re still seeing just one job opening for every two applicants.

My goal is to help people, who plan to stay in their roles, better understand how not to leave money on the table and to help folks negotiating for new opportunities arm themselves with tools and information to get the most money from the onset. The biggest factor in both scenarios is to shift our mindset from salary conversations to total compensation negotiations.

Let’s get into it. 

My friend and actress Amyiah Scott says you have to know your worth and add tax! For my 9-to-5 folks, that means building financial stability, and eventually wealth, isn’t just about the number on your paycheck—it’s about understanding your total compensation or the full scope of what your employer offers. The way I see it is: Cash + Benefits + Equity/Incentives + Time Off = Total Compensation. 

We all understand cash (salary + bonus); everytime a recruiter calls me with a salary range, I turn into a mathematician, “divide that by 26 pay periods in a year, if I get 100% of bonus, subtract 26% for taxes.” Cash we get, but if you’re in the market, you also have to do your research on companies’ benefits and have those conversations with recruiters too, or else you could leave a ton of money on the table. 

If you’re a woman, going to a company that has fertility benefits like freezing your eggs or IVF support could save you upwards of $30,000; that’s real money. If you’re thinking about getting a certification or advanced degree, companies that provide education assistance can cut those costs in half or zero them out all together. Black career starters carry an average of $25,000 more education debt into their first jobs than their white counterparts, so we have to think more strategically about paying for advanced degrees.

Did you know that some companies are now offering education benefits that pay up to $10,000 toward paying off student loans that you already have? There is wealth in looking at a company’s benefits and financial incentives beyond salary. I call these “Off the Offer Letter Benefits,” because we often don’t include them in our compensation calculations, and that’s a big mistake. 

Whether you’re looking for a new gig or staying put in your current one, ask your recruiter or HR partner about fertility benefits, adoption or surrogacy assistance, paid parental leave, access to discounted professional services like attorneys (wills, prenups, power of attorney), transportation stipends, cell phone stipends, company discounts on products they sell, sponsored or discounted life insurance, even survivor support for your family if the unthinkable happens (meaning does your family get your annual bonus or stock payouts if you die–morbid but important to know).

LinkedIn offers tools that make it easier to find jobs that match the benefits and environment you’re  looking for:

  • Values Matching: When searching for a job on LinkedIn, members will see a commitments filter at the top of the job search page as well as the all filters tab where they can narrow down their search results to discover roles at companies committed to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), career growth and learning, work-life balance, social impact and environmental sustainability. Job seekers can also set up job alerts for these searches, which will notify them when a relevant role opens up so they can apply early. Note: Users can also filter for the exact workplace benefits they are looking for (Student loan assistance, Commuter benefits etc.) 
  • Company Pages: Organizations can also highlight their commitments on their LinkedIn company page, which will pull through in their live job listings to attract candidates looking to assess whether a company shares their values.
  • Collaborative Articles: At LinkedIn, we’re celebrating the first anniversary of collaborative articles, an AI-powered resource that shares articles co-written by AI and industry experts. In just one year, the resource has surpassed more than 10 million contributions. There’s a section within collaborative articles for expert commentary around salary negotiation, that I recommend you check out. 

The only way to get comfortable talking about money is to TALK ABOUT MONEY. Many of us are brilliant in our professional lives, but we often lack training in personal finance and financial negotiation. There can be a lot of ego and shame tied up in talking about our finances, but don’t let that stop you from asking for more from the beginning. Negotiation, information sharing and wealth building are all skills we can develop. For women and people of color, a mindset shift from salary to total compensation is a GAMECHANGER. Statistically speaking, we are literally leaving money on the table when we don’t! 

When it comes down to it, understanding your benefits is crucial for making informed decisions about your career. Before finalizing any job offer, or having that conversation with your boss, take the time to explore the full range of what’s being offered. After all, you work hard — make sure you’re reaping all the rewards. 

Next, we’re going deeper on how to talk about equity and stock incentives. Let’s go on this wealth journey together!

Your LinkedIn Career Coach (and get money hype man), 

Andrew McCaskill 


Follow me on LinkedIn, subscribe to my newsletter, The Black Guy in Marketing, and check out my Learning Lab session at AFROTECH™ Conference 2023 and purchase your tickets to AFROTECH™ Conference 2024.





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