Why you are underpaid as a cybersecurity professional

Home / Career / Why you are underpaid as a cybersecurity professional

Most tech careers enjoy a salary that is well above the average. In fact Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields are considered some of the highest paying and lowest employment careers you can choose. However, there is one common mistake that most people make throughout their careers and especially early on that limits the amount of money that they make. That mistake is that most people feel compelled to take the first job that they are offered. I’m not sure why this has become the norm for so many people, perhaps people just feel happy to have a job or maybe they aren’t confident that they can command a higher salary but I want to explain why you want to get multiple job offers before accepting a new job.

Salary Bell Curve Distribution

This is called a bell curve distribution and it represents the typical distribution around an average, in this case your average salary. So let’s say for your skills and experience your average job offer is 50,000 which is in the center of the diagram. The percentages represent the amount of the job offers that will fall within 1, 2 or 3 standard deviations of this average. The vast majority of someone’s job offers (68.2%) will be very close to this average (40-60k) and if you accept the very first job offer you get, you will likely get something in these two brackets. However, what if instead of accepting your first job offer you get 10 job offers, now you are giving yourself a good chance to find a job that is in the 13.6% bracket, the 2.1% bracket and while very unlikely the 0.1% bracket. Even if it’s just 13.6%, this can easily be a pay increase of 10-20% and it is possible. All employers are not going to view you the same and by getting multiple job offers you are increasing the likelihood of finding one of these employers that will pay you in the upper end of your bell curve distribution. It would help to start thinking of getting a job as a numbers game, the more you put yourself out there the more likely you are to find a job that will be an outlier from your normal salary.

Avoid Spamming Resumes

Now, if this makes sense to you it’s important that you avoid simply spamming out resumes to different jobs. You should still customize your resume and create a good cover letter for any job that you apply for. By doing so you’re much more likely to come across as a good candidate for the job and get more offers in the long run. The key here isn’t to just apply to more jobs but you need to get more job offers.

Get to know your market value

A secondary effect of getting more job offers will be increased confidence and awareness of what salary you can command. If you always take the first job that comes to you it’s much easier to underestimate how much opportunity is out there for you. Especially for someone in the tech field, we can generally demand higher than average salaries. If you have a good portfolio, experience etc you should take the time to shop around and see what is out there for you.

Other General Tips

Market Yourself: Marketing yourself is a good multiplier to having good skill and experience. The more you can put yourself out there as an expert in an area, provide value by teaching other people and get more people looking at you the more opportunities you will have. Some good ways to do this can be writing a blog, starting a youtube channel or having an online portfolio. 

Don’t accept the first number: A common negotiation technique is to never accept the first number that is offered to you. Now if you’re brand new to the industry this may not be practical for you but if you have some experience say 2+ years this can be a good way to get a good salary bump. Many companies expect you to negotiate salary and if they already expressed that you are the candidate that they want, you can probably negotiate a good pay raise.  

Save your money and be proactive: One big reason people accept the first job offer they get is that they need the money right now. Most people live paycheck to paycheck or close to it and they can’t afford any distributions to that. If you have good savings, which should be 6 months to 1 year of your expenses and you begin your job search before you need a new job, you have the leverage and financial security to pick and choose between different job offers. You don’t want to wait until you are fired or laid off to start looking for a new job, because now you’re in a needy situation and you’re much more likely to make compromises.

*Here is a good video that talks through a lot of these points on why you want to get multiple job offers and how it can help you command a better salary.