Did you know that someone who routinely negotiates job offers and raises will earn over $1M more by the time she or he retires than those who simply accept what they are offered? (Study: Pinkley and Northcraft - as referenced in the book Get Paid What you are Worth). WOW!

Compensation is really important, and too many people are afraid to explore it, talk to others, or ultimately negotiate. Clearly, the financial (and emotional) toll to them is enormous.

To be honest, this is what amazed me most (and sometimes horrified me!) my first few years in recruiting: the wild differences in pay from company to company (and often, from person to person inside a company). Take, for instance, three business system analysts I met this year. All three have 15 years of experience. All three have worked for high-profile, global companies. All three were making vastly different amounts of money:

• Bob was making $84,000

• Jane was making $107,000

• Mark (a consultant) was making $185,000 per year

Shocked? You shouldn’t be. As a recruiter, I saw wild pay differences like this on a daily basis. Like anything with a price tag in life, there will almost always be big differences in the final price. Just look around at the houses in your neighborhood, the car you bought and any other big-ticket item in your life. Pricing is tricky; there are always numerous factors affecting the final price ... both of things, and of people.

One thing’s for sure: if you don’t ask, you won’t get. You can’t afford to cross your fingers and hope for the best … because employers will take a great deal on you if they can. I’ve found that it really helps to understand all the nuances that can affect how much a company is willing to pay a person.