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What to Do if You Think You're Underpaid

Business News Daily Editor
Business News Daily Editor

Being underpaid is frustrating and demoralizing. Here are the steps to take if you think you're being underpaid.

  • Be sure to compare your salary to those of other employees at both your company and other companies.
  • Some of the most underpaid jobs include those that serve children, the elderly and the sick.
  • When negotiating a pay raise, present the strongest case possible, backed by evidence.

When you think you're underpaid, you feel unappreciated and overworked, and it makes going into work a drag. However, with the right game plan, preparation and negotiation skills, you should be able to increase your salary.

Here are the steps to take if you think you're being underpaid.

"The first step is to figure out what you're actually worth by understanding average salaries for people in your role and those surrounding it," said Rachel Bitte, chief people officer at Jobvite, a company that provides recruiting software. 

How do you know if you're underpaid?

One of the most common questions people ask about salaries is how to find out if they're being underpaid. After all, it can be uncomfortable to ask co-workers about their salaries for comparison. Fortunately, there are sources that can tell you what people get paid, on average, for a specific position in your industry, which can vary based on location.

Online resources such as GlassdoorSalary.comPayScaleLinkedInMonster and Indeed can help you determine if you're being underpaid. Be sure to account for both your location and your job title when you're using these websites to figure out if your pay is appropriate.    

If you go into a salary negotiation without doing your research, it could hurt your career and chances at getting what you deserve. "Go into any salary conversation without knowing the facts, and you run the risk of botching the whole process," Bitte said.

What are the most underpaid jobs?

Certain jobs tend to deserve much higher pay for what they provide to society. These include public school teachers, registered nurses, paramedics and social workers. People in these professions are often underpaid, so those who work in these fields need to seize every opportunity for a raise.

Along with researching online, you can consult with people in your industry, such as former co-workers and contacts on LinkedIn.

"Ask former bosses and colleagues who no longer work with you for a going rate," said Vicki Salemi, a career expert at Monster. "Ask them to consider if they were to hire someone with your experience, skill set and credentials, what would the salary be?"

Salemi also suggested asking your company, because some companies provide full transparency into salaries through online databases or their HR departments. "It's OK to ask for pay ranges for your position; just be mindful that pay ranges may overlap, and the high end of your current role may be at the low end of the role above you," she said. 

What does underpayment mean?

It's also important to have a definition of "underpayment" in mind. Most people think that underpayment means they are getting paid less than they feel they're worth. In reality, however, the market dictates what someone deserves to be paid. Therefore, it is critical to discuss salaries with co-workers and former bosses with this definition of underpayment in mind. If you are being paid less than someone else for the same job in the same industry and location, especially if you have more experience than that person, you're being underpaid.

Once you've done your research and chatted with people in your industry, it's time to talk with your manager about a raise. Though this may be intimidating, if you don't ask, the answer is always no.

How do you prove you're being underpaid?

Eventually, if you say you're being underpaid, you're going to have to prove it. To do this, there are a few steps you can follow. First, show the manager what you're currently being paid. Then, show the manager or supervisor as much evidence as possible that other people who work the same job are getting paid more. This might be evidence from salary survey sites, or it might include salaries of people who have the same position at other companies. It might even include salaries of co-workers with the same title at your company.

"The truth is that negotiating your salary is a necessity, especially if you are underpaid," Bitte said. "Increasing your income now can change the trajectory of your future compensation, which is crucial to maximizing your earning potential throughout your career."

Salemi recommended asking for a raise after you've just accomplished something big and it's fresh in your boss's mind. "Another time is before or during a salary review, not after," she added. "Depending on the company, raises only occur once a year, so if you miss that window, you're out of luck."

What if you don't get a raise?

So, you've done your research and know what you're worth, but your manager doesn't want to give you a raise. What should you do?

"Don't give up," Bitte said. "Most younger workers presume that a 'no' is the end of the conversation, but that's simply not the case. It's often unlikely your boss will give in on the first ask, so think of salary negotiations as an ongoing conversation."

She suggested following up a couple of months later and noting the contributions you've made to the company since the last conversation.

However, if, after a couple of conversations, your manager still isn't willing to give you an increase, it may be time to start looking for a new gig. "If you ask for a raise and receive a 'no,' one option is to stay and continue to be underpaid and overworked," Salemi said. "Another option is to leave and search for a new job."

Image Credit: bunyarit klinsukhon/Shutterstock
Business News Daily Editor
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