Career Advice, Salaries, Salary Transparency

7 Signs You’re Underpaid — And How to Earn More Now

Business people walking on office floor

Accepting less money than you’re worth has serious repercussions. As career coach Angela Copeland explains, “Being chronically underpaid is a serious problem. You may not think much about it now, but if you start out underpaid and then your company gives you just a two or three percent raise each year, you’re going to be way behind by the time you hit mid-career.” What’s more, because many companies base their salary offers not on their own pay scales but on what you were previously paid, “being underpaid now can very well mean being underpaid in the future,” Copeland says.

But there’s good news! With the warning signs below, it’s easier than ever to spot if you’re earning less than you’re worth—and if so, Copeland can help you negotiate a higher salary, stat. Here are seven signs you’re underpaid, and how you can earn the money you deserve right now.

1. Online salary data says so.

Glassdoor has a salary tool that allows you to search by job, company and location to find out what others Glassdoor users are paid in your same position or place. Use the tool to search with various criteria, then come up with a salary average with the information you discover. If you’re earning less than the estimate, the chances are that you’re underpaid.

2. The Know Your Worth tool confirms it.

“Glassdoor also provides an online tool that helps you to track your value by the job in your local market,” says Copeland. “It emails you as your market value goes up or down to show what other people at your level are making in your local area.” With these alerts, it’s effortless to stay on top of what you should be paid, as well as when it’s time to negotiate a raise.

3. Someone at your company gives you a hint.

Copeland remembers a time when she disclosed her pay to a coworker—who replied those digits were less than she had expected. “This person was the employee who processed the financials for our department, so they had the inside scoop on what everyone was making,” Copeland says. “The comment gave me a heads up to do research and to start negotiating.”

4. You’ve been at the same company for years.

There can be a downside to dedication. “If you have stayed at the same company for more than five years, there’s a chance you may be underpaid,” Copeland warns. “Many companies provide the largest financial incentives to new hires, rather than existing employees.”

5. Your salary isn’t keeping up with inflation.

“If your dollar isn’t going as far as it used to for the same expenses, there’s a chance you’re underpaid,” Copeland says. When running errands like grocery shopping or buying gas, ask yourself: can I buy what I usually do with the same amount? A Google search will also tell you exactly what the inflation rate has been in recent years. (This year, it’s projected at 1.9 percent.)

6. You made a switch—but your salary didn’t change.

According to Copeland,“If you have switched to a higher paid industry—such as from nonprofit to for-profit—and your new employer-based your new salary on your old salary,” then there’s a good chance your new employer took advantage of an unrelated and too-low salary.

7. You’ve never negotiated a higher salary.

Think back to when you received your job offer: did you negotiate the starting pay? “Almost never does a company come out with their best offer first,” Copeland explains. “If you aren’t asking for more, chances are you’re leaving money on the table.”

Luckily, no matter the reason you’re underpaid, your opportunities are the same: according to Copeland, you can keep your current salary, ask for a raise, or seek a new employer.

If you choose to remain mum, then you have no course of action (Although we recommend you take steps to get the salary you deserve!)

If you would like to see a spike in your salary and to stay at your current place of employment, “You need to make a good case about why you deserve a higher salary,” says Copeland. For example, if you’ve recently taken on more responsibility or even received a promotion, then you have excellent reasons to ask for a raise. “Rarely will your boss want to offer you more money to do the same job,” Copeland points out. “Your performance evaluation can be a great time to make your case for more money and more responsibility.”

On the other hand, if you choose to switch companies, Copeland urges you to be prepared. “You need to do your salary research in advance. During a job interview, your salary is one of the first questions HR will ask you. Not being prepared on the front end can hurt you.” Use the tools mentioned above to find out what you should be paid and your worth. Then, come to an interview armed with that information. “To be fairly compensated in the future, you need to negotiate for more during your next interview,” Copeland says. Don’t be afraid to ask for a big bump in an initial offer, using your salary research as a negotiating tool.


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