Maybe your annual raise was stingy this time around. Maybe that raise was nonexistent. Or maybe you're just so frustrated with not earning the amount you want that your raise almost doesn't matter.

If you work hard consistently, put in long hours at the office, and add real value to your company, feeling underpaid can be frustrating to the point where you're ready to up and quit. But before you jump ship due to salary issues alone, take these three critical steps.

1. Do your research

Maybe you think you're underpaid because you know a few people in your industry who make a lot more than you do. But before you gear up to make a major career decision based on salary alone, figure out whether you're really as under-compensated as you think you are. There are several online resources, such as Glassdoor, that allow you to dig up salary data based on job title combined with geographic location. And the latter is important, because it gives you a true apples-to-apples comparison. Once you do that research, you might find that you're actually being paid pretty fairly, in which case quitting your current job and looking for a similar one elsewhere might not do you much good. Instead, you might need to develop more skills or get promoted to see a substantial increase in salary.

Woman at laptop looking unhappy

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

2. Actually ask for a raise

If you're unhappy with what you're earning, it could be because you've yet to come out and ask for more money. A study released last year by Jobvite found that only 29% of job seekers had negotiated salary at their current jobs, but of those who did ask for raises, 84% got more money from their employers. So schedule a conversation with your boss, come in prepared with a list of things that make you a valued employee who deserves top dollar, and see how that goes before quitting over money. Even if you don't get the exact number you ask for, you might score enough of a bump to make it worthwhile to stay put.

3. Look at the big picture

Maybe your company isn't paying you the salary you'd really like. But what do your workplace benefits look like? Does your employer offer a generous 401(k) match? A great health plan? Unlimited vacation days? These are all benefits that are worth money in one way or another, so rather than fixate on salary alone, take an honest look at your total compensation package. Then think about whether another company is likely to compare on the benefits front, and whether it makes sense to settle a bit on salary for those fabulous perks.

It's natural to want to make as much money as you can at work, but before you leave an otherwise decent job over salary issues, think about whether you're really underpaid and whether you've actually taken steps to boost your earnings. At the same time, don't underestimate the value of terrific workplace benefits, because if yours are top tier, there's a good chance you won't find them elsewhere.

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