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46% of Americans Think They're Underpaid. Here's What to Do If You're 1 of Them.

By Maurie Backman - Oct 21, 2019 at 9:03AM

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Not happy with your salary? Then take action.

There are various factors that go into job satisfaction, like the interest you have in the work you're doing, your relationship with your colleagues and manager, and the amount you're being paid. The latter is important, because if you're not content with your earnings, it can affect not just your on-the-job happiness, but also your quality of life on a whole.

Unfortunately, an estimated 46% of U.S. workers feel they're underpaid for what they do, according to a recent survey from staffing firm Robert Half. If you're in the same boat, here are a few things to do about it.

Man with sour expression sitting at computer, adjusting eyeglasses


1. Arm yourself with knowledge

The best way to deal with being underpaid is to research your industry to determine what you should be making. That way, you'll be able to go to your employer and seek out a concrete raise. And it's a lot more effective to say, "I'm looking for a $7,000 increase" than to say, "You need to start paying me more."

A good 73% of employees have checked their salary against market rates within the past year, as per the aforementioned survey. If you've yet to do the same, you can use sites like Glassdoor and to see how your earnings stack up. But make sure to compare apples to apples. If you live in a small city, you don't want to weigh your earnings against what a similarly qualified professional is making in San Francisco or New York City, because those cities probably cost double or triple to live in, and so wages in those areas tend to account for that fact.

2. Compare notes with colleagues -- but do so carefully

An estimated 54% of workers have talked to colleagues about compensation, as per the above-mentioned survey. And among those who discussed wages, 28% used that information as leverage to request a raise.

It's not a bad idea to see how your salary compares to what your co-workers are making, but only have those conversations if you're certain they don't violate company policy. Some employers prohibit workers from disclosing salary information, or even engaging in conversations that allude to those details, so consult your employee handbook to see if there's a rule expressly forbidding you from taking that step. If there's not, do some internal digging -- but be prepared to divulge information on your earnings as well.

3. Have that tough conversation

Asking for a raise isn't easy, but if you don't fight for one, you're less likely to get one. Once you have the information you need to make a strong case for a pay boost, schedule time with your manager and make your pitch. When you do, highlight the value you bring to the table, and talk about the unique things you do for your company that others don't. For example, if you're the one person on your team who knows a certain coding language, speaks a foreign language that's helpful to the business, or has a truly keen eye for editing, then that's information you'll want to use to your advantage.

If you're unhappy with what you're making at work, don't resign yourself to that lousy paycheck. Today's job market is thriving and healthy, and there are plenty of opportunities to go out and earn more money. If you like your job, it certainly pays to ask for a raise before seeking a role elsewhere. But if that request is denied, don't be afraid to polish up your resume and see where that takes you.

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