Underpaid? Do These 3 Things Before You Quit


Unemployment is at a 49-year low and more people are quitting their jobs. Are you thinking of joining them?

If so, money might be a contributing factor. In a recent survey from The Ladders, 30 percent of job switchers named pay as a reason to change jobs. (Even more popular reasons: “boredom and long hours,” per Fortune, showing that money isn’t the only thing on workers’ minds.)

It’s no surprise that workers who feel underpaid are more likely to leave their jobs. But before you commit to moving on, there are a few things you should do.

1. Check Your Data

First things first: make sure that you really are underpaid. Because it turns out, most of us feel like we deserve more money … but the market doesn’t always support that.

Per PayScale data analyst, Teresa Perez:

From May 2015 to May 2017, PayScale asked roughly 930,000 people “How do you think your current pay compares to other employees like you?” Over two-thirds of respondents inaccurately reported their market position, with the vast majority placing themselves below their actual position in the market. In other words, large swaths of the working population incorrectly believe they are being underpaid.

Part of the problem is how people decide that they’re underpaid. Remember, we’re talking about what the market will bear, not just about what you deserve based on your work. To get an accurate salary range, you need data. Take the PayScale Salary Survey and get an answer in minutes, based on responses from thousands of your peers in the industry.

2. Look at the Big Picture

Note: this does not mean “be happy with what you have, ingrate.” You’re right to want to be paid appropriately for your job, given your skills and experience (and the local job market). Your boss should want you to be paid appropriately, too, since people who feel that they’re underpaid are less likely to be satisfied at work and more likely to leave.

But it does mean understanding what a “good job” looks like for you, beyond the salary. What does your job offer besides pay? Perks and flexibility might not be enough to make up for low pay, but if you like what you have, you might want to make sure that a potential new job offers the same. There’s no sense in jumping to a new employer for an extra couple of thousand dollars a year, only to lose that pay to increased childcare costs or your peace of mind to a nasty commute.

In other words, ask for more — but make sure you know what “more” means to you.

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3. Talk to Your Boss

If you’ve done all your due diligence and you know that you’re underpaid and what other considerations are important to you, it’s time to think about sitting down with the boss.

Before you do so, make a plan. Timing is everything when it comes to negotiation, and you might be surprised to hear that the end of the year isn’t necessarily the best time to put in your request. Budgets are often set in stone by the time annual performance reviews roll around, meaning that the 3 percent average raise your manager offers might be the best they can do.

So, when should you ask for a raise? In short, when both you and the company are doing well. If you’ve recently had a big success – completed a successful project or landed a big client – the time might be right. PayScale’s research also shows that there are sweet spots in your tenure for asking for more money — two to three years or five-plus years. (In other words, don’t ask for a big salary bump after a couple of months.)

When you’ve determined that it’s time, ask to meet with your boss to review your compensation. The meeting is important — you’re much less likely to be successful if you sandbag your boss during a random conversation.

Come prepared with your research and an idea of what you want to say. (Salary scripts can help, and so can this secret formula.) Then, let the data make your argument.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you negotiated for a higher salary after finding out that you were underpaid? We want to hear from you. Share your tips in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.