Are You Being Underpaid?
If you have an inkling that you’re being underpaid, chances are, you’re right. “Anyone who says, ‘Gosh, I wish I made more money, but…’ is an underearner,” says Barbara Stanny, author of “Overcoming Underearning.®” “You can make six figures and still be an underearner, and you can make far less and not be.” It all comes down to whether you’re getting paid what you need or want. And the sad fact is: Many women aren’t.
“We pay a really huge price for not negotiating,” says MJ Tocci, co-founder and director of the Heinz College Negotiation Academy for Women at Carnegie Mellon University. Even if you love your job – and we hope you do – there’s no reason why you shouldn’t ask to be well-compensated for it. Not sure where to start? Here’s how to determine how your pay compares to what colleagues in your field are making. No snooping required. (Bonus: Knowing where your salary ranks can also help you make a stronger case for a bigger check.)
Scope Out the Sites
For a quick ballpark figure of your position’s salary range, don’t overlook salary calculators on sites like Payscale.com, Salary.com and Paywizard.org. “These sites have great researchers who put a lot of time into getting the figures pretty precise, based on where you live,” says Selena Rezvani, author of “Pushback: How Smart Women Ask and Stand Up for What They Want.” Keep in mind that what an accountant makes in New York City won’t be the same in West Palm Beach. Other factors that can influence how much you should be making include the size of your company, how much experience you have, how long you’ve been there, and how closely your job description matches what you actually do day-to-day, says Tocci.
To get a stronger pulse on your industry, join a professional association in your field of expertise, advises Rezvani. Build relationships by attending monthly meetings and offering information you think other members would find helpful. In return, you can mine them for data as well. “You can’t get what you need without relationships,” says Dr. Lois Frankel, author of “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office.” “Your membership gives you access.” To make your request for salary stats, focus on how it benefits everyone. Frankel suggests the following pitch: “I’m wondering if you might be willing to share some salary information with me as I prepare to make a case for a raise. And I would be happy to share what I find out from others, without sharing names, and what I’m earning.”
Talk to Colleagues
Maybe you can’t call a meeting to find out what your entire team makes, but there are ways to find out if you’re bringing home as big a stack of bacon as the rest of them. Rezvani recommends getting to know department members who do the same job as you. Then, take them to lunch one-on-one. Even then, because it is such a personal question, you must approach it artfully. “Broach the topic of pay in your field and function in a more general way to see how the person reacts. If they’re excited to talk about it, that’s the person who will volunteer the info,” she says. If someone looks uncomfortable or closed off, don’t press them. Just remember that some people may mislead you and give you a figure that’s inflated, warns Rezvani. Though it can be one data point in your research, it shouldn’t be your only one.
You don’t have to be looking for a job to have conversations with recruiters. They are a valuable resource that most people underutilize, says Rezvani. Headhunters know exactly how much companies are willing to shell out for your position in the current economy. They also have a precise measure of how your qualifications stack up against the competition. After all, it’s their job – and in their best interest – to sell you at your highest earning potential.
Understand Your Worth
According to Stanny, who struggled for decades as an underpaid writer, we give away our skills, knowledge and time for bargain prices, because we don’t think we’re worth it. “It’s not so important what you do for a career, as how you think,” she says. In other words, don’t make excuses, like a weak economy or flailing industry, for an underwhelming paycheck. To get to the next level, you have to climb out of your comfort zone. “When we get scared, that’s a sign we’re going in the right direction,” she explains. “When I first started interviewing high earners, I was shocked at how much chutzpah they had. They didn’t always get what they asked for, but they got a lot more than what they’d have gotten if they didn’t ask for it.”