Unveil the Signs: How to Determine If You're Underpaid at Work

Attius Li- Author
Atticus Li
Salary Negotiation
July 26, 2023
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In today’s competitive job market, it’s essential to know if you’re being fairly compensated for your skills and expertise. Are you among the many who suspect they may be underpaid at work? In this article, we’ll uncover key signs that point towards a lower-than-deserved salary and explore various factors that impact compensation rates.

Additionally, we’ll provide actionable tips on evaluating fair pay and taking proactive steps to address potential discrepancies in remuneration.

Signs That You May Be Underpaid

Your workload is consistently higher than your peers at the same level, which could indicate that you are being underpaid for the work you are doing.

Your Salary Is Below Industry Standards

One of the most obvious signs that you may be underpaid is if your salary falls below industry standards. This means that when comparing your current compensation to the average pay for similar positions within your field, there’s a noticeable discrepancy.

It’s essential to consider factors such as experience, education, and location in these comparisons, but if you still find yourself earning less than what others in equivalent roles are making, it’s time to reevaluate.

In order to confirm whether or not you’re being underpaid due to falling below industry standards, make use of online resources such as Glassdoor or Payscale which provide valuable information on market value and average salaries across various fields and locations.

By staying informed about how much professionals with similar qualifications and responsibilities are earning within your industry, it becomes easier to identify discrepancies and help support any negotiations for a raise or potential job changes down the line.

New Hires Are Offered More Money

One clear sign that you may be underpaid at work is when new hires are offered a higher salary than what you’re currently making. This can be particularly frustrating, especially if these newcomers have similar qualifications and experience as you do.

For instance, let’s say your company recently hired someone for the same position as yours, with comparable education and work history.

In such situations, it’s essential not to react impulsively or let resentment grow. Instead, take this opportunity to gather more information about market rates in your industry for employees with similar skill sets and background.

Armed with this knowledge, consider approaching your manager or human resources department to discuss the discrepancy and negotiate a fairer salary package.

You Have More Responsibilities Without A Raise

Taking on increased responsibilities in the workplace is often a sign of your employer’s trust and a testament to your professional growth. However, it may also be an indicator that you are being underpaid if these added duties and responsibilities haven’t been accompanied by a salary increase.

Consider tracking your accomplishments, expanded job functions, and any significant contributions you have made while tackling the extra workload. Compile this information as evidence of the value you bring to the company when approaching management or human resources about adjusting your pay accordingly.

Remember that fair compensation isn’t just about monetary rewards; it’s also about recognizing individual effort and hard work invested in helping the company succeed.

No Salary Increase For A Long Time

If you have been at your job for a while and haven’t received a salary increase, that could be a sign that you are being underpaid. It’s important to keep in mind that salaries should typically increase with time as employees gain more experience and add value to the company.

According to Glassdoor, the average employee waits about 12 months between raises, but many companies may only give raises on an annual or bi-annual basis. However, if it has been several years since your last raise or there is no clear indication of when one will come, then it may be worth having a frank conversation with your employer about your compensation package.

Your Workload Is More Than Your Peers’ At The Same Level

man working alone surrounded by computers

If you find that you are consistently taking on more work and responsibilities than your colleagues at the same level, this could be a sign that you are being underpaid. It’s important to assess whether or not your workload is fair and if it aligns with your compensation.

For example, if you work in a marketing agency and notice that your co-workers who have similar experience as yours but earn twice as much handle fewer clients than yourself, this could indicate being underpaid.

It’s essential to take stock of what tasks take up most of your time and evaluate whether they align with market rates for someone of your experience level.

Ultimately, understanding workload imbalances within an organization during times when resources aren’t allocated fairly can go hand-in-hand with advocating for fairer compensation practices.

Factors Affecting Your Salary

Factors that can affect your salary include your education and experience, the geographic location and cost of living in the area, industry trends and standards, as well as the size and the financial condition of your company.

Education And Experience

Education and experience are often the most critical factors that determine your salary. The higher your level of education, the more likely you’ll earn a higher salary than someone with less education in the same industry.

Similarly, as you gain experience, especially if it is relevant to your job or industry, it can increase your worth to an employer.

Research shows that having advanced degrees can equate to earning significantly more money over time. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), individuals with bachelor’s degrees make 31% more than those without any college-level training; people with master’s degrees make an additional 23%, while doctoral holders make another 37%.

Geographic Location And Cost Of Living

Another factor that affects your salary is your geographic location and cost of living. For instance, the same position in New York City would pay more than it would in a smaller town or rural area due to higher costs of living, such as housing expenses and transportation costs.

This means that if you’re comparing salaries with someone who lives in a different geographic location, their pay may not be an accurate benchmark for yours.

It’s important to research average salaries based on where you live so that you can evaluate whether or not you’re being paid fairly. Online salary tools like Glassdoor and Payscale can help determine what other professionals are making in your area.

Industry Trends And Standards

Industry trends and standards play a significant role in determining the fair compensation for an employee. It is essential to keep up-to-date with market trends and industry benchmarks to understand your job value accurately.

For example, if you are working in a rapidly growing sector, such as technology, you can expect higher salaries than those who work in traditional industries.

Additionally, it’s helpful to consider factors such as education and experience when evaluating your value in the industry. Having more relevant skills or certifications could help increase demand for your services, leading to higher pay rates.

Overall, understanding industry trends and standards plays an important role while assessing whether you’re being paid fairly at work.

Company Size And Financial Condition

The size of a company can play a significant role in determining your salary. Larger companies tend to have more funds for employee compensation and benefits compared to smaller businesses.

Moreover, the financial condition of your employer also matters as financially struggling companies may not offer competitive salaries.

For instance, if a company announces layoffs or pay cuts, it might be worth considering the possibility of being underpaid. Additionally, employees at startups may receive lower salaries due to limited funding or investments in early-stage growth instead of high salaries for staff members.

Evaluating A Fair Salary

Evaluate your skills and experience, research industry benchmarks and cost of living, consider negotiation or additional benefits, and have confidence in your value.

Research Industry Benchmarks And Cost Of Living

It’s important to research industry benchmarks and cost of living when evaluating if you are being underpaid. There are online salary tools that can help you understand what the average pay is for your job title in your specific geographic location.

Knowing this information will give you leverage when negotiating a fair salary with your employer. You should also consider other factors such as education, experience, and industry trends to determine an appropriate range for your compensation.

By doing proper research, you can better assess your market value and have evidence to support your argument for a raise or fair compensation.

Assess Your Skills And Experience

Assessing your skills and experience is an important step in evaluating whether you are being underpaid at work. Consider your education, training, and any additional certifications or licenses that increase your value to the company.

Look at the job requirements and match them up with what you bring to the table.

It’s also essential to research industry benchmarks for salaries in similar roles with comparable experience and skills. Use online tools like Glassdoor’s “Know Your Worth” feature to see where you stand in terms of market value.

Don’t undervalue yourself — if you have valuable skills and experience, make sure it translates into fair compensation.

Consider Negotiation Or Additional Benefits

Another option to explore if you suspect you are underpaid is negotiating with your employer for a salary increase or additional benefits. Before requesting a raise, research industry benchmarks and cost of living in your area.

Also, assess your skills and experience to determine your market value. It’s important to have confidence in the value you bring to the company and present evidence to support your argument during negotiations.

If a pay raise isn’t feasible at the moment, alternative benefits such as increased vacation time, flexible hours or telecommuting options may be negotiated instead.

Studies show that employees who ask for raises are more likely to receive them than those who don’t make their case known (Glassdoor).

Have Confidence In Your Value

It’s important to remember that you are a valuable asset to your company, and you deserve fair compensation for the work that you do. Having confidence in your value can help when negotiating a salary increase or seeking new job opportunities.

Take some time to evaluate your skills, experience, and achievements in your current role, as well as any additional responsibilities you have taken on without compensation.

Remember that market values fluctuate based on industry trends and geographic location. Don’t settle for less than what you know is fair compensation for the work that you do.

If necessary, seek advice from career experts who can advise on best practices for asking for a raise or finding new job opportunities with better pay.

What To Do If You Believe You Are Underpaid

If you believe you are underpaid, it’s important to have an open conversation with your employer and present evidence to support your argument, while seeking professional advice if necessary and actively looking for other job opportunities.

Have An Open Conversation With Your Employer

One of the first steps to take if you suspect that you are being underpaid at work is to have an open conversation with your employer. Here’s how to do it effectively:

1. Schedule a meeting with your supervisor or HR representative to discuss your salary.

2. Come prepared with evidence to support your argument, such as market research or data from comparable positions in the industry.

3. Be clear and concise about your concerns and avoid getting defensive or emotional.

4. Listen carefully to the response from your employer and ask for specific feedback on what you can do to earn a higher salary.

5. Be open to negotiation and consider other forms of compensation, such as bonuses or additional benefits.

6. Follow up after the meeting with a thank-you note summarizing the key points discussed.

Remember that having an open conversation about salary can be uncomfortable, but it’s important to advocate for fair compensation for your hard work and valuable contributions. If you’re not satisfied with the outcome, it may be time to start looking for other job opportunities that offer better pay and benefits.

Present Evidence To Support Your Argument

woman showing document to a man

When discussing your salary with your employer, it’s important to provide evidence supporting your argument for a raise. This includes information on industry benchmarks, cost of living in your area, and other factors that impact the value of your work.

Additionally, if you have received consistently positive performance evaluations or taken on additional responsibilities without a pay increase, make sure to highlight these accomplishments when presenting evidence to support your case.

Seek Professional Advice If Necessary

If you suspect that you are being underpaid, it may be beneficial to seek professional advice from a career expert or lawyer. They can provide guidance on how to approach the situation and determine if legal action is necessary.

For example, Glassdoor’s “Know Your Worth” tool provides an estimate of your market value based on factors such as experience and education level.

Remember, employees have rights when it comes to fair compensation, so seeking professional advice can help ensure that those rights are upheld.

Look For Other Job Opportunities

If you have done your research and believe that you are being underpaid, it might be time to start exploring other job opportunities. This doesn’t mean that you should quit your current job right away, but it’s important to keep an eye out for positions that offer a fair salary and compensation package.

It’s not easy to leave a job, but sometimes it may be necessary in order to receive the pay and benefits that match your skills and experience. The good news is there are plenty of resources available online to help find new employment opportunities.

You can use job search engines like Indeed or LinkedIn or reach out directly to companies in your desired industry.

Remain Positive And Proactive

It’s important to remain positive and proactive if you believe you are being underpaid at work. This means continuing to perform your job well while also seeking solutions to improve your compensation.

You can start by having an open conversation with your employer about your salary and presenting evidence to support your argument, such as data from online salary tools or industry benchmarks.

While it may be frustrating to feel undervalued at work, remaining optimistic and productive can help improve the situation in the long run.


If you suspect you’re being underpaid at work, there are clear signs to watch out for. Factors like education, experience, and industry trends can also affect your salary.

It’s important to evaluate a fair salary and have the confidence to negotiate or seek additional benefits. If necessary, seek professional advice or look for other job opportunities with better pay.

Remember that employees have rights and methods of resolution for being underpaid — it may even be possible to sue.

Determining if you’re underpaid and leveraging an AI-powered resume are interconnected in today’s competitive job market. By recognizing signs of being undercompensated, you can strategically utilize AI technology to enhance your resume, negotiate better salaries, and position yourself as a valuable asset to potential employers.

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