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9 Signs You’re Underpaid — and How to Ask for Raise


Regardless of whether or not you love your job, it can be disheartening to feel like you’re being underpaid for all your hard work. For many of us, our salary can directly reflect how we perceive we’re being valued (or undervalued) in the workplace. But what if you’re not entirely sure if you’re earning a fair wage? Luckily, there are a few ways you can do a little bit of digging behind the scenes before setting up that meeting with your boss. (For more on how to ask for a raise, check out the above video with our financial expert Lyn Allure.)

Here, we break down some of the most common signs that you’re being underpaid — and what you can do about it.

See also: 10 top searched jobs in Canada, ranked by salary.

women's hands pointing to the screen of an open laptop

You make less than the online average suggests

There’s a plethora of online tools and resources that can help you gauge just how much you should be earning within your chosen field. Check out PayScale or Glassdoor (among others) for the latest data on the industry standard for your job title. You can even narrow it down by province or city in some instances (instead of on a broader national scale) to get an even more accurate number. If you find yourself earning less than the industry average, there’s a good chance you’re underpaid.

Related: 10 jobs with the highest burnout rates (and 5 of the lowest).

two young Asian women talking in front of a laptop in an office setting

You’ve taken on more responsibilities, but your salary is the same

You’ve been praised for your work ethic and your ability to meet deadlines, so your boss has started to trust you with bigger projects. While that might sound great, career-wise, it’s not-so-great if you’ve seen a steady increase in tasks and responsibilities (and perhaps even a title change) without an increase in pay.

Take a step back and reflect on whether you’ve taken on any additional responsibilities in the last year and, if you have, consider how much the extra work is piling up. Are you managing more tasks and big projects? Are you working longer hours? If so, you’re probably being underpaid for the amount of work now on your plate.


See also: How to start managing your money after landing your first job.

a white woman in a mustard sweater types on her laptop

Your benefits are lacking compared to other colleagues

This one can be a bit trickier to figure out, but if an acquaintance in a similar or equal position to yourself casually mentions something about their benefits and you realize you don’t have the same company plan, it could be a red flag that you’re underpaid.

Consider certain perks such as paid vacations, as an example. Do you get less time off than a colleague even though your salaries are (supposedly) similar?

You may also like: 11 lies people tell in interviews (but really shouldn’t).

a young Black woman sits on the floor of her apartment with a laptop open in front of her

Similar positions within your company pay more

Similar to using online pay tools to review industry standards, take a peek at what’s going on within your own company and outside of your immediate team. Are there other similar roles within the company that appear to pay more and/or offer better benefits?

Make a list of any positions that require similar professional backgrounds and have nearly identical work responsibilities. If those positions appear to pay more, that could be a sign you’re being underpaid.

See also: 20 low-stress jobs that pay more than $100K.

three white women share a desk in an office, each with an open laptop in front of them

You haven’t had a performance review in more than a year

Performance reviews (especially on an annual basis) are a great way to allow employers to discuss the quality of your work and how you’ve grown as an employee. It also opens the door for you to bring up any questions or concerns you might have about the position and where you’d like to see yourself in the near future within the company. Bonus: you can also talk salary — especially if you go in with research to back you up.

However, if you haven’t had a performance review in more than a year and/or your direct report seems reluctant to set one up with you, this could be a major red flag that you’re being underpaid.


See also: 10 most common myths about millionaires.

a young Asian woman with glasses looks outside her office window

Your salary has never increased outside of slight cost of living bumps

If your annual performance review didn’t yield a discussion on salary (or you weren’t given the opportunity to sit down and chat with your boss), and the only pay increase you’ve seen over the years have been slight cost of living bumps, it could be a sign you’re underpaid.

Ask yourself: when you first landed the job at the start of your career, did you initially accept a lower-than-average salary? If so, reflect on whether or not you’ve had significant raises over the years that have brought you up to the industry standard. If not, you might be underpaid.

Related: 10 genius money hacks we snagged from TikTok.

a white woman, from the neck down, sitting cross-legged at her home office with a laptop open in her lap

The company has a high turnover rate

This is a major red flag for so many reasons: a toxic workplace environment, a difficult boss, lack of perks or benefits, long hours with little recognition or appreciation — and salaries that just aren’t up to industry standards. Any or all of these could be causes for a high turnover rate. If your immediate team is starting to feel like a revolving door of new faces, it could be because former colleagues clued in that they weren’t being paid what they (and their role) was worth. Take this as a sign to do some digging on your own to see where you stand.

Related: 10 signs you actually have a good manager.

a young Black woman wearing a hat and yellow sweater working her desl


You’ve never asked to renegotiate your salary

It’s entirely possible that you’re underpaid if you’ve never negotiated for a higher salary. Regardless of whether or not you’ve had a recent performance review, have you actually asked your boss for a meeting on your job and salary expectations? If not, this could be the perfect opportunity to be your own biggest advocate. We’ve got some tips on how to set healthy boundaries with your boss and coworkers and the dos and don’ts of getting a raise at work.

See also: Why getting a mentor will make your career this year.

two young Black women smiling together while sitting at a table with notebooks in an office

You’ve fallen into the “just happy to be employed” mindset

This can be an easy rabbit hole to fall into, especially in the midst of a pandemic when finding (and keeping) jobs can be especially challenging. But try not to get too wrapped up in that mindset as it could be hindering your ability to get a well-deserved raise. It’s absolutely possible to be grateful for your job while also knowing (and voicing) your worth. Don’t mistake your current job as a reason to not speak up for yourself, especially if you’ve started to notice the various red flags that you’re being underpaid. Even worse, this mindset could also be preventing you from even doing a deep dive into whether or not you’re underpaid, and that’s something that is always worth looking into.

See also: How to survive a job layoff.

Here’s how to ask for a raise this year

So, now that you’ve determined that you’re overdue for a pay increase, you might be wondering how to broach the subject with your direct report. Here are a few pointers to get you started:

  • Refer to online resources such as PayScale to determine what others are being paid for the same job at other companies across the province and country.
  • Research your companies pay practices by reaching out to HR for an informal chat.
  • Figure out the criteria for your raise. For example, would you be taking on more responsibilities?
  • Make plans to discuss a raise in advance of your annual performance review.
  • Consider how best to approach your boss based on their personality. Would they consider a sales pitch or a more casual conversation?
  • Come with a list of your successes and praise from clients or other superiors.
  • Be realistic: if you’re in a more junior position, you likely won’t be getting a massive pay jump that will mirror that of your direct report. Go into the conversation bearing in mind what others make in your role at other companies to help you manage expectations.

You may also like: 10 things you should negotiate before you start a job.


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