Are You An Underearner? What Your Salary Might Say About You


Are You An Underearner? What Your Salary Might Say About You
Recently, there was an article on LearnVest titled “Hello, My Name is Tom and I’m an Underearner”. It’s an interesting read about the characteristics of underearners and the presence of an AA-type support group called “Underearners Anonymous,” (Who knew such a group existed?) It got me thinking about how salary means more than money: It can affect how others see you, and how you see yourself, like a dirty window on the world.
One of the problems that can develop during a job search is a completely unrealistic idea of salary. It’s easy to undervalue your abilities and ask for too low a wage, or to assume you can demand the paycheck someone with years of experience in your field would get. If you add up your monthly bills and just ask for that much, you aren’t using all the information that should go into salary ranges.
Underearners are people who are not getting the salary that someone with their qualifications would reasonably expect. This could be because they don’t value those qualifications or are afraid to ask for a raise. It could be because they’d have to live up to their potential and they are afraid.
There are a lot of reasons why salary and self-esteem are connected. In some cases, there is discrimination causing salary issues, but this cannot be assumed because sometimes the reason for the lower paycheck is actually performance-related.  You need to dig deeper to find out why that paycheck is that amount.
During a job search and interview, salary is a subject that you should be prepared to confidently discuss with a prospective employer without being demanding. The more you understand your worth, the easier it is to see that you deserve (earn) a wage that is accurate. There are two excellent resources available to you:

  • Job Search Resources — this page has a wealth of information, including salary calculators and self-assessments
  • Job Search Success System — this is a full course that will give you the skills to show your worth accurately to potential employers.

When you are getting the salary you should be getting, it’s like seeing your world through a clean window.

Determining how much you're worth

Job SearchSalary

With so many people currently seeking employment, a big question on many minds is how to decide what your job skills are worth.  What salary are you willing to accept?
Your first task is to research: research, research, research.  If you have a friend at the company, ask them how pay works there, and if they know anything about the position that you’re trying for.  Some companies have tables of top, medium, and low pay for each title.  This information can come in really handy when negotiating.
Especially look at new employee salary, if available.  Keep in mind that their idea of proficiency may not be yours, just saying that you’re proficient in French doesn’t make it so in their eyes.
Call HR and get the name and full list of responsibilities for the position that you’re interviewing for.  You can use this information to find a benchmark position online — essentially the commonly used title for what you’ll be doing.  This will allow you to do accurate salary research.
Through various sources online you should be able to find salary ranges for different positions.  If women’s and men’s pay information is available, use the men’s, even if you’re a woman!  Unfortunately, it’s likely to be higher; in this way you can ensure that your negotiations are as fair as you can make them.
Take into account that location is a big factor in pay rate. What’s the cost of living at the job location?  If possible, get average pay rates there and figure out what the salary range for your position is in that area, if you can’t find the specific numbers on that.
Often, employers like to ask about your salary requirements in advance.  They can use this factor to weed out expensive employees or to offer you less, if you were previously underpaid.  Instead of giving them this leverage, whenever possible, avoid giving any information.  State that it’s negotiable, based upon job responsibilities.
If it’s impossible to avoid completely, give the range that you’ve come up with from your research.  And when in negotiations, start at the top of that range, because you know the company is likely to want to start at the bottom.
Research has shown that women are less likely to negotiate for a higher salary than men are. It is believed that this is a factor that leads to lower pay for women.  Women, take this into consideration: you are expected to negotiate. It is not unseemly to do so, in a polite and professional manner.
Do ensure that you go in knowing exactly what you’re willing to accept.  Otherwise, you may feel pressured into accepting an offer that you’re not really willing to live with.
If the salary you’re offered is far below the range that you expected, verify that the list of responsibilities you used is correct.  Verify the position title.
Keep your tone polite, even if you believe they are being unreasonable. Remember, everyone is a contact, in the business world.  The last thing you want to do is burn a bridge.