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What to do if underpaid

  1. Jun 9, 2008 #1
    I started working for a company seven months ago. I gave them a low figure when they asked for required salary. The offer they gave me was a bit lower than what I asked for. After getting six months of work experience I've been given a 4% raise. I am still getting paid less than what I asked for, which really wasn't very much. My initial desire was to yell at the human resources personnel that raised my salary by 4%, but this is kind of like biting the hand that feeds you.

    With enough handshaking, I should be able to get a job elsewhere making 20%-30% more. That's not the point though as I'm unable to estimate how much I'm worth to the company. I also have a superb academic background, although by ignorant boss has belittled and demeaned the better half of it. Anyway, the point is that they simply aren't paying the market value for someone with my job title.

    Since I'm somewhat baffled, I'm thinking of kindly asking them how they determined how much my salary should be.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 9, 2008 #2


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    Your salary is determined by how little they can pay you without you leaving.
    To HR it makes more sense to save a few $1000 and have someone leave and it cost them few $10000s to find someone else.

    Never fall for the 'what is your current/previous salary' I have had that where I went from a postdoc to a consultancy job and they based my salary on that - I left within a year.
    Even if you are there in 10years you will be earnign less than someone who got hired during a boom because you will only get % of you initial salary.

    Your only hope is to find some stats for the industry/location you are in - but be prepared to walk ifyou don't get it.
  4. Jun 9, 2008 #3
    If you are underpaid, the only thing to do is go find a job that will pay you more.

    *Always* ask for more than you think you are worth. It is your job to ask for more, and their job to offer you less. If you ask for less, they will offer even less than that.

    At this point, they have set their opinion of you based on what you asked for. It's hard to shake off an opinion like that... it's easier to find a new job.
  5. Jun 9, 2008 #4
    Bingo. You're only underpaid if you can get more elsewhere doing the sort of work you want. If you can, and your current gig won't pay enough to keep you, then go elsewhere. If you can't, then you're not underpaid.
  6. Jun 9, 2008 #5


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    Yes, unsurprisingly, what they are willing to pay you is roughly equal to what the used car dealer is willing to give you for your car: about 5%-10% less than you ask for.

    If you can get 20-30% more somewhere else without too much trouble, I'm not sure why we're having this conversation....
  7. Jun 9, 2008 #6


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    go somewhere else. people who do not appreciate you now, never will.

    even if they match an outside offer they will retaliate later.
  8. Jun 9, 2008 #7


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    You can always ask for a raise above the 4%. Unless it's a government job on fixed pay scales that you're stuck with once you start on one, you can always argue for a higher raise than you are offered. 4% isn't a raise, it's a cost of living increase, and since cost of living has gone up more than 4% this past year with rising fuel costs, you have an immediate reason to ask for more anyway. I think this is the best year to ask for the raise, before they get used to paying you too little too long. You can explain that you took a low salary to start expecting it was a STARTING salary and there would be a substantial increase closer to market level after you'd been on the job long enough to show you could handle it. Tell them what market rate is, and that is your goal. As others mentioned, though, you have to be prepared to leave and get another job if they refuse the raise. I can't see any reason you'd stay and not want to start looking for other jobs if they're paying you well below market anyway, unless you're tied by family or something. If you have reasons not to want to move, then DO NOT let them know that, because they can play that against you as a reason to pay you less.
  9. Jun 10, 2008 #8

    Andy Resnick

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    dimensionless, why did you lowball yourself in the first place? You are learning an important lesson here- your value to a company is completely decoupled from the value you place on yourself. They are based on different criteria.

    I say, if you can get a higher-paying job, you should. The age of company loyalty is over, and has been for a long time. You need to mind your own career, because nobody else is going to.

    One word of caution, should you decide to get a different, higher-paying job- do not use that as a barganing chip to get a higher salary with the company you are with. No right-thinking person would criticize you for moving on to a better job. That said, building a track record of job-hopping every few months is also a bad idea.
  10. Jun 10, 2008 #9
    You have to pretty aggressive when asking for a salary. My brother started as a designer making 36k a year, three years later, he is making 100k+. His method was simple, he first left his 36k job and found one for 56k. He spent some time there and said he was happy with his job, but he applied for another one. When they started to talk about salary he said he'll join their company for a salary about 100k. His thought was that, "hey, I'm happy where I am at, so I have nothing to lose if they say no." After three weeks, they said yes.

    Just take a risk and be aggressive about your pay. No point in being modest and shy when it comes to the stuff that keeps you living.
  11. Jun 10, 2008 #10


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    Of course it's easy for us to comment on this. Salary negotiations can be tricky. If they fail you can end up with bad blood, resentment, and even possibly lose your job.

    Ultimately it's up to you to determine what your skills are worth. Do the market research and learn what the going rates are for someone with your qualifications. Read up on salary negotiation tactics. Define a 5 year plan for yourself - what do you expect to have accomplished and what do you expect to be earning by 2013? Make this known to your employer and those around you.
  12. Jun 12, 2008 #11
    This was my first full time job. I took it after a long period of unemployment so I wasn't well positioned to hold out for a better offer. This was the first offer I got, and I accepted it only with the belief that I would see pay increases substantially larger than 4%. The thing is, my resume reached 'critical mass' just as I got hired. Certainly on some EE topics, I can talk circles(and rightfully so) around an MS in EE. At the present time, I'm not even getting paid like a BS in EE.

    I could leave now, but I'm uncertain about certain things, and I would risk being seen as a job hopper if I decide I want a third job six months later.
  13. Jun 12, 2008 #12
    As Andy Resnick said, the days of corporate loyalty are gone... and what's more, employers understand this. I don't think you'd be seen as a job hopper, especially if you can adequately express why you weren't satisfied previously (not enough compensation is a perfectly legitimate reason to leave a job).
  14. Jun 13, 2008 #13
    Well the rising of fuel just means more people should try public transportation and abandon the leisurely consuming vehicles.
  15. Jun 13, 2008 #14


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    Not really. I have done some "job hopping" at a certain point in my career too. I think the most worrisome is that your boss is playing down your competences. That's a bad ugly sign, and I would leave just for that (actually, once I did, after just 10 months on the job: after 5 months, I decided I would leave, and it took me 5 more to find another job) - even if the pay would be all right. It is extremely bad not to be appreciated by your boss for the qualities you deem important.

    As you said yourself, your position of negotiation was bad when you were unemployed. Now you're in a much stronger position. If I combine "boss is playing down your competences" + "low pay" + "offer somewhere else with higher pay" I think I wouldn't hesitate a second (if there are no other serious obstacles).

    Because you're worried for the stamp "job hopper", but on the other hand, a future employer could also wonder why you accepted so long a time for such low a pay. Didn't you find anything better ? Aren't you worth more ? So staying a long time in this position can also harm your CV.
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