How To Ask For A Raise When You Are Underpaid

by | Career Growth

You may feel resentful if you think you are underpaid. This resentment can be compounded by feelings of anguish when you experience bad management or a lack of growth opportunities at your current job. However, with the right strategy, you can often get the raise you deserve.

How do you ask for a raise when you are underpaid? What mistakes should you avoid when negotiating a pay increase? What are the best tools for determining your market rate?

Keep reading to learn how to ask for a raise when you are underpaid.

How To Ask For A Raise When You Are Underpaid At Work

If you feel like you are underpaid and want to ask for a raise, begin by conducting conduct salary research to determine your market rate. Then, make a list that communicates the value you deliver. Finally, ask your supervisor for a salary increase.

Let’s break each of these steps down further:

1. Conduct salary research to determine your market rate.

First, you want to avoid the common mistake of basing your salary expectations on your personal needs. Instead, you want to leverage market research to determine the going rate for a professional or executive with your years of experience, knowledge, and skills.

Conducting market research is especially important if you feel underpaid as you want to keep feelings out of the negotiation conversation. The following are a few of my favorite sites for comparing salaries and determining your market rate.

You will likely find disparate salary estimates on these sites, as well as broad salary ranges. Depending on your specific, role, and location, one site may list a salary range of $130–$150K, for example, while another site will list a salary range of $175K–$205K. 

As a result of this disparity, I am a proponent of collecting and synthesizing salary data from a range of salary websites to determine your approximate market rate. You can later present this data to your supervisor and HR department when asking for a raise.

2. Make a list that communicates the value you deliver.

Now, you need to make the case for why you are underpaid. Begin by creating a detailed list that highlights how you have delivered value to your team, department, and organization since joining. Here are a few questions to get your wheels turning and help you articulate how you delivered value:

  • How did you save your organization time, money, or other resources?
  • How did you make your boss look good? How did you make your boss’s boss look good?
  • If your company had to lay off half the organization, why should the CEO/shareholders keep you over your peers?

Next, review your original job description. Reflect on how you have delivered against your original job duties as well as where you have gone above and beyond.

If you get stuck, ask your colleagues how you have been of support to them and how you have delivered value during your tenure. Below are a few questions to consider asking your peers, supervisors, and clients in order to get their insights into your performance.

Look at your performance reviews, too. Highlight those areas where you repeatedly exceeded expectations. You can even use your supervisor’s own kind words when asking for more money.

3. Ask your supervisor for a salary increase.

Finally, with your salary research and value proposition in hand, you want to ask for that additional pay. How you approach this final step will depend on your role, your company culture, and your relationship with your boss, among other factors.

You may consider setting up a one-to-one conversation with your boss to discuss your request. You will want to bring your value proposition list from step 2 to this conversation. Then, explain how you delivered value to your organization, as well as how you have gone over and beyond your job description.

Alternatively, if your company conducts semiannual or annual performance reviews, you can use those meetings to request a salary increase. This should go without saying, but you will likely only want to ask for a raise if your performance review went well.

Additional Salary Negotiation Tips When You Feel Underpaid At Work

Regardless of how you ultimately request your raise, you want to avoid putting your boss on the spot during the salary conversation, because bosses are rarely able to make a unilateral decision. Rather, you want to provide them ample time to sit with your list from step 2, contemplate your salary request, and consult any other necessary decision-makers.

My trusted mentor, Wendi Weiner, The Writing Guru®, suggests providing a salary range rather than a solid number. Doing so shows you are flexible and open to negotiation.

Additionally, you may want to ask for remuneration beyond your base salary. Many of my clients successfully negotiate additional paid time off, professional development funds, one-time bonuses, and other forms of compensation that are important to them.

You also want to approach asking for a raise with an abundance mindset. Know that you deserve to get compensated for your experience, knowledge, and skills as well as the value you bring to your organization.

Below are additional resources to guide you in negotiating your salary with confidence. You’ve got this!

6 Tips To Negotiate Your Salary With Confidence—And Get What You’re Worth (Forbes Interview)

How to Boost Your Confidence in Salary Negotiations With Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES (Negotiate Anything Podcast Interview)

Salary Negotiation: How To Answer ‘What Are Your Salary Expectations?’ (Forbes Article)

Total Compensation: 10 Great Things To Negotiate Besides Salary ( Article)

About Dr. Kyle Elliott

About Dr. Kyle Elliott

Dr. Kyle Elliott is the founder and career coach behind His expertise is in Silicon Valley and high-tech. As a result of working with Dr. Elliott, senior managers and executives have landed jobs at Meta, Amazon, Google, and nearly every other tech giant you can imagine.

A trusted career expert, Dr. Elliott’s words have been featured on Business Insider, CNBC, CNN, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Fortune, Harvard Business Review, and The New York Times, among dozens of other leading publications. He has been recognized as a Best Career & Interview Coach, Best Resume Writer for Silicon Valley/Tech Managers & Executives, and LinkedIn Top Voice (the platform’s highest honor).



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