Do you have a nagging feeling that you should be paid more at work? Ignoring it could be costing you thousands of dollars.
“The old adage ‘don’t ask, don’t get’ is never more relevant than in salary negotiations. Unless the company is very clear about having a set, structured salary scheme (which only usually applies in very big, global corporations), they have a lot more discretion than they like to let on,” says career confidence coach Charlotte Crabtree.
So if your salary is indeed too low for your role and responsibilities, it’s not a lost cause and there are things you can do about it. But how do you figure that out? There are subtle, telling signs you’re getting paid less than you should.
Before diving into them and checking whether they apply to your situation, keep in mind that staying up to date with what’s available on the job market and even applying for other jobs and interviewing for them is always a good idea regardless.
“Your CV, networking and interviewing skills are muscles that you should continue to flex. If or when you come into a situation where you need to look for another job, it’s 100% easier to do if you’re already in the swing of things (think back to that moment of realizing you haven’t updated your CV in four years and the idea of it seems like an insurmountable task),” says Crabtree.
According to her, the process will also remind you of your ever-increasing value and help you spot exciting opportunities.
Now that you’re aware of the importance of consistently honing your job hunting skills and flexing your career awareness muscles, here are seven signs to look out for when it comes to your current earning situation.
1. Your job description has changed in reality, but not in writing
“If you’re expanding your skills, experience and responsibilities as you grow and progress within your role, quite often that involves taking on more than your job description (and initial contract) requires of you,” says Crabtree.
As you take on additional projects and shoulder more responsibility, your pay should increase to match your new situation. However, an expanding job description without a pay raise is not always an immediate red flag. There are transition moments when it’s expected your role will evolve. Just make sure they do lead to salary discussions.
“This is fine as a short-term measure to develop and get ahead, or to work towards a promotion – but make sure you get that promotion in a timeline that you’ve agreed to (and the salary that goes with it).”
2. You’re supporting and training other team members
If you’re supporting and training other team members without being their manager, it may be an indication you’re underpaid, according to Crabtree.
“This suggests you’re operating at a level higher than your peers and should be compensated according to your experience,” she says.
3. You’re working overtime, all the time, with no end in sight
Being a high-achiever means you have a tendency to give your all. You do, after all, take pride in your work ethic and always aim to exceed expectations and perform well. But if there are no discussions about your career development and you’re consistently going above and beyond, you’re probably not getting paid enough.
“If you’re good at your job and generally a productive person, this is a sign of being under-resourced and your employer is getting away with having you do the work of more than one salary,” says Crabtree.
4. Your peers have drastically different lifestyles
Are your coworkers all buying homes or raving about their new cars? Are you the only one packing a lunch every day? It might be a surprising indicator that your current salary is subpar. Keep in mind this only applies to peers who are on the same level as you — not those who are in more senior roles.
“If you’re batch-cooking all weekend rather than eating out and saving for a staycation while everyone you know is upgrading their car or moving house, this could be a sign that they have a higher disposable income than you — it’s not a cut-and-dry example, but you’ll know if something’s not adding up here,” says Crabtree.
5. Job market benchmarks feel a little surprising
Crabtree recommends using tools such as the LinkedIn salary checker to get a quick sense of the going rate for your type of role. If doing so makes your stomach sink, it’s a sign you’re getting paid less than you should. And the opposite is also true.
“If you do keep an eye on the job market and find yourself flicking through for about 10 minutes before getting bored, chances are nothing is catching your eye because you’re recognizing that you’re onto a good thing where you are,” she says.
6. Your employer doesn’t often bring up annual increases or bonuses
According to Crabtree, small yearly salary increases rarely keep up with the actual reality of the job market’s evolution: “Remember that the market rates change constantly, so if you’re in a job that gives you an ‘inflationary increase’ each year, it’s probably not keeping up.”
So if the only time your employer discusses compensation is during a basic annual conversation where you get a very modest pay raise, you are likely to be leaving money on the table. On the other hand, if your employer is generous with things like bonuses or regularly addresses the topic of compensation, you’re probably being treated fairly.
“If your employer is generous with holiday bonuses, long-service rewards, offers significant increases with promotions or annual increases based on performance, it’s likely that because they’re constantly in a review process, they’ve got their eye on the market rates and recognize people who are growing and developing accordingly,” says Crabtree.
“If people around you seem happy, and you feel happy, it’s a good indicator that the work being done is being paid at a fair price.”
7. You’re asked to be discreet about your salary
Money is a taboo topic for many. But if you get the sense there is a strange vibe of secrecy around how much people are earning within your organization, it might be an indicator that employees are not being compensated fairly.
“If your employer is asking you not to talk to other colleagues about salary, that’s a strong indicator that people aren’t paid equally for equal work,” says Crabtree.
Working on your own relationship with money and feeling more comfortable bringing it up can help you gauge whether you’re not being compensated enough.
“Having a healthy relationship with money will enable you to actually simply talk to other people about salary – whether that is your friends, peers, colleagues or even a recruitment agency — so you can gauge whether you’re in the right ballpark quite quickly.”