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How to Deal with the Fact that You are Underpaid

The stagnant, recessionary and mind-blowingly frustrating economy we’ve had over the last five years seems to be improving – the housing market is heating up, the Dow is reaching new highs, unemployment is going down and consumer spending seems to be on the way up. But is your salary? If talking to the job-switchers and executives I work with is any indication, probably not. So what can you do to deal with the infuriating feeling that you are underpaid? Here are a few ideas to put your mind (hopefully) at ease.

What to do if you are underpaid (Photo: iStockphoto)

Validate your suspicion by talking to recruiters
If you have a strong suspicion or outright knowledge that you are underpaid, it’s a good idea to reach out to recruiters you know who have a pretty good sense of what’s going on in the market to tell you the blunt honest truth. You may not feel pleased with the result, but at least you will know for sure and can start thinking about an exit or transfer strategy to put you on par with your peers.

Calculate the value of your benefits package
If you feel underpaid, are you taking into account the value of your benefits package? It’s easy to just focus on the numerical score that your annual salary provides and even easier to take your health, dental, vision, retirement, and vacation benefits for granted, especially if you are a generally healthy person. Benefits packages can be a huge component of your total compensation and a quick call to HR can give you a sense of what your company is giving you above your monthly salary.

Consider the DEFCON 5 scenario
OK, so you feel underpaid now, but what if you lost your job tomorrow? How long could you maintain your current lifestyle? Do you even have money saved up? Again, statistically speaking, probably not for long (answer to my first question) and probably not enough (answer to my third question). A job is a means to an end, and that end is the monetary resource that allows you to live. You may be underpaid, but in a hyper-competitive market like New York where you are frankly easily replaceable, feel good about the fact that you do have a job that pays you something.

Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at

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