Underpaid and Overworked? Here’s How to Get Paid What You’re Worth

By Miranda Marquit

When talking about financial goals, it’s common to hear this one: “I want to make more money.”

This is especially true when you feel as though you’re working so hard and not being recognized with pay that reflects your efforts. Figuring out how to get paid what you’re worth can be tough.

Unfortunately, the sad truth is that hard work only rarely correlates with better pay. This is especially true if you look at pay for women of color. According to the Economic Policy Institute, black women work more hours than white women, but they are still paid less. Even increased education isn’t enough. Black women with advanced degrees make, on average, about $7 per hour less than white men with only bachelor’s degrees.

If you’re overpaid and overworked — no matter who you are or what you do — you need to do more than just get a good education and work hard. Here are some steps you can take to get paid what you’re worth:

Work with Mentors

Good mentors can help you figure out what you should be asking for. They can help direct your career path. Your mentors are cheerleaders who can provide insight and help. Plus, putting together a supportive team can help you feel confident in your abilities. Start networking and looking for people who you can add to a “brain trust” to help you move forward with your career goals. With the right team on your side, you’ll learn how to get the skills and education you need, and how to leverage that into the pay you deserve.

Understand the Audience

When you go into a job interview, salary negotiation, or ask for a promotion, you need to understand the audience. If you want to get paid what you’re worth, it helps to build trust with the folks your negotiating with. Do a little homework. What type of clothing is appropriate for the job or salary you want? How can you help your audience feel comfortable with you and trust you? By making that connection to those around you and helping them see you for your value, you’re more likely to succeed in your goal.

Research the Options

Think about what you’re willing to accept. In some cases, this means knowing your top price — what you really want — and also knowing the absolute minimum you’ll take. Consider offering a salary range if you’re asked. Let others know you’re flexible, but you also know about what you should be paid.

Another consideration is the benefits package. Sometimes it’s less about direct pay. There are times it makes sense to look at the healthcare, retirement plan, and other benefits. Extra paid vacation each year might be worth more to you than an extra $10,000 a year. Don’t forget about stock options. Five years down the road, your stock options might prove more valuable than a higher salary — and help you meet other financial goals.

Pay attention to the total compensation package and don’t get wrapped up only in the pay. Negotiate for benefits as well as the salary to ensure that you get paid what you’re worth overall.

Don’t Feel Pressured to Answer Immediately

When you’ve done your research by talking to mentors and reading about compensation on sites like Salary.com, you’re more likely to feel confident in your ability to negotiate. This also means that you are more knowledgeable and can back your request with facts.

However, even so, you might not be comfortable saying yes to the first offer made to you during a negotiation. Maybe you wanted more money or better benefits. Don’t feel like you have to take it or leave it immediately. One of the best negotiating tools is to leave the table. Politely say you need to think about the offer and ask for time. You can ask for 24 hours to consider, or even say you just need to think about it for 30 minutes.

Either way, asking for time to consider can provide you with a chance to step back and think about the situation. Do you feel like you’re getting a fair shake? If you’re not getting what you want now, do you feel like the company or position will lead to better opportunities later? If you can have a day to think about it, talk over the offer with your mentors for more insight and clarity.

Bottom Line

In today’s world, you can’t just put your head down and work hard if you want to get paid what you’re worth. Having the skills, education, and work ethic are part of the equation. However, those things alone won’t help you reach your salary goals. You need to ask for what you want.