If you’ve ever been through a salary negotiation, you probably put a good deal of thought into what you’re “worth” from a professional standpoint. Your years of experience, the type of company where you work, and your area of the country are all important parts of the equation. But even when you think you know where you stand, you may still be left with concerns that you aren’t making enough compared to your peers.
And you’re not alone. The majority of women — 60 percent — don’t believe they’re being paid what they’re worth, and 50 percent of women don’t feel comfortable in salary negotiations, according to a report from Student Loan Hero. The worst thing we can do is let our compensation concerns linger on for years without addressing them — here’s how to get proactive, get answers, and get paid more in 2019.
Step 1: Research job sites
When doing salary research, the easiest strategy — and the first strategy that many of us employ — is to visit salary comparison websites to see how we rank in our field. These sites can give you a general idea of what you should be earning based on your personal metrics, but taking the information found there as “official” can be a dangerous thing to do, explains Andrew Pentis, personal finance expert at Student Loan hero, an online resource for student loan borrowers. Sites like Salary.com, Payscale.com, Glassdoor.com and Indeed.com all have popular salary comparison tools, but they also all have different strengths and weaknesses, Pentis says. “It’s best to use a variety of sites to get a bigger picture overview. In the same way that you would shop around for the best financial product to ensure the best deal, you need to look at multiple sites to get a sense of where your salary stacks up.”
Step 2: Talk to your colleagues (carefully)
Another important avenue for research is right inside your own office, Pentis says. “There’s this radical idea of removing the taboo from discussing salary in the workplace,” he says. “Today, men and women are being more transparent about what they make, and this can be a great solution for bridging the gender pay gap.” With that said, it’s not a good idea to start approaching every colleague and outright asking how much money they make, cautions Cathy Seeber, certified financial advisor at investment and advisory firm CAPTRUST. You can broach things delicately, asking, “‘I understand you left AB&C Company and resumed your career at XYZ Company,’” Seeber says. “‘Tell me, how is that transition working out for you? Do you feel you are fairly compensated for the work you do or was it more of a lifestyle decision?’ You would be amazed at how much your peers are willing to share.”
Get the better newsletter.
If you decide to dive deeper into salary specifics with your colleagues, understand that discussions around what you make in comparison to your peers should happen with people you trust, says Jane Tutoki, Vice Chair at global benefits provider Sedgwick. “Confide in a mentor that isn’t your direct supervisor, or a colleague who you aren’t in competition with for a promotion,” she advises.
If you aren’t up for approaching folks with whom you currently work, you have another option: reach out to former colleagues who may have moved on from the company. They may be more willing to divulge their salary details since there’s no possibility of competing with you for a position, and they’re fully removed from any office politics that might impact their response.
Step 3: Approach wise recruiters
Another often overlooked source of salary information is recruiters, Tutoki explains. Recruiters negotiate salaries every day, and are tuned into the true market value of certain titles and experience levels. Even if you aren’t looking to make a move and leave your current position just yet, it might be worth your time to hop on a call with a recruiter and gauge how your salary stacks up.
Step 4: Pull it all together
As you gather data, keep a running list of everything you find. Write it all down so you can best visualize your next steps. For some people, keeping everything in a document on their computer or phone may be the method of choice, while others are best able to get a 360-degree view with a written list. Whatever medium you choose, make sure you make note of benefits beyond just salary. Things like company culture, inclusiveness, employee incentives and recognition for your contributions can be just as important as a paycheck, Tutoki says. In other words, the numbers alone don’t always tell the whole story.
With Kathryn Tuggle
MORE CAREER TIPS
Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.