Are You Underpaid? How to Ask for the Raise You Deserve

woman in office excited that she just got a raise

Feeling undervalued and underpaid? Not sure how to determine your worth and get paid for it? You’re not alone. It happens to all of us at some point in our careers. The key is to recognize it without letting it affect your performance, and then take steps to change your situation. I often work with my executive coaching clients in two steps—confirming and then changing their situation. Here are my recommendations for determining your value and getting the raise you deserve.

Are You Really Underpaid?

The key question to ask yourself is, “How do you know if you’re getting paid what you’re worth?” New clients tell me all the time they are underpaid and undervalued, but I always ask them for the evidence—and so will your boss. So how can we learn whether or not being underpaid is true? The answer is research.

It would be great to understand what your peers are making, but such conversations can lead to new issues (and it may be too small a sample size). Thankfully, websites like payscale.com and salary.com allow you to understand the market value for your job. Research and learn if you’re in the higher or lower part of the market range for your location, education, skill set, and performance ratings.

If you confirm your underpaid status, it’s time to ask your boss to rectify the situation.

Is There a Right Time or Way to Ask for a Raise?

woman sitting with her boss asking for a raise

In some corporate settings, annual reviews can lead to annual raises. But don’t wait until then to bring up the topic. Of course, changes might not happen immediately, but set up a meeting and ask your boss for a raise. It is better to plant the seed in a meeting and let your boss know what you’ve discovered.

Also in your meeting, make sure to back yourself up with results. Being paid below market is one thing, but the other is your performance record. You need to highlight your personal accomplishments and make mention of the great things people (including your boss) have said about you. Bring emails, texts, LinkedIn recommendations or other testimonials of your performance. Most managers’ memory span doesn’t go beyond 3 months. Don’t be afraid to remind your boss of all the good you’ve done.

Ask for what you want: If you feel you’re in the lower end of the pay scale and are deserving of more, the number one thing you can do to get a raise is ASK for one. Remember to make your ask and then stop and be quiet! Let your boss process what you’ve said and respond to it. From my experience, you’ll appear more confident if you don’t go on and on.

What if You Don’t Get the Raise?

The choice is yours. One option is to test the marketplace with your skills. Perhaps another firm or career is the best move in order for you to be appreciated.  You could also take a step back and assess if you’re only in this career or field for the money? In working with many clients over the years, I’ve found making career choices based on money alone has its benefits and its drawbacks. Perhaps evaluating your worth can lead to exploring how you can combine your passions with your work.

Don’t Forget the Intangibles

Sometimes raises can be put on hold because of overall department or company performance. So maybe you need to wait six months for the annual review cycle. I remind my clients that at times like these, not all things come in the form of financial gain. This is a perfect time to ask for trying a flex schedule, getting time off for the holidays, getting a bigger office or more administrative support. Get creative and ask for what will make you feel valued and appreciated.


At the end of the day, money represents the exchange of energy we give and receive from our employer. If you’ve felt as if you’re putting in more energy than you’re getting out, take that feeling seriously. Determine your worth and don’t be afraid to respectfully assert yourself and ask your boss for a raise. Whether you get the money or not, simply asking for a raise can boost your confidence and put your achievements front and center for your boss.

For more career advice from Maggie Mistal, watch our one-on-one interview below:

About the Author

Maggie is a mom, a podcaster, and a career/executive coach. She has helped thousands Soul Search, Research and Job Search into their ideal careers. Dubbed by CNN as "One of the Nation's Best Known Career Coaches" she has appeared in numerous media outlets including the New York Times and has worked with Fortune 500 companies. Over 5.5 million people have watched her how to Ace a Job interview video on YouTube and NBC’s Today Show featured her personal story of dealing with life and career change. For 7 years, she hosted a weekly national radio show called “Making a Living with Maggie” on SIRIUS XM. For more including a clip from her Follow Your Dreams cabaret show, visit MaggieMistal.com.
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