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knowledge is power? what do you do if you’re underpaid

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There’s a school of thought that everyone thinks that they are worth about 20% more than their current salary. I used to subscribe to this view point, but it’s been shaken somewhat by a recent job advert that I saw.

I currently earn a bit less than £30k. A very similar job to mine, but more full time technical, has been advertised by a government department with a salary of about £35k. The salary difference is 20% to the nearest whole percentage. In a government department. They traditionally pay less. :o

The obvious advice would of course be to apply for this job. Sadly, although there are three posts available, none of them are in my city. In addition to which, I’m not entirely convinced that this particular organisation is one that I want to work for. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the same/similar post in my own city.

The key question is, if knowledge is power, how should I use this to my best advantage?

Let me know what you think in the comments, your suggestions and advice are very warmly welcomed.

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7 comments for “knowledge is power? what do you do if you’re underpaid”

  1. I think it’s worth remembering that it’s not particularly what you as a person are worth. Every company pays the minimum they think you will accept in order to stay with them and do a good job. That minimum will often move, depending on the market demand for your skills, number of people competing for roles, number of roles available and so on. If you’re seeing that the role you do (more or less) is being paid 20% more (in government no less) then you actually are being underpaid against the market.

    You could use this as ammo for a payrise, but I doubt any company is going to immediately match 20% unless the person in question is absolutely business-critical. If this is what they’re paying in government though, I bet the market rate for your job is actually a third or more than what you’re on. Time to sharpen the CV methinks.

    Posted by Dave | August 1, 2008, 12:56 pm
  2. I think so too. I read Merryn Somerset Webb’s advice on how to negotiate salary and have found that, time and again, the only way to get the salary you desire is to apply for a new position, instead of trying to substantially increase your current salary. New jobs will always try and ‘match’ your current salary, so it isn’t always a good idea to disclose this, if you want more. I agree with above, time to start looking elsewhere! x

    Posted by Shaz | August 1, 2008, 1:36 pm
  3. There is a corollary to that school of that - that some people are overpaid by 20%. :)

    Can the difference in salary be somewhat explained by cost of living differences?

    I have friends who, when they go to make the request for a payraise, gather a lot of salary information to show an “average” rate, and make the claim that they should be paid FMV. Sometimes it works…

    Posted by deepali | August 1, 2008, 3:02 pm
  4. @deepali:
    All these jobs are outside London, so the cost of living as determined by the government for the purposes of pay is the same.

    And yes, I know a number of people who are overpaid by 20%.

    Posted by plonkee | August 1, 2008, 3:36 pm
  5. Deepali, maybe everyone thinks they are underpaid by 20% and everyone else is overpaid by 20%. :)

    Posted by Curious Cat Investing Blog | August 1, 2008, 6:37 pm
  6. lmao. so it’s really all a matter of perspective. perhaps the real problem is that some people undervalue themselves… and some people have an overinflated sense of self. :)

    in any case, plonkee, i suggest you gather the salary data for a number of postings that are similar to your own job. if they are all higher paying than yours, then i think you have a case for some sort of raise.

    Posted by deepali | August 4, 2008, 10:24 pm
  7. I’ve used exactly this sort of information to negotiate a raise. I didn’t threaten to leave, but I was prepared to apply for other jobs if I didn’t like the company’s response.

    I asked for a meeting, took print-outs of job ads, and explained that I thought I was being underpaid for the work I was doing. My manager agreed and seemed to be saying that they were seeing how long they could get away with it.

    Go for it! It’s got to be worth asking.

    Posted by EeAitken | August 7, 2008, 7:54 am

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