How to Ask for a Raise If You're Underpaid—and Actually Get One

Request a salary that matches your experience and job responsibilities.

Women, in particular, are not comfortable asking for a raise and furthermore are less likely to pursue the issue if their request is rejected by an employer. But with the cost of living constantly increasing and wages not going as far as they once did, demanding fair pay is an important skill to hone. We touched base with several business experts to find out how to sleuth out whether your salary is fair—and how to ask for a raise if it's not. Here's what you need to do.

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Decide if you deserve a raise.

A few years ago, Charreah Jackson was working at a communications company when a colleague she was close with asked for advice on negotiating a raise. The colleague shared her current salary—which was $20,000 higher than Jackson's. "I tried to pretend like that number didn't completely rock my world," says Jackson, author of the book Boss Bride: The Powerful Woman's Playbook for Love and Success ($12,

Even if you haven't had a similar wake-up call, chances are good that you could be underpaid and not know it. "We've been socialized, as women, not to talk about money," says Sallie Krawcheck, co-founder and CEO of Ellevest, a digital investing platform for women. "But that means we don't know how much we should be making, and we don't negotiate pay raises as often as we should." If you have a gut feeling that you might be working the same job for less money than your coworkers, it's time to research an exact number and then speak up.

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Research similar salaries in your field.

Before you approach your bosses, you need to have a well-researched number in mind. Here's how to get a ballpark figure:

  • Search your title and company name on the job site Glassdoor, which has a salary database.
  • Check both the range and the average of what others have said they're getting paid.
  • If there's not much data about your employer or you want to see how your company stacks up against the local market, search only your job title and location.

PayScale, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor also offer personalized salary analysis tools, which factor in things like years of experience and level of education, to tell you how your pay compares with that of similarly qualified peers.

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Talk with coworkers and ex-coworkers.

Here's another important skill to hone: talking to others about salary. Try speaking to six people in your company or field—including three men, says Lauren McGoodwin, CEO at Career Contessa, a career site for women.

Say, "I'm doing research about my salary range and think you could help me. Would you be willing to share your ballpark salary?" Jackson found that asking for a range made the question feel less intrusive. Talk to colleagues who have moved on from the role too, she suggests; they're "much more likely to share exact numbers." Talking with ex-coworkers is also helpful if your HR department discourages you from openly discussing pay rates in the office.

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Set up a meeting to discuss your pay.

If the research you've done shows that you're underpaid, Krawcheck recommends setting up a meeting with your boss. Remind them of your recent wins, and then say, "I've done some research, and it appears I'm underpaid by x percent." Then stop talking. "We always want to fill the awkward moment, but just wait," she says. This will make it clear that the next step is your boss's to take.

If your boss says they'll get back to you, suggest a meeting next week. If they say only a small bump is possible, ask whether the company can cover that coding course you've wanted to take, send you to a conference you've had your eye on, or help you more with work-life balance. Remember that your salary includes more than just your base pay. What else could help you feel more fairly paid and more fulfilled in your job? Some people might take less pay in order to work from home, for example.

Jackson brought up the pay discrepancy with her boss after being praised over lunch for a work collaboration. "Nothing was promised then and there, but within a few months I had a raise, and within a year, my salary was on par with my coworker's," she says. Now she makes a point of talking about salary with newer hires. "This code-of-silence culture is on its way out."

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