5 Stupid Reasons You’re Underpaid–And How To Fix Them

You’re not being out-earned because you’re out-skilled. People often have blind spots about getting paid–so pull back the veil and start earning what you’re worth.

5 Stupid Reasons You’re Underpaid–And How To Fix Them

While Teddy Roosevelt may have been onto something when he said that “comparison is the thief of joy,” the 26th president probably wasn’t concerned with getting paid.


We are.

And Dave Fecak knows why we aren’t making enough. Fecak has had long exposure to technologists’ salaries: He’s been a part of software recruiting since 1998. And while his points are directly intended for programmers, they carry currency beyond coders.

These are the reasons you aren’t making enough.

Image consciousness

You’ll get paid more if your boss sees intangible advantages in paying you. Influence–or as, we might say, personal brand–can translate into dollar signs. Fecak mentions that open source project leads, conference organizers, meetup leaders, speakers, and authors could all be a part of that trend, evidenced by moves like Google hiring futurist Ray Kurzweil. And on a smaller scale, companies might like you if, for instance, you’re a regular conference speaker–they’ll get a bit of buzz whenever someone looks at your bio.

The first negotiation

As we’ve discussed, taking a lowball offer at your first grownup job can set you back $500,000 over a lifetime. Fecak says to think of a starting salary as the principal level for compound interest–a heuristic that helps you understand how much getting comfortable with negotiation can pay off.

Know the market (and your place in it)

If you blindly trust your employer to compensate you fairly, you might be doing yourself a disservice. While it’s cute to think that your employeer has your best interest in mind, you need to make sure you have your best interest in mind. Fecak says he’s seen folks floored after learning they’ve been earning 20% below the going rate for years. Don’t be that guy. Check out Glassdoor and Bright for background and talk to friends and colleagues in the field–knowing your worth is key to career planning.


Profit or cost?

If you’re a technologist, you’ll make more in a tech company. Why? Because then tech is a main source of revenue, rather than this opaque tertiary thing that has to be dealt with–and your colleagues might have a clue of what you’re doing. If you’re a part of the core competency, you’ll be compensated accordingly.

Skill scarcity

In the land of the blind, the man with one eye is king. If you’re literate in the Next Big Thing before it’s a Thing then you can command a higher salary–whether we’re talking data skills, learning a programming language, or uniquely blended background (look at Gentry Underwood’s long road to Mailbox.)

Have another theory why you’re not getting paid enough? Tell us about it in the comments.

Why You Make Less Money

[Image: Flickr user Hana Carpenter]


About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.