Imagine this: You have a feeling you could earn more at a different company. Maybe a lot more.
You decide to do some research. You find a salary comparison tool online, enter your details, take a deep breath, and hit Submit.
And there it is: Black and white proof that you’re earning significantly less than your peers.
What you feel in that moment is a pretty good indicator of what you should do next.
Are you seriously pissed off? Are you secretly thrilled that – finally - you have clear justification for leaving a job you hate?
That’s a pretty clear sign a low salary is just one of several things that are getting you down at work. Your next step is obvious: Do what you can to fix your work problems, or start looking for a job where you’ll be paid what you deserve.
On the other hand, if your feelings are a little more complicated, it could be a sign there are aspects to your job that are a lot more important to you than money.
Here are four benefits you’d be perfectly justified in valuing more than a competitive salary:
1. A handy location
The average pay for a particular job can vary wildly from region to region.
For example, if you’re a Financial Accountant working on Auckland’s North Shore, our data shows that on average you’d earn $7,000 more if you found a new job in Auckland Central. That’s a pretty big difference.
But now look more closely: Commuting to the city will (conservatively) add five hours to your work week, or an extra thirty working days a year!
Perhaps right now that doesn’t matter to you all that much. Maybe you’re saving for your first house, and that extra cash will really come in handy. But if you’re relatively comfortable financially, all those extra hours away from your family/cats/gym/couch might just not be worth it.
2. Flexible hours
If you need to be more available for your kids, or an elderly parent, or your mobile hamster-grooming business; you’ll know that a job with flexible or part-time hours is worth holding on to for dear life. Many companies who can’t afford to compete for talent on salary alone will offer flexibility to their team instead. Which means you might find yourself trading salary for a working schedule that fits around the rest of your life.
3. Supercharged growth and development
Perhaps you’re not earning as much as you could, but you’re on an incredible learning curve. You’re getting stretched, and all sorts of new responsibilities and opportunities are coming your way. This is often the case in a start-up - you know you'd earn more at an established corporate, but right now you’re packing in more growth in one year than you would in five years at that big telco. This kind of experience can set you you up for the rest of your career, and so can be well worth sacrificing a higher salary for.
4. The chance to make a difference
A chance to work in an area you’re passionate about might give you more satisfaction than a big pay packet ever could. If you want to use your super powers for good at a charity, social enterprise or NGO, you’ll probably be reconciled to earning less than you could in the corporate world (although a good salary and a job that makes a social impact aren’t always mutually exclusive).
If your job comes with any of these benefits…
…your next step is to do a bit more research to discover if you could get that benefit and an increase in salary elsewhere. Could you find another good part-time role, and also get a pay rise? Do NGO’s on average actually pay quite a bit more than the one you work for?
If so, then by all means, bring your research to your manager and see what they can do to bring your salary up to market rates. But if it turns out you can’t improve your pay without sacrificing the stuff that really matters to you, then maybe you don't need to worry about being underpaid after all.
If you want to find out if you're underpaid or not compared to your peers, check yourself out with What's My Worth.