Overcoming Underearning: A Self-Help Guide

Overcoming Underearning
Underearners Anonymous
applies 12 steps for those addicted to paltry paychecks, preaching action and acceptance of a higher power. But if this isn't for you, what can you do to stop making less than you should? Nancy Ancowitz, a business communication coach and author of Self-Promotion for Introverts, has a few answers.

Ancowitz analyzed the primary symptons outlined by Underearners Anonymous, and offers tips for overcoming them.

The bottom line, she pointed out, is that you first must believe in your self-worth. "If you undervalue yourself, the outside world probably won't give you a higher bid," Ancowitz says. Carry around a laminated card of the attributes that make you "strong and special," she advises. Pull it out when you need affirmation.Here are Ancowitz's other hints on correcting self-destructive habits to graduate from wee wages to prosperity.


This is connected to the compulsive need to prove yourself. How many times have you heard, "You should volunteer because it's good exposure?"

You can get good exposure with a paid job. Let's say you do free speaking gigs to raise your exposure in your field. That might be good in the beginning. But if you've been speaking for five years, you should be paid for it. You're probably good at it.

Underpricing Services

Pricing ourselves is an extreme stressor. Most of us don't know what our value is in the marketplace. So if your esteem is low, it's a natural progression that you're going to underprice yourself.

This is a matter of homework. Do your research online and talk to people in the field through LinkedIn or somewhere else to find out what's right for your skills and experience. And you don't have to underprice yourself to be competitive. You can give more incentives by offering little extras. Let's say you're doing contract work: Maybe you're making $2,000 for 40 hours of work. Instead of knocking the fee down, you could say, "I'll do it for $2,000 and I'll throw in two extra hours as a bonus." You still get what you're worth.

Promising to Follow Every Job Lead

You have to manage your energy efficiently. Sometimes you make the right choice by not following on all leads. It's like the idea of sending out 1,000 resumes. It's not a great way to get a job. It's a great way to exhaust yourself. Do not promise to follow every lead. Say you'll think about it.

Self-Defeating Introduction

Mark Zuckerberg could call himself a flunky dropout or a trailblazing entrepreneur. Think of that when you introduce yourself. Explore the extremes. Instead of saying what you do in the most undervalued way possible, puff it up to the max in the most overvalued way possible. Then come in the middle.

Being the Quiet Worker Bee

Devote more time to navigating office politics. Tell your boss how you're making a difference, either through weekly meetings or email communication. You need to have some way to check in with your bosses. If you're a worker bee, the show horse will get the raise. The over-earner, or show horse, leaving at 6 p.m. actually devotes time to office politics. It helps you stay out of trouble and get ahead.

Ignoring the Other Side of Earning

Even if you are an underearner, you can build your skills at spending money and saving. That can actually increase your confidence.

Ancowitz reminds the underappreciated and undercompensated that you are not alone. Some of the most important jobs, such as teaching, don't pay much. "Think of parenting," she said. "What do you make for that? Don't undervalue yourself based on how much you bring to the bank."
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