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According to CNN, the average American worker saw a salary increase of 3 percent in 2018 — but when adjusting for inflation, that only translates to a 1 percent raise.

If you’re underpaid, don’t feel discouraged. Know that it can happen to anyone — and that it can be overcome.

Know the Facts About Underpayment

One key thing to know is that staying within your current role or current company makes it unlikely you’ll successfully negotiate a raise of more than 5 percent. In some extreme cases, like if you’re taking on a role at a much higher level, you might be able to swing a 10 percent raise, but this isn’t the norm.

If you want to make a big jump in pay, this will likely require switching companies. If you stay within your current company, your salary increases will be dictated by your current pay. Starting over somewhere new gives you a lot more negotiating power.

That said, you need to be realistic. Even if you’re prepared to jump ship, your salary increase probably won’t be astronomical. While raises of up to 20 percent were once common for job hoppers, that’s no longer the case. Still, the most direct path to a raise for most people is to change employers.

Research Average Pay in Your Role

It’s important to be aware of the average salary for your position to ensure you are not being underpaid or taken advantage of. Factor in your location, too, as average salaries for the same role can vary depending on where you live.

A great tool for comparing salaries is the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where you can access average wage data based on your job, state, and metropolitan area. Glassdoor is another good resource, and Career Contessa collects wage data for female professionals in particular.

These tools shouldn’t be used as the unquestionable deciders of your worth. Rather, approach them as guides to ensure your compensation is line with others in your situation.

Be Confident of Your Value

One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to salary negotiations is failing to come prepared with specific metrics and achievements. When you’re asking for a higher salary, it’s important to make a fact-based case for why you deserve the raise.

Some metrics to consider:

  1. The number of hours per week you actually work (time-tracking apps can help here)
  2. Hourly equivalent of your salary
  3. The number of hours you work above and beyond the average employee at your company; if you have a habit of coming in on weekends or working late at night, point this out

As for your achievements, consider anything you’ve done to save the company money or increase revenue, such as streamlining processes or landing big clients. Clearly lay out your achievements so you can highlight how beneficial you’ve been to the company. The more achievements you can point to, the stronger your case will be.

Show That You’ve Done Your Homework

Now that you are armed with facts and evidence to support your pay increase, be sure to prepare a brief statement that explains why you deserve it. Here’s a great way to explain your situation to an interviewer or hiring manager:

“According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the average pay for this position in this area is $X. In light of this, and along with my accomplishments of A and B, I’m aiming for a salary of $Y.”

If you give a statement like this, you will come off as knowledgeable, confident, and motivated. Having evidence of your achievements and real-world data will also make you appear researched, showing interviewers that you have a solid understanding of your value grounded in fact.

If you are currently underpaid, know that it does not have to stay that way. You do have the power to negotiate a higher salary for yourself. If you come prepared with facts, data, and personal achievements, you can make a value-based case for the raise you deserve.

Michele Lando is a certified professional resume writer and the founder of Write Styles.

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