You may have been working at your job so long that you haven't had a chance to test the market to see what your skills are worth. Looking for a new job can be scary and frustrating - especially if your family is counting on you as a provider. Before you decide to look for a new job just to see what you may be worth, consider using one or more of these tactics to determine whether or not you are being paid fairly at the job you've got.

1. State Data

 Some states publish wage data for a variety of jobs by county or other geographic areas. Washington State, for instance, publishes this data. You can quickly determine that cabinet makers in Spokane make an average of $14.30 per hour (last I checked).

2. Bureau of Labor Statistics

 It shouldn't surprise you to learn that the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks wage rates by job title. The data represents national averages and may not be applicable to your situation, but it would give you an idea. At last check, the data showed that the median annual salary for a CEO is $166,910 -quite a bit less than the multi-million dollar compensation packages that we hear about in the news.

3. Commercial Databases

 A variety of commercial web sites provide similar data, some of it readily searchable with specifics. For instance, CBSalary features a searchable database that provides local data in addition to national data. In just a few moments, I was able to learn that registered nurses in Providence, R.I., earn an average of $73,000 per year.

4. Job Boards

Many job postings make outrageous salary claims or provide no compensation information at all. Some, however, provide specific salary ranges. Check out job postings in your community at or at - or any of a variety of other job boards.

5. Friends

Asking friends about income is generally viewed as taboo. If, however, you have friends who do the same work as you, they may be quite willing to share (and may not be offended by the question). Explain that you are trying to determine whether or not you are being paid a fair, market rate for your job. Chances are, you can collect a data point or two to get a sense of how well or poorly you're paid.

6. Human Resources

Most human resources departments maintain data about wage rates for every position in the company. Most also feel their charge includes making sure that employees are happy. In other words, the HR department knows whether or not you're being fairly paid and will probably give you a straight answer. If they don't think you're being paid what you're worth, your inquiry may start a discussion that will lead to a raise.

Once you have determined whether or not you're being paid fairly, you're in a position to do something. If you're not, the first step may be to ask for a raise. Be sure to consider the timing of such a request. Asking for more money when the company is not doing well may not have a good outcome. Asking for a raise if you're not performing well will never have a good outcome. If your company is thriving and you're doing a great job, take courage in the data and ask for a raise.

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