Ah yes, the proverbial job-hopper. Conventional wisdom tells you that you should never job-hop, but the thing is, that conventional wisdom comes from corporate HR departments who are trying to “retain talent” (ie, crush your soul into thinking you can’t do better somewhere else) and “maintain profitability” (ie, destroy employee morale in an effort to keep rank-and-file salaries super-low and executive pay packages super-high.) Because a demoralized workforce that is kept in check with plantation-mentality (ie, “You should be happy just to have a job, so stop asking for raises/promotions/common decency”) won’t seek greener pastures/higher pay elsewhere, because your beloved Grandma Bumpkin Goody-Two Shoes taught her precious babes never to job hop, and you’re of course gonna follow that advice, right?.
At least, that’s what companies hope will happen. But as your Cheap Yuppie Mom, I am here to tell you that conventional wisdom around job-hopping is total bullshit.
The smartest, most talented, and highest-paid careerists always job-hop. Why?
Because we can. (I include myself in this elite job-hopper group). If you are top talent, the best at what you do, you can command high salaries anywhere. Top talent is not (actually, never) chained to a job or career path that they don’t like. Because companies are at war for top talent, all the time. (Even during recessions.) If you can’t find the job that you want, hang out a shingle and become an independent consultant. (In fact, this is often the best path to higher earnings; I was a high-paid freelance writer/content strategist for almost eight years, almost all of it during the Great Recession).
What’s more, employees who stay with the same employer for longer than 2 years earn 50% less, on average. Why? Because most companies these days simply do not reward their top talent with raises or promotions. The outlook especially sucks for women getting promoted from within. (Here’s a hint: women often don’t get promoted).
So, career-oriented frugalistas, what options are you left with? Well, you could just put up with being an underpaid slouch at your job forever (not my advice); b) ask for a promotion/raise (you should do this yearly, at minimum); or c) look for a new job that gets you the raise and promotion you deserve.
Practically speaking, most people get promoted these days by changing jobs. That has certainly been true across my 24-year career. I have never stayed at any one job or company longer than 3 years, with the exception of the 7.5-year stint I spent working as my own boss for multiple clients who paid me exceedingly well. When I decided to leave self-employment and return to traditional employment after my self-employment stint, I was able to command multiple offers of six figures. When I started out my career a bazillion years ago, when dinosaurs walked the Earth, I was a low-paid, entry-level flunky in publishing (where the pay for pretty much everybody sucks). I could have been satisfied with that and just stayed with that same company for 23+ years (I still have friends that work there after all this time, too)—but I chose not to do that. I chose to make more money.
With every major job switch I have made over the past 18 years , I have also received a substantial raise. (It took me a few years to figure this out; see my Why Debt Sucks posts, which took place early in my career, when I was still pretty clueless about demanding decent wages).
I have always been a top performer at every job I have ever held. I know this especially because I was self-employed in an uber-competitive industry (publishing and media) earning near-six figures, part-time, for almost 8 years. I frequently had to beat out 500 others for every assignment I got. I always won the business, and I commanded top dollar for the work, because I am exceedingly good at what I do, and companies will pay a premium for that. When I no longer felt I could command the pay I deserved, I pivoted to an industry/employment situation where I did get paid what I deserved.
I frequently monitor Salary.com for comparable compensation numbers for what I do professionally. If at any point I see that my compensation is not matching the national trend for people of comparable experience and skills, I demand a raise to match it. I have done this successfully many times. If the employer is not willing to grant me that raise, I find an employer or business opportunity that will. I am fearless about this, because I have been to the enemy, and The Enemy is Being Broke.
Any employer that does not value your contributions and skillsets at least as much as its competitors would does not deserve you. It is that simple.
So, you’re probably wondering why I am giving brutally honest career advice on a personal finance blog. Here’s the thing: the most important aspect of personal finance is maximizing your earnings (within the context of your values and life, of course. I am not advocating that people go work 800 hours a week or deal crack cocaine to maximize their earnings). You should be paid the highest possible wages (which also includes nontangible benefits and perks, like flexibility, benefits, job security, and the like) for the skillset you have and the value you bring to any organization. If you feel that your current employment situation is not delivering that for you, then take action.
One of my favorite personal finance bloggers, Mrs. Frugalwoods of Frugalwoods.com, blogs about this very topic—-job-hopping to get promotions and increase your pay.
Action might mean demanding a raise or promotion. Action may alternatively include going back to school or getting some training to enhance your skillset so you become more marketable at higher rates of pay. Or action may involve finding another job. It may even involve starting your own business. Any or all of these approaches may apply to you at some point in your life. I have done all of them at one point or another.
Don’t be afraid of change. It takes change to make change, as they say. (pun intended).
I remain your Cheap Yuppie Mom.