job jumper tip #3: it’s not all about the money

If you have negative impressions of job jumpers, it’s probably because you met a mercenary. The mercenary job jumper will leap at opportunities for more pay and little else. He will jump from being a manager at Pepsi to a position with the exact same title, responsibilities and situation at Coke for an extra $5000 per year. He doesn’t look past his next raise or his next bonus, and everything he does is centered on maximizing his salary.

You may wonder what the problem is. If I said I didn’t care about getting a raise, I’d be lying. I like to make more money. Everyone does. However, if you want to be a job jumper, you have to use your jumps strategically. Let’s break down a $5000 increase in salary. That’s only going to be an extra $208 per bimonthly paycheck – before taxes. After taxes it’s even less – particularly if that $5000 pushes you into a higher tax bracket. You end up with an extra $100 per week and a resume that starts looking spotty.

Here are a few things to consider before you make a job jump solely for money:

1. Will my costs be the same? You may work at a company right now where the atmosphere is business casual, the cafeteria has subsidized lunches and perks abound (free coffee, a company parking lot, etc.). Before you jump to a higher paying job, consider whether your costs also go up. I went from one client where I had free coffee, parking and almost-free lunches – and I could wear golf shirts to work – to one where I had to wear a suit and tie, coffee wasn’t provided and parking was out of the question (and even public transportation cost me $11 per day). It would have taken an extra $100 per week in salary (probably $5000 per year before taxes) to break even with the first client!

2. Does the new job show growth in my salary or growth in my skills? I have seen a lot of resumes. Nothing looks worse than someone who switched from one company to a similar company where they performed similar duties – but made more money. You must justify job jumps with personal growth in skills or the number of people you manage or even lifestyle improvements (closer to your home, more work-life balance) but never with “it was just a better salary.” Future employers will think “if this guy is willing to dump his employer for an extra $5000, what’s to say he won’t do it to us in 6 months, too?”

3. Money can’t buy you happiness. Penelope at The Brazen Careerist points out that more money – by itself – won’t make you happy. Consider whether that extra $10,000 will change your life – or should you stick it out and use your mastery of your current job to cut down on your hours? Learn new skills? Or frankly, just have a longer lunch break? Or have more energy for other pursuits when you get home? These things can be worth more to your career (and your peace of mind) in the long run than a short-term gain in salary.

4. Raises are for suckers, and once you jump that’s all you’re likely to get for a while. I’ve talked about this before, but it takes a long time for year-over-year 5% raises to amount to much. A 5% raise will just keep you ahead of inflation – barely. Jumping to a new job gives you a one-time boost in salary, but if it’s at the same level you’ll still keep sweating out those 5% raises every year. Most companies don’t like to promote people until they’ve been at the company for more than 6 months. Think about whether you’re more likely to move ahead if you stay another 6 months, or jump. You want the job that’s going to push you from staff to manager, or from manager to executive. That’s where the big bumps come in.

5. Don’t think about next year’s salary – think about your next decade’s salary. Let me tell you a story. Two guys, Sam and Warren, start out working for the same company. It’s a high pressure company, and the staff/manager pay is below average, but it produces a lot of very successful people. Sam and Warren both start out making in the $60s, let’s say. Sam jumps ship for a bureaucratic corporate job making $75. Warren toughs it out, getting measly raises and working far too much for his money. In 5 years Sam’s making 50% more than Warren, but his salary has flattened out – he’s gone as far as he can at the easier, bureaucratic jobs and he’s forced to jump from job to job to get any sort of increase. Warren suddenly gets a big promotion to executive, because he stuck it out – he made his connections, he learned his job. He even left the company, strategically, for a couple of years but then came back in a new position at the old job when something opened up. He’s jumped internally a lot, but stayed connected. He’s making 4, 5 times as much as Sam – because he thought about his career long term. He was looking 10 years ahead, instead of just wanting a one-time 25% increase.

So think about these points the next time you’re tempted to jump to a new job for a 10% raise. It sounds good in the short term, but a real job jumper has a long-term goal and doesn’t chase short-term gains. The successful job jumper stays focused on building skills and relationships, not on grasping for an extra $100 per week.

Check out the rest of the job jumper tips:

(Image created by AMagill)

20 Replies to “job jumper tip #3: it’s not all about the money”

  1. Thanks for this article, it’s incredibly timely for me. I’m starting to think about making a jump from my first post-college job into something with more responsibility. I’ve always labeled myself a “mercenary” (after all, if I didn’t care about the money, I’d be in the Peace Corps). But, I’ve always felt that personal and professional development needed a place in the equation. Thanks for posting about the other issues that affect a job change besides salary. I’ll be refering back to this post as I move forward in my search!

  2. I also did job jumping within the company after my first post-college placement. I had made a lot of connection within the company due to the nature of my first job where I had to work with different divisions and departments on different projects. I was waiting for the opportunity and the opportunity came. I was hired immidiately, the manager knew me well from previous dealings and my current boss even called him up and recommended me. I got more money in the new department AND I was learning a totally different side of business, finance and accounting.
    I think I would advise for the first time jumpers (after first out-of-college jobs) is to “jump” within the same company, could do it even after a year or two and it would still look good on a resume.

  3. I don’t know, I think it could still be an advantage to job hop. I’m retiring from my job at the end of the month. I’ve held 2 jobs in my 22 year career, nearly 18 years at my present job.

    My replacement went to the same university as I did (although 2 years behind me); as I did, he started in public accounting, but then he went on to a series of many different jobs, landing in my job right now. He will be paid 50% more salary than I make.

    I think the job hopping thing worked for him. He’s got the same job I had for the 17 years, but he’s more expensive since he presumably left each job for more money, while I sat tight and received my 3%-8% raises each year.

    I don’t know, maybe it wasn’t the job hopping, maybe because he’s a man . . .

  4. I chuckled a bit in the beginning when you mentioned the $5000 raise, because that’s a much bigger number than I was expecting you to use to make your point. I knew someone who prided himself on never jumping ship just to make a little more money…he said he needed at least $2000/year more or it just wasn’t worth it to him. Yes, seriously!

    This post is some great food for thought. I’ll add that many people don’t realize that an $80,000/year job with a $20,000 annual bonus pays more than an $81,000/year job. It’s not all about the money, but even when it is about the money, it’s not all about the salary.

  5. Great article again! The only thing I might add about making the choice to jump jobs (particularly if it’s just for money) is to ask your current company if they can re-evaluate your job. Most companies try to keep internal parity fairly even & if you have been in the same job for 5+ years, you could be being paid below the mid-point of the job even if you were at mid-point when you started.

    At my company our compensation dept. re-evaluates most of our jobs every 2 to 4 years & in some areas, especially where a shortage of skills has made the mid-point pay of the job jump appreciably, more often than that. If we find more than a 20% differential in any person doing the same job (given that they have the same skill level & educational level) we raise the lower person to at least mid point.

    The point being if you like the company you are in but see that money is passing you by, it is worth asking the question can you have your pay reviewed. Your other option is to go to HR (honest, most of us ARE in the business to help) and discuss your desire to be paid what you see others being paid.

    As the head of recruiting I have this conversation with someone at least once a week. Sometimes I know about an upcoming opening that we might consider the person for, or at a minimum I can advise them what additional training, education or experience would boost their chances of a promotion.

    Your advice about what a raise will “buy” them realistically is also right on target. You have to ask yourself what a longer commute, less benefits, etc. is worth from a dollar perspective.

  6. When I picked my first post-college job, I went for the job that offered mentorship and training. I made a pitiful salary when compared to my peers, but I did not have a large overhead out of college. Because of all the training I got from my first job, I am a very marketable employee in my field so I did not have a problem getting a higher salary ($12,000) when I jumped 8 months ago.

    One thing that people tend to forget about is the other “extra perks” that mentioned in this post. My co-worker and I both left for the same company. He was making $8000 more than me from our last company. But now he is only making $4000 more than me. I think it is because he forgot to factor in the “extra” stuff. By the end of this year, I have the potential to make $5000 more than him even though we are both in the same position (the training you get from that first 1 or 2 job is that important!).

    After I got the job offer, I made a spreadsheet of the perks and put a $ amount to it. For example, if you get 6 hours of vacation per pay period from your last job, but only 3 hours from your new job, then that is $. 3 hrs x $10/hr x 26 pay period / year = $780. Free gym membership = $45/month x 12 months/yr = $540. You run through this with all your perks, then add it to the minimum pay increase to arrive at your “final ship jumping salary.” When you are negotiating your new salary that is what you present to your potential new boss to justify your demand when you ask for more than what they are offering.

  7. Another issue to consider is 401k eligibility. Some companies make you wait a year before you can contribute to one. If you jump every 2 years you will only be contributing half the time to a retirement account which could make a big difference to your savings.

  8. You don’t seem to consider the health and business strategy of your current employer. I once left a job for a similar title and responsibilities (and yes, a little more money – about $5K, in fact) because it was clear to me that my company was in decline. It took a little over two years, but my office was eventually closed and over 100 people laid off (out of a peak of 200+ when I left). This is a common scenario in high tech, where rapid growth and rapid decline happen all the time.

  9. Curmudgeon’s point is spot on. I am interviewing for a position right now that is basically a lateral move professionally (at least for the current position), but there is a lot of room for growth and the company is doing very well. My current company however, is dying. At least, that is how most of us who work there perceive the situation. Great article.

  10. Patrick:

    If the new company is doing well, you might consider asking to be evaluated on a 6 month basis instead of waiting a year. You say it is a lateral move so you must have experience in the role you are considering. If people ask we will give them a 6 mo evaluation with the idea of giving them a bump up in salary if they are doing above standard in their work. Just a thought!

  11. Nice thought, Pamela. But tech companies hire you for what you can do for them today. If after six months you’re only doing what they hired you for, you will be gone.

  12. Hey Curmudgeon:

    That is why I stated above standard in your work. If you don’t keep learning & moving you probably won’t make it to the year to get your merit and/or bonus anyhow! And, yes, having worked in CA for 6 years I agree that tech companies are a differing breed than other, less progressive, companies.

  13. Pamela – CA? I fully understand and sympathize! Good going for lasting six years.

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  16. I don’t know – now that I’m back on the East Coast I’m not sure it’s any better! Maybe just that I changed industries – retail moves at the speed of light!

  17. Great comments – curmudgeon (great handle, by the way) – you make a great point that I missed, which is that you should consider your employers’ stability, too. Honestly I have always worked for big, stable companies but it is definitely something people should watch out for, so thanks for pointing it out.

    Pamela’s right, too, though – try to make an internal move if that option is available. It can’t hurt to try to move internally before you jump!

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