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)