A few weeks ago I had some dinner guests over at my home in Montana. Somehow the conversation veered toward work, and one of them mentioned that his father, who is now in his 60s, has worked for the same company since he finished high school.
“Seriously? That’s crazy!” I responded.
The table immediately split between those who, like me, thought it was shocking that a person would have a job their whole life, and those who thought it was shocking that we were shocked.
Interestingly, it was divided geographically. Three of the people at the table were Midwesterners who had worked for the same large companies since they had finished high school. Not only did they think a lifetime at a company was normal, but they found it strange that I’ve literally quit so many jobs at so many companies that I can’t remember them all.
The number is somewhere around 15-17, depending on what I count.
Is job hopping easier in the West?
After that dinner, I thought on this a bit, and talked to my brother about it. He and I both grew up in the Midwest, but have lived in the western U.S. for the better part of the last two decades.
As we talked, we both recalled this Midwestern virtue we’d perceived of sticking with a company for as long as possible.
We didn’t notice until now, but in the western U.S. this virtue kind of evaporated. I haven’t been able to find any statistics to support this idea – while the BLS collects data on employee tenure, they don’t appear to slice it by state or region.
But I’ve lived all over the west during the last 20 years, and have never noticed a cultural affinity toward sticking with one particular company. I think this is partly because large corporate businesses are relatively new here, compared to the Midwest.
Talking to my brother, we decided that we tended to job hop both because it was culturally acceptable, and because we get bored easily.
But what we really wondered was whether it was a good or bad thing. Were we missing out on something by bouncing from job to job so often?
The surprising truth about quitting and salaries
We soon found this article in Forbes showing that it isn’t just a little better to hop jobs every couple years. It’s really beneficial to your bank account. Conservative estimates showed that people who change jobs every two years make 50 percent more than their job loyal counterparts.
The article points to recession era caps on raises that stuck them between 3 and 5 percent at most companies. Unsurprisingly, after the recession these caps didn’t magically go away. So if you stay at a company it’s likely that your raises can never exceed 5 percent of your current salary per year, no matter how much more you deserve.
If you jump companies, you break this barrier. On top of that, you enter terrain that is particularly favorable to job seekers right now.
The U.S. currently has more job openings going unfilled than ever in its history, combined with the lowest unemployment rate in 10 years.
But I’ve got a hunch that there’s also something psychological going on here.
If you’re a great hire, out on the market, and you’ve got several companies competing for you, scarcity and people’s egos are on your side. A hiring manager naturally wants to “win” by beating rivals at other companies for a chance to grab a great candidate, and they’re afraid of missing out on a valuable option that will soon be gone.
But once you’ve been hired, the company has you. You’re not scarce anymore, and now a manager’s ego may be telling them that “winning” means negotiating the smallest pay raise possible out of you each year, rather than trying to beat competitors on the market.
So, should you quit your job?
Probably. But hey, I don’t know you, and I’ve clearly got a high tolerance for the risks of quitting.
There are a lot of complicated things to take into account. If you’ve got a solid long term career plan, and the job you have fits into it nicely, it may be worth holding onto for a while.
Also, you’ve got to assign some value to having a job you really like. If the people you work with are good, and day to day life on the job is enjoyable, that’s worth something. If you get a raise by moving to a company that stresses you out and makes day-to-day life hell, you probably won’t be happier.
I would say though, if you’re at a job that doesn’t have much potential for career growth, that you don’t actively enjoy going to, and your pay has hit an arbitrary growth cap, you should be on the job hunt.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s a great time to look for jobs, and you’ve really got nothing to lose by putting yourself out there and seeing what kind of offers you get.
Ok, where do I sign up?
Ready to start looking? As I mentioned, now is a great time to look. Betterteam put together this great list of job boards and career blogs that’ll help you get the intel you need.
Beyond that, I’d recommend doing research of your own. How in demand is your job? What is the market rate for it?
You can find out by going to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook and searching for your job.
This will give you the job growth outlook and median pay, as well as other valuable statistics about the job.
If you’ve been at the same job at the same company for a long time, it might be interesting to see how your current pay compares to the market rate.
After that, I’d start by giving your LinkedIn page and resume an overhaul. It’s possible that just by updating your LinkedIn profile, you’ll get contacted by recruiters.
Next, I would go to Glassdoor and do a search for the job you’re interested in to see what kind of ratings companies get. As I mentioned, you don’t want to get a pay raise but end up working for a tyrant.
Glassdoor allows employees to rate the companies they work for and leave detailed feedback. Look for top rated companies that are hiring for your job, and see what people have to say about them. Just about every company will have something listed as “cons” of working there. Are these ones you can live with?
If you find a company that’s a really great match, do some more research about them online. See what current and former employees say on LinkedIn and Twitter. If everything points to a positive company to work for, go for it.
If this doesn’t work, you can always start searching for jobs on big boards like Indeed, but I’d start by looking for companies you want to work for, rather than hoping good companies find you.
Negotiating your new salary
Most good hiring managers and recruiters are going to ask you a very pointed, perhaps uncomfortable set of questions during your first interview.
They’ll want to know how much you’re making now, and what you’re expecting to make with them.
If your salary has been held down by artificial caps for 10 years, you’re probably going to give them a number that’s below market rate, which could make it difficult to negotiate the pay you actually want.
First off, don’t lie about your current pay. Ultimately it will come back to bite you.
Most recruiters and hiring managers will be aware of why your salary is below market, and will expect this to some degree.
To get a salary at or above market, be ready to explain in detail why you’re worth what you are. Talk about your experience and abilities you can bring to the company, and why they put you at or above the rest of the crowd.
Ready, set quit!
Or don’t. But I think that most people who have been at a job for more than two years, and feel that their salary has been capped, should at least be checking to see what the market has to offer them. I hope this helps you get started.