Should you job hop for quick salary bumps? In a recent post, Forbes blogger and tax accountant Cameron Keng says it’s worth changing jobs often because “Employees Who Stay In Companies Longer Than Two Years Get Paid 50% Less.”
But another Forbes blogger, David K. Williams, who has started and managed companies, disagrees. Williams lists “10 Reasons To Stay At A Job For 10 Or More Years.” Among the benefits of staying put, he says, is getting the opportunity to lead and manage. But that takes time, and it’s usually accompanied by significant bumps in salary. Williams discusses the value of seniority, increased retirement benefits, and other reasons staying at one company pays off. While I admire Keng’s accounting analysis, I’m more interested in what Williams says because he’s started and managed companies, worked with venture capital, and has experience in retail, commercial real estate, technology, energy, B2B and B2C businesses.
Who’s right? It depends on how you view your career and what kinds of risks you are willing to take. In my experience, job hopping may pay off handsomely if employers need you so much that they’re willing to bid your salary up quickly. Your career and reputation might be able to withstand a series of short-term gigs, so Keng’s points are worth considering. You might be able to apply them to optimize your own earnings. But the bugaboo in Keng’s post is big and clear: a graph that magically extrapolates actual data across a 10-year period, showing nine annual job hops that result in a total salary increase of 70%, from $100,000 to $170,000. This is where Keng makes his first fatal assumption: that getting new jobs is easy. My readers consistently tell me one thing: For the past 10 years, getting even one new job can take years. There’s nothing to suggest that successful annual job hops are the wave of the future.
In every economy, some people are hot. Today it’s big data and cloud experts. A few years ago, it was Java programmers. The reality is, few people are stars and what’s hot changes as supply and demand shifts. When your specific expertise falls out of vogue, you’re just a job hopper, and all that employers see on your resume is an inability to stick with an employer. You start to look like damaged goods. Of course, if you’re a real star, you might keep making more and more money until you get rich. Keng’s other fatal assumption is that employers will gladly pay you lots more money to keep hopping.
What he fails to note is that when you’re applying for a new job, employers routinely limit the raise they’ll give you by demanding your salary history—and using it to cap any job offer. Your current employer is doing the same thing. This is not all to say that you can’t negotiate a really good new salary. Read “How Big A Job Offer Do You Want?” for tips about how to do it. Just don’t expect to pull this off every time you change jobs. Is there an easy way to a bigger salary? Keng’s graph looks great. It looks like the perennial sales projection made by the vp of sales at the beginning of every year. Everything will turn out great if all the assumptions are met. Now let’s look at a real graph: your own salary increases over the past 10 years. Who’s right: Keng or Williams?
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About Nick Corcodilos
Nick Corcodilos writes "Ask The Headhunter," a weekly blog on CMO.com in which he shows you how to tackle the daunting obstacles that job hunters and managers face when trying to work together. From time to time, Corcodilos also will provide feature stories offering insights into various management career strategies, In addition, his newest books, Keep Your Salary Under Wraps, How to Work with Headhunters and How Can I Change Careers?, are available as PDFs.