How do you know?
December 14, 2012 5:17 PM   Subscribe

How do you know if it's not big enough? (A raise, I mean?). I would like to hear about whether the recession has shaped how people think about money and career advancement.

Geez, this is anonymized.

I hope it resonates with a few out there, but I definitely don't want this pinned to me.

Ok, so I work a full time job that pays a little above the poverty level. However, it has great health benefits. I live in a totally safe neighborhood, in part because I live with my boyfriend and we split the rent. Generally, I have enough of everything, for the first time for many years in my life.

After college, I scraped by for many years with intense health problems, evictions, canned pasta every night, etc. I moved for a job, which was a disaster and paid very little. Comparatively, I feel content now for the first time since the recession.

Part of me wants to stay just where I am because my basic survival needs are being met. But part of me is like no, that's not enough.

Now, it's time for me to get a raise. But I am not feeling like the total amount I end up making is going to be substantially more than the current amount.

Now, I don't want to have kids or anything.

But without being greedy, how do you know whether it's worth staying at a low paying job where you are reasonably happy, or pursuing something bigger?

For anyone else who had a similar recession experience, has this shaped how you think about money?

I think I was very confident in college and prior to it that my career would advance and life would work out.

How do you regain that excitement about wanting more?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I agree with snickerdoodle. It's been my (limited [I've had a regular full time job for about a decade, though I've been working since I was 14]) experience that annual raises and reviews don't get someone much, a few percent. If one wants more, a promotion is required. And/or a change of employers.
posted by Brian Puccio at 5:34 PM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not wanting more (right now anyway) is not a bad thing. It wasn't that long ago that getting a job and staying there as long as you could was the norm. Some people want to be CEO and have a yacht. Others are happy with less. Neither is better than the other.
posted by COD at 5:35 PM on December 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not really sure what your question is -- people don't typically switch jobs unless they have a better offer in hand. You can stay in your current job while pursuing something better; the two are not mutually exclusive. As for the other part of your question, I would hazard that just about everyone's career plans and decisions have been impacted by the economic climate.
posted by Wordwoman at 5:39 PM on December 14, 2012

If you have a happy job and health insurance, I'd expect a modest cost of living increase after a year or two but I sure as hell wouldn't quit. If you want a bigger bump, you are going to have to get promoted or change jobs but don't quit until you have a magical job offer to go to.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:45 PM on December 14, 2012

It depends whether you're really ok with living just above the poverty level (and by that, do you mean $15,000 a year, or actual poverty?).

Personally, I am not satisfied with just scraping by. I want a good job where my bills cover my expenses and I don't have to worry about it. I went back to school (I was waitressing for a few years after dropping out) to finish my BA and submatriculate in a masters in a field that has more jobs than people right now, so provided I do well in my classes, I have a realistic shot at a good job straight out of school.

But that's me. If you're ok with what you've got, that's great. If you'll be feeling unsatisfied without something more, then go for it and get what you want. In my opinion, a job is what you do so you can do what you want to do. If you can also get happiness out of your job, great. But if your job isn't letting you be happy in your personal life and isn't making you happy to do it, you've got to change something.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:05 PM on December 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

It helps me to think of my job as an economic transaction where my boss (and any prospective bosses) agree to pay me as little as they can while I agree to go wherever I can get the best price for these chunks of my life I'm selling them. They're not my rich uncle; I'm not their buddy.

It doesn't matter (to them) what my expenses are, and it doesn't matter (to me) how their business is doing, except insofar as I'm adding value to help them pay me. This is true of non-profits as well.

What this means in practice is that I check in on the job boards from time to time, and if a recruiter calls I talk to them. Last year (and the year before) when I felt significantly underpaid I went in and talked to my boss, outlining what I found people in my profession made. I got raises that got me into the average bracket.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:34 AM on December 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also consider a new job brings with it the respect of that position. A lot of people stay too long at one company and while they might be getting promoted, the respect for them stays stuck at their hire position.

As in, if you're hired as a junior position you're going to be stuck carrying that mantle by others in the organization. Versus being hired into a new place where you're hired at that new level, bringing along with it whatever level of respect that comes with it. Same thing with perceptions regarding opinions of your economic worth. As in, you might not be getting paid what someone new from outside might be paid for the same position.

So a lot of the time you're better off, financially and professionally, taking a new job elsewhere.
posted by wkearney99 at 3:46 PM on December 15, 2012

before you can start thinking about raises you have to be sure you're doing your job well now, your employer depends on you, you're arguing from a position of strength. if that's not the case then you're done before you even start.

the best advice i've heard is something like this: a few months out from raise deciding time you make it clear you think you're doing well, and you're expecting a raise of x%. it's easier said than done. if you get the raise you said you wanted then you win. if not, start looking for other jobs. negotiate for a salary that is at the level you asked for plus the amount to compensate you for changing jobs, and any other deficiencies in the new company. with offer in hand, you can go to your current employer and ask for a higher raise. if they give it to you, be sure to tell them that if they ever under-value you again you will not be giving a chance to make a counter offer.
posted by cupcake1337 at 4:23 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

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