The other night a friend confided he hasn’t received a raise in quite some time, almost four years.This was shocking—he’s always been a exceptional worker—though he does live in a hard-hit city and works in a difficult industry: entertainment.
I wondered whether this was a byproduct of the recession or something else.
Then I thought about it more: How often should Americans really expect a raise? It is it even realistic to expect one anymore, given the way the economy’s been tanking? When is it time to find a new job, and how can you tell when you’ve reached your glass ceiling?
I decided to call Penelope Trunk, founder of three startups and a career expert, for advice. Be wary, clockwatchers, for she didn’t mince words:
“I don’t think anyone deserves a raise just for showing up,” she said. “If you’ve been at a company for three years, then expect a raise in the fourth year, why? If you want consistent raises, you have to keep learning and adding to your skillset all the time.”
Trunk is a huge advocate of job-hopping every one to two years since she believes two years is around the time when a worker begins to “plateau out,” as I like to call it, or stops acquiring skills that will keep him or her in demand.
“If you want to make more money, you need to change jobs,” she said, before adding employers look for outside talent to bring in skills outside their four walls.
However, for someone who truly loves their job, there may be other issues at play.
First, the employee may be past his or her salary-bumping prime. According to a joint study Trunk conducted with PayScale in March, salaries top out around age 40 for those workers holding at least a bachelor’s degree—for women it’s age 37, while for men it is 45.
Second, said Trunk, some people just aren’t worth what they think they are. When you find yourself getting the same salary offer each time, it may be a sign that you’ve reached your glass ceiling (although I’m not sure I fully agree).
“The workplace doesn’t value more than 10 years of experience,” she said. “What’s the difference between a journalist with 14 years of experience and one with seven?”
All things being said, Trunk says it’s time to hang your hat when you feel you’ve learned all you could and aren’t being paid fairly. Going by her job-hopping strategy, that should happen around every two years, but I would advise you to follow your intuition and get out when you feel you’ve stopped learning.
“Many would disagree, but you can live on $45,000 a year,” says Trunk.
What do you think? Would you settle for less?