The fastest way to get a promotion or a pay rise is generally to move jobs. Even the Reserve Bank of Australia subscribes to this view according to Michael Pascoe’s piece last week (Wages growth is worse than the headlines claim, February 11).
There are two powerful forces that work to suppress your prospects that your employer relies on to keep you in your place and your pay down. The first is inertia. People don’t like the upheaval and uncertainty that a move entails. Seeking out another role takes effort, and it means putting yourself forward for evaluation and possible rejection. Even then if you are successful in getting an offer, you have to overcome the fear of failing in the new role or not liking the new billet.
Staying put requires no effort. It is a bit like banks with loyal customers who know its too much hassle to switch, so they ramp up their interest rates on your loans. Employers can ramp up the hours or restrict the pay rises.
The second factor holding you back is familiarity. Hang around long enough with others, and somebody is going to get let down on occasion. There might be arguments, politics, jealousies, or simply your contribution no longer excites. This works in reverse for new candidates who seem original, shiny and arrive with no obvious baggage.
The second fastest way is to get an offer for a job move, and then seek out a counter offer. The threat of leaving can cut through the familiarity malaise and sends a strong message that you have overcome the inertia. It also provides a clear signal as to your market worth which justifies your higher wage claim. It is a surprisingly effective approach. However, you must be prepared to act on your threat, and so the putative move has to be a firm and good offer.
Occasionally the employer will call your bluff and invite you to take up the offer and leave. If this happens, then leaving may be for the best. Very rarely this happens because the employer is genuinely in a bind, and they simply cannot match the competing offer. Caution is required here, as the employer’s sob story could be a fox. If they are not foxing you might wish to consider getting a written commitment to future pay rises or promotions based on tangible indicators of company performance to reap the benefits when conditions are more favourable. This is a risky strategy, and requires a level of trust and commitment to the company that if it is so strong, raises the question of why you’d consider leaving anyway.
There is some frequently quoted but flawed research suggesting that it is quicker to make it to chief executive officer by staying with the same employer than moving (around 21 years for the remainers compared to 23 for the movers). Apart from the trivial difference over such a long period of time, it ignores the fact that there can only be one CEO, and if you know you are not being considered in those terms where you are, then the sooner you get into another firm that sees more potential in you, or to allow you to make a fresh start, the better.
There is one final twist to all of this. One of the reasons we seek pay rises and promotions is because we want or need more money. However, when our money is tight, we generally are less open to taking risks such as moving jobs, and moving can cost money in relocating, or even getting a new outfit for the interview.