What if you were told that each year you stay at a dead-end job you’re losing money? And not just a couple of thousands here and there, but a significant amount that’s the difference between being just “okay” or having the financial freedom to do the things you want to do. Enough money to set you back at least $15,000.

Too often, intelligent and talented professionals are leaving money on the table staying at dead-end jobs. And by “dead-end,” I mean any job where there’s little potential to make more money or grow within the company; you’re either stagnant financially, mentally, or both. Either way, it’s like a movie so bad you can’t help but to think about all the time you lost that you’ll never get back.

Maybe you’re good at what you do and have grown accustomed to your work; your job offers a flexible schedule and you can take time off when you want; or aside from a few rotten apples, your coworkers have become like family and it’s nice to go where everybody knows your name (insert the Cheers theme song here and a hearty “Noooorm!”)

It’s tempting to stay at a job where you’re comfortable.

But the reality is that the longer you stay with the same company, the more you decrease your potential to make more money.

In fact, according to Salary.com, “Generally, companies don’t want to pay such employees more than 25 to 30 percent above market because they know they can find someone to perform the same function for less money.”

Allow me to break this scenario down with our two fictitious models: “Sally” and “Hailey.” Of course there are various factors that come into play when talking about salaries and raises, but for argument’s sake, I’ll keep the numbers at an average to make it general (plus, I’m a writer not an accountant.)

Scenario 1

Sally’s starting salary: $75,000

Has 10 years at the same job

Received 3 raises at 4% increases

Salary after raise 1: $78,000

Salary after raise 2: $81,120

Salary after raise 3: $84, 364


Scenario 2  

Hailey’s starting salary: $60,000

Changed jobs 3 times in 10 years 

Received 18% increases each job

New Salary 1: $70, 800

New Salary 2: $83, 544

New Salary 3: $98, 581


In the end, Hailey who started making $15,000 less than Sally is actually making almost $15,000 more.

So what can we learn from Sally and Hailey?

Sometimes the only way to make more money is to leave your job. Long gone are the days of being with a company for 25 years like our parents. Company cultures have changed. Both the perks and potential raises are getting smaller (or for some nonexistent.)

A new job offers the chance to broaden your experience, which adds more value to your resume and makes you more marketable. Unless your job is constantly evolving and introducing new technology and skills, you risk falling behind. This puts you at a disadvantage when you’re actually ready to start interviewing again and can also prevent you from getting top dollars.

Now no one is saying to jump ship tomorrow and give your current employer the deuces…yet. If you decide to leave your job, make sure it’s for an advancing opportunity and the salary is at least 18% more than your current salary. Unless the new company provides value in other ways such as benefits, growth opportunities, or name recognition, the goal should be to negotiate a competitive salary within your industry range, so that you keep up with the game. Resources like NACE, Payscale.com, and Salary.com can help you get your numbers in order.

If you’re not ready to leave your current company, still invest in yourself and think about how you can increase your earning potential. If your job doesn’t offer training, invest in taking courses and certifications with your own money. Another option is to move internally within your company to show growth.

If you’re lucky enough to work for a decent company, but are unhappy with your salary, work on negotiating a higher raise. Keep track of your work performance. Literally, create a tracker using a simple MS Word or Excel template and update it regularly. Use it to track accomplishments, positive feedback, and trainings. This will also be helpful when it’s time to do evaluations, since there’s nothing like scrambling trying to remember what the heck you did all year and making it sound raise-worthy.

Take control of your achievements. Don’t rely on your boss to do it for you (trust me, he or she has their own problems.)

Remember that timing is everything. Most companies don’t know their budget until the fall. If you have any trainings or target accomplishments that you will use for negotiations, plan to do it before then, so you can add it to your reasons why they should ante up. When it’s time to talk money with your manager, be strategic.

Whether you’re a “lifer” or prefer to “jump-around,” the choice is personal to your current situation. Your reasons to stay or leave may change depending on what stage of life you’re in. The most important thing to know is that you don’t have to settle for a salary that sucks.

Stop leaving money on the table. Challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone and know your worth.

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Marietta Gentles Crawford
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Marietta Gentles Crawford

Writer + Personal Brand Strategist, Founder at MGC Ink
Marietta Gentles Crawford is a writer, personal brand strategist, and author of "From Nine to Thrive: A Guide to Building Your Personal Brand and Elevating Your Career." With over ten years' experience climbing through top corporate and government brands as a writer and trainer, her passion is inspiring professionals to dare mediocrity.
Marietta Gentles Crawford
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