Falling behind the age / salary curve?

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Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby guitarguy » Fri Jul 26, 2013 1:42 pm

Just curious what others think on this topic...younger professionals but also those of you that have been through it before would have valuable opinions.

I'm a 28 y/o engineer. I've been with the same company since Jan 2008 and for the most part I really enjoy my job...I like my hours, the people I work with, and the work I do. It's basically stress free. My company is paying 100% for my grad degree (in progress but still a while to go). Overall I'm in a good spot and am happy.

I don't want to come off like I'm overly concerned about what everyone else is doing, because I'm not. But that said, I have a couple of close friends that have jumped ship 2-3 times already in these 5 years and have increased their salaries quite a bit in the process while I've been stuck getting only 2-3% annual raises which is something, but not nearly what I could get if I swapped companies 2-3 times. I should note that I did already get one promotion, and am in line for another promotion and switch to another position (totally new job) early in 2014...according to our director I'm a "shoe in" so I'm hoping everything works out there. So there definitely is room for advancement in my current company.

Number wise I feel like I'm doing OK at around $67k gross at 28 years old (EDIT: closer to $80k gross if I include what I make on the side as a musician). But I know a couple of friends that have worked their way up to the $80-90k range by swapping companies a couple times. Although I know it came with a cost...I would hear all the time about how late they worked this week for meetings or whatever...and believe me I have no interest in that whatsoever. Money hasn't been my number one concern.

I know the bottom line is that I'm happy and that's what matters most. But am I "missing the boat" by not jumping ship a few times early on in my career to really boost my salary? I've always told myself that money isn't the most important thing and I still stand by that...so maybe I'm answering my own question a bit. But even still, I'm curious what others philosophies are on this subject.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby bengal22 » Fri Jul 26, 2013 1:47 pm

I always cautioned people about worrying about what the other guy is making. There are several things that people lie about - and that includes salary, sex, and gas mileage. I would be more introspective about your progress in work - are you getting more opportunities, are you getting promotions, are you being challenged, do you fit in with the company culture and worry less about what the ones that jump around are getting. While it is important to network and know what you are worth in the open market I would not obsess over it. Sounds like at 28 you are appreciated, like the job, and have a career path.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby playtothebeat » Fri Jul 26, 2013 1:48 pm

Here's how I would look at it.
What do you want to do for a living? Does your current job get you closer to that ultimate goal? Or would you advance your career by switching to another company?

Perhaps your friends are making more money than you, but are they advancing their careers at the same time? I know plenty of people who go from job to job just to get a slightly bigger paycheck, but it doesn't actually advance their career goals.

You mentioned you have good hours and good people to work with - that is extremely important. I have a lot of friends who worked in investment banking, making over $100k straight out of college. However, they were routinely working 80+ hour weeks. My first job out of college was $60k, but I rarely worked more than about 45 hours/week. The lower pay was well worth it to me.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby Default User BR » Fri Jul 26, 2013 1:53 pm

That's the same as it's always been. Your salary won't keep up with jumpers. If you want the money, you have to play that game. I elected not to. I just stayed at MyMegaCorp (32 years now) took the moderate raises, etc.


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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby TheOscarGuy » Fri Jul 26, 2013 1:54 pm

guitarguy wrote:I know the bottom line is that I'm happy and that's what matters most. But am I "missing the boat" by not jumping ship a few times early on in my career to really boost my salary? I've always told myself that money isn't the most important thing and I still stand by that...so maybe I'm answering my own question a bit. But even still, I'm curious what others philosophies are on this subject.


Yes you are missing the boat, if you think you are missing the boat :happy

HR professionals are meant to strike deals with potential employees that interview with them, and the ones they like. One component is ofcourse salary. So you will invariably make more money (or something equivalent of that, like more vacation money, lesser bonus component which can be variable per year, and more in hand salary etc.), because they will increase your current pay to "sweeten" the deal.

However, there is almost always a "lost knowledge" component, I feel to jumping companies. Sure you will get the additional money up front, but they will expect you to get trained, understand the new job, learn the ropes per say. This involves time, and you won't be up to your full potential straightaway. You will in essence "lose" few months, sometimes a year, learning new job. Obviously while you are learning new stuff, you can't expect to make a huge jump in salary, after your first (or second) annual review.

So more money up front, but consider/compare two companies in next 2-3 years.

Scenario A: stay put, find out how much you will be making in 2-3 years. You already know work, and know where Managers stand w.r.t. your "value" to the company. So its relatively easy to project that.
Scenario B: jump the ship, get money up front, but invariably there is a period of learning involved.

All (several other, important) things equal will you come out on top/under if you jumped?
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby simplesimon » Fri Jul 26, 2013 2:01 pm

You will have to decide what's worth it to you. Certainly the best way to get max pay is to hop around companies, but there was a similar thread that talked about how you lose out on relationships and having the "go to" guy reputation that you might otherwise have established if you stayed at one company for 5+ years.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby RadAudit » Fri Jul 26, 2013 2:10 pm

If you are going to jump ship, jump up to a promotion and / or a spot along your career path that's closer to where you want to be. Something it sounds like you can achieve right where you are.

But remember the only one responsible for your career advancement / happiness is you.
"Everything will be all right in the end. If everything is not all right, then it is not the end." - The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby ipod_keith » Fri Jul 26, 2013 2:11 pm

It sounds like you are relatively happy with your employer - that's important. It also sounds like there's room for you to grow.

I've been with my original post-college employer for about ten years - which doesn't seem to be all that common these days. Like some of my colleagues, I could have jumped ship to make more money quickly. But I hung in there because I did start to get good promotions and bonuses. Most importantly, I feel appreciated and also feel that I am contributing.

If the work you are doing isn't interesting/challenging/giving you experience, then I'd have some concern. The finance aspect is important, but as long as you aren't significantly underpaid then I consider it less of an issue. Do you happen to know what your market ratio is?

Maybe get associated with some key projects to get your name/face around, too.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby JasonMc » Fri Jul 26, 2013 2:18 pm

You like the job and say it's stress free. They're paying for your grad school, and you say you're in line for a promotion and switch to a new position.

If you like the direction your career is going and the new position you would get after promotion, then I don't know why you would want to hop to another job. Sure, it's possible you get a job making 80-90k that you like, is stress-free, and pays for your grad school. But it's also possible that new job would have long hours and be stressful, and you don't have time for grad school.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby Ted Valentine » Fri Jul 26, 2013 2:23 pm

You sound like me but a few years down the road. I am in engineering and have a relatively stress free job. I have changed employers twice and those are the only times I ever got anything more than a 3% base increase. Nobody pays for loyalty.

I have a family and small children. I value fewer work hours, flexibility, and location stability more than cold cash. I'd love to have more money (who wouldn't), and I could make it. I'm just not willing to pay the price and sacrifice my personal life to make it.
Although our intellect always longs for clarity and certainty, our nature often finds uncertainty fascinating.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby rrppve » Fri Jul 26, 2013 2:36 pm

Money is rarely the most important component of job satisfaction. Whether or not you get along with your boss is usually the biggest determinant. For an engineer the challenge of the work is also pretty important.
Now that I'm on the hiring side, one of the items I always look at is job tenure and job hopping. I've got little interest in hiring someone who will only stick around 1-2 years and then leave for $5-10k more. Thus, the job hopping strategy only works for the short term, a maximum of 3 employers IMHO. I look for people that have stayed in a job for at least 5 years. My counterparts in Silicon Valley feel different about this. They seem undeterred by the constant shifts in employers, as it seems to be part of the Valley's ecosystem.
One thing you might consider is finishing your employer supported graduate degree and then looking at your options. If you add the tax free benefit of tuition reimbursement to your comp, the gap between your comp and outside peers will certainly decrease. Upon completion of your degree it is also a natural point to ask your employer for a raise and use the other offers you get as a part of your negotiating leverage.
I used my graduate degree to change careers and employers.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby Jeff7 » Fri Jul 26, 2013 2:46 pm

I'll say right now that I'm not near the top of the pay grade for my line of work.

However, it's a small company, which has its benefits; they like to let us out early on random Fridays (with the unworked time still paid, so basically an hour or two of paid vacation here and there); medical insurance paycheck deduction is only about $3/week (and it was $0 deduction and either $0 or $500 deductible up until about 3 years ago); and I work with competent people in my department, who also have a good work ethic.

I'm wary of switching companies to pursue better pay because I don't want to end up in a lousy work environment where I dread waking up in the morning because it's just going to mean another day of torment, whether it be due to archaic workplace policies, an exceedingly unpleasant manager with a personality disorder, or utterly incompetent or apathetic coworkers.

I've been in that kind of situation before, and have absolutely no desire to go back.


Is there a better job for me out there? Quite probably, yes.
Where is it? Not a clue.



The problem with the intangibles is of course that it's hard to assign them a proper dollar value.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby HomerJ » Fri Jul 26, 2013 2:58 pm

JasonMc wrote:You like the job and say it's stress free. They're paying for your grad school, and you say you're in line for a promotion and switch to a new position.


Normally, I tell people to leave their first job (and probably their second and third job) after 3-4 years since that's usually the only way to get fairly paid in corporate America. Stupid, but true.

But in your case, I say stay where you are, and see how things pan out.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Fri Jul 26, 2013 3:07 pm

Given that they're paying for grad school and you're expecting a promotion I'd stay put until those two things are complete then re-assess. Unless they give you a fair pay bump after getting your degree it'll probably be in your interest to move along at that time.

For me, I prefer to stay where I'm at as long as possible, however as soon as I feel there is no further way for me to progress (salary, promotion or knowledge) then it's time to move on before I start degrading in place.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby soaring » Fri Jul 26, 2013 3:11 pm

This seems like a similar situation. Maybe something there will help you.

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=120432
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby guitarguy » Fri Jul 26, 2013 3:19 pm

Thanks for all the replies.

To answer some of the questions asked, yes I do see myself getting closer to my desired career path while staying with this company...but that is fairly contingent on getting my next promotion and moving on to this different position early next year. While I truly do still like my current position and I'm not bored with it per-say, the learning curve is starting to taper off a bit. I am a test engineer and I can't say I've seen all there is to see in my job, but I've seen quite a bit. I definitely am a "go-to guy" for things, even for those that have been here significantly longer than me, so that is nice. I have consistently high marks on my annual reviews, and am a high-level contributor to my department without question. But all that said, the learning curve is starting to taper off.

Ideally, I will get this next promotion and move into a product development position that I believe I will be good at. I'll get a bump in salary which will be nice, but more importantly I'll have a whole new side of the company to learn and I will grow a lot. Experience in that job will also open lots of other doors for me should I decide to leave my company down the road. Meanwhile I'm pretty darn confident (from the company culture and talking to others in that department) that I won't have any significant change in hours or work load and finishing my M.S. while in that job shouldn't be a problem.

My plan was actually never to go out looking right now. I think, even if unfortunate circumstances arise and I don't get this next promotion, I will probably stick it out until I finish my M.S. here. I know my work load will allow me to complete it without stressing myself out or overworking myself. But at that point (about 2.5 years from now I'll be finished) I will probably be wanting to head out the door and learn something new. If I do get this promotion however, I'll likely stick around a little longer.

One other thing I forgot to mention is that my company requires you to stick around after they pay for your schooling or you have to return some or all of the tuition they paid for. I think it's prorated out to 48 months from completion of the given course. It would suck to have to pay any of that back...so I'm hoping that this promotion sticks and I can gain the experience I want without having to switch companies. Then down the line after that prorated time runs out, I'll have 10+ years experience in 2 different positions, plus my M.S. At that point, I think I'd be a great candidate if I wanted to change companies.

EDIT: One other thing that may be worth noting is that my company has a very strong track record for retaining employees for a long time. I have lots of colleagues that have been here 15+ years. Overall I'd say it's a good company to work for.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby JupiterJones » Fri Jul 26, 2013 3:43 pm

guitarguy wrote:if I include what I make on the side as a musician


Sounds like your current job allows you the flexibility to play gigs on the side. That's worth a lot right there--not all jobs do. Something to keep in mind!
Stay on target...
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby Easy Rhino » Fri Jul 26, 2013 4:13 pm

promotions count as pay raises too (well, as long as they pay you more, of course).
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby j70 » Fri Jul 26, 2013 5:04 pm

Easy Rhino wrote:promotions count as pay raises too (well, as long as they pay you more, of course).


How about promotions without raises? What do we call those? Getting the shaft?

OP, I was a 28 yr-old engineer not too long ago (1-2 years?) when I was faced with a somewhat similar decision. From what you've written it sounds like you will stick it out but I can share my thought process and experience. Make use of it how you will.

Not too long ago I had to decide between taking a job offer that increased my total compensation by about 20k (going from 90 to 110 roughly). Like your current situation, I was at the first company for 5 years and only achieved middling raises while noticing others who moved (and some who returned - the nerve of the company) get rewarded in pay for doing so. I always told myself it wasn't worth the hassle to jump ship, absorb the 'moving' cost (what someone wrote earlier about taking 1-2 years to catch up at a new job), and risk leaving the stress-free convenient hours I already have. On top of this, my direct manager/supervisor and a VP of our engineering division mention in passing twice within a year that I was a select few who needed a salary "correction" (read as increase to meet others on the team).

Anyway, I applied for that 110k job thinking, let's see what's really out there and what do you know, I actually got an offer. During the interview process and the subsequent decision making process, I was sure to investigate the hell out of the new place, job hours, what older employees look like, and other things that mattered to me. Long story short and despite warnings from former "senior" colleagues that I would get dumb at the new job, I took it and am happy with it to this day.

At the new job, I discovered that it too had great people and different types of perks. As for continue learning or development, I always say you reap what you sow so that was never a concerned and it still isn't.

Ultimately, it will come down to what you're trying to achieve. For me the main reason why I read bogleheads is so that I won't give two craps about my 'career'. If I truly want to further my engineering career, I would probably hit up a 'motorheads' board or a 'rubyheads' board instead, but alas, bogleheads is my friend.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby j70 » Fri Jul 26, 2013 5:15 pm

I also wanted to touch on a point mentioned upthread where its suggested a higher paying job means long hours and horrible colleagues. This is similiar to a recent bogleheads thread where the general perception was the BMW/swimming pool driving neighbors are typically eye-balls deep in debt. While it is true there are many people are financing a lifestyle, it is also true that there many of those BMW drivers who save a boatload and have a boat too.

My point here is that yes most higher paying jobs require some sort of sacrifice. However, given the profession and locale you may be in, the perception is not always the reality. There may be similar work-level jobs with better pay. Just ask around your office and you will be surprised.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby Meg77 » Fri Jul 26, 2013 5:16 pm

It sounds like they really value you, which may mean you can justify asking for a raise that is higher than the annual 2-3% inflationatory increase. When they are setting the budget (which is usually in the fall each year if your company is on a calendar fiscal year), mention to your boss that you'd really like to be considered for a 10% raise at your next review (or 15% or even more with the promotion you're up for). State that you are really happy where you are but that you have been getting calls from recruiters promising $10-$20K more at other companies even at the level you are currently at. You don't have to outright threaten to leave or anything, but if they get wind that you know you are worth more than you're getting paid it might be worth a bigger bump. I hear engineers are hard to come by which is why companies pay up to "steal" them from other companies.

Getting an extra 5-10% raise in your 20s can make a HUGE difference in lifetime earnings. It's great to be happy where you are, but it's also great to get paid. I never would have left my old company (bank) and thought I was paid appropriately. I got 5-10% raises from 22-28 on average, including a few promotions. But then I found out I was getting laid off and jumped at the chance to talk to a recruiter who happened to call me that week. I got a new job with less stress and a 30% raise. I never would have looked for it on my own but am so glad now I was forced to. Now I know why banker turnover is so high - banks would rather pay up to poach mid level employees from competitors than put in the years of training a junior employee who won't do much business for the bank in the few years right out of school.
"An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." - Benjamin Franklin
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby rrppve » Fri Jul 26, 2013 6:42 pm

One other thing I forgot to mention is that my company requires you to stick around after they pay for your schooling or you have to return some or all of the tuition they paid for. I think it's prorated out to 48 months from completion of the given course. It would suck to have to pay any of that back...

If you decide to switch after getting your degree, this should not be an impediment. Just tell the new employer that this is a requirement of your current employer and to recruit you they will have to increase your signing bonus by the amount of the payback. To avoid any income tax consequences, have the new employer pay the former employer directly. Also, former employers don't want to chase their ex-employees for money. It is a moral commitment that they rely on.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby Atilla » Fri Jul 26, 2013 8:01 pm

It's standard practice that newly hired professionals make way more than the long time schmucks already there doing the same thing. Pick your poison...comfort and complacency where you are or make the effort to jump around and climb up the salary ladder. Either is fine depending on what you're looking for.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby steadyeddy » Fri Jul 26, 2013 8:17 pm

If the general choice is to suffer the aggravation of job change for higher pay or enjoy comfort and stability for less pay, then it make more sense to switch early in your career to increase the long-term ROI of any discomfort. Personally I think there's something to be said for leaving your comfort zone and accelerating learning by changing jobs and/or companies. It sounds like you will probably be changing jobs soon even if you stay so kudos to you.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby stevep001 » Fri Jul 26, 2013 8:24 pm

If you're thinking about dipping your toe in the water, a couple notes:

1. First go ask for the raise at your current employer. Bringing facts to the table here are useful
2. Go interview, evaluate offers, and make a decision.
3. Do not use an offer to negotiate with your current employer -- doing so poisons the relationship.
4. Having done #1 makes it easy to answer the "why are you leaving" question -- more money.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby wilked » Fri Jul 26, 2013 8:26 pm

What type of engineer / work? What part of the country?
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby IlliniDave » Fri Jul 26, 2013 9:40 pm

Don't leave because you think maybe you "should". Only leave if you really want to.
Don't do something. Just stand there!
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby lightheir » Fri Jul 26, 2013 10:29 pm

I will add - do NOT underestimate the value of a stress-free job.

I'm a doctor, and with all the stress on the job, I definitely feel like I earn every bit of my income and then some. Despite it overall being every bit the profession I wanted it to be, there's no question on the bad days where some patients have bad outcomes, and you know you contributed to it, I wish that I had a stress free job even with a big pay cut.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby thebogledude » Fri Jul 26, 2013 11:39 pm

I think George Carlin said it best, "Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit. "
OP, I don't think you are willing to jump ship 2-3 times just to get into the same league as your friends? I would finish out your master's and
then test the job market with your new graduate degree. Even though you are required to reimburse your employer, most companies will
reimburse you for it as an extension of your offer.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby guitarguy » Sat Jul 27, 2013 9:06 am

rrppve wrote:If you decide to switch after getting your degree, this should not be an impediment. Just tell the new employer that this is a requirement of your current employer and to recruit you they will have to increase your signing bonus by the amount of the payback. To avoid any income tax consequences, have the new employer pay the former employer directly. Also, former employers don't want to chase their ex-employees for money. It is a moral commitment that they rely on.


Thanks to those of you that brought this to my attention. It was something I was kind of worried about because I didn't like the idea of the company having me tied down because of this whole reimbursement thing. I hadn't really thought of the new company helping reimburse for this. That actually gives me some pretty good comfort! :happy

In regards to asking for a raise at my current company, I did so at my annual review in April. I mentioned it to my direct boss and he agreed it was well deserved. Long story short, a couple weeks after my annual review I sat down directly with the director at our office (per his request) to discuss moving into this other position come next fiscal year. What they seem to want to do is hire another person in my current department and have me train them for a few months before moving over because if I left my current job now my department would pretty much be screwed (and not trying to toot my own horn here...but it's true to a certain extent). At this time I also mentioned to him that because of the uncertainty of the looming promotion, I talked to my current boss about getting some kind of pay bump in the meantime. Our director agreed that it probably was the right thing to do and this year they gave me 5% as opposed to the usual 2-3% increase. Not life-changing but it was a nice gesture so I'm thankful. I understand them not agreeing to give me 10% or something and then another 10-15% next April along with the job change and promotion.

Yesterday I actually sat down with my current boss and we talked a bit casually. He said he'd hate to lose me but he gave me his full support to move into this other new job come next year. I kind of hinted at the fact that "who knows what will happen anyhow..." kind of thing. After all nothing is certain and who knows. Although it looks good for me to be offered this new job, nothing is guaranteed. He told me straight up that if the other offer falls through he will immediately put in for me for a promotion to a Sr. Engineer in my current department which will come with a nice pay raise and also likely a bit of an increase in responsibility. If the other offer falls though, I'm almost certain this fallback one will stick.

Either way it looks like I'll be rather happy sticking around at least until I finish grad school. I'm still hoping to switch jobs because of the whole learning curve thing, but even if that falls through I'd be happy to take the Sr. position and stick that out at least until I finish out school.

Thanks everyone for the advice/thoughts. I feel pretty darn comfortable with my decision and situation at this point. I only stopped for a second to think about it...but I'm still in the "money isn't the be-all-end-all most important thing" camp. I'm pretty happy where I'm at and I don't feel like I'm on a dead end track at all.
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby Nathan Drake » Sat Jul 27, 2013 2:25 pm

I'm in a similar boat.... engineer (now lead engineer) with nearly 5 years at the same company and multiple annual raises later and I'm only making 1.2X as much as I was when I first started. Barely keeping above inflation, despite much more responsibility.

Only difference is that while the job environment isn't horrible (sometimes work long hours, but generally stress isn't terrible, and coworkers/manager get along just fine), I'm also not in love with the position. I haven't felt challenged in years, I feel like if I stay in my current group my career will go nowhere like some higher level engineers with more seniority, and there's not much room for advancement into management from my group.

I'm at a point where I need to look elsewhere to get a big increase in salary and career opportunities, but since this was my first job out of college, I'm sort of at a loss as to how I approach the job search and what my expectations should be. I feel like I've been with my current company long enough to contribute without being seen as a job hopper, but in order to not get taken advantage of I really need to start looking at other companies.

Does anyone have any advice? For what it's worth, I'm an electrical engineer, work in defense, and would like to relocate to the Houston area. I'm not against the idea of switching industries (perhaps to Oil&Gas), as I'm not really passionate about the industry I'm currently in or its future (government sequestering and all).
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Re: Falling behind the age / salary curve?

Postby Kulak » Wed Jul 31, 2013 1:19 pm

What would you do with the extra money?
Depriving ourselves to boost our 40-year success probability much beyond 80% is a fool’s errand, since all you are doing is increasing the probability of failure for [non-financial] reasons. --wbern
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