Top career and financial tips as you navigate your way through your job-hopping adventures!
Are you tired of waiting for a raise at your current company? Maybe you are itching for a career switch or perhaps you don’t feel like you are making an impact any longer and it’s time to move on.
My dad used to be mortified when I would tell him I was thinking of switching jobs. After all, 2 years with a company sounds like 2 days to someone who has worked for the same company for over 30 years.
Listen up people, I know that what I am about to share with you will seem “counter culture” or “irresponsible” if you are my parents age. However, as a millennial Certified Financial Planner who did my fair share of job-hopping, I want to help guide you through this “responsibly”!
According to a Forbes article, people that stay with the same employer for longer than 2 years get paid 50% less. I think this is a good article but I want you to make sure that you go through this list before making a decision.
Here are my top career and financial tips as you navigate your way through your job-hopping adventures!
Always have a clear end game and make sure that any potential new job aligns with your financial needs
This is cliche but it’s true. You need to get very clear on what you want out of your career and out of your life in general. Do you want to be a CEO or do you want to have a flexible stay at home job? Do you want to work for a non profit and don’t mind being paid less or do you want to buy a home in 3 years and need a huge pay increase to save every bit of that increase over the next 3 years? What is it that you are looking for? I highly discourage you from looking for a job that pays more if you don’t have your WHY figured out. I know it’s easy to want to jump ship as soon as you feel just a tad bit “uninspired” but being successful in life requires a bit more soul searching than that. It also requires you to be financially savvy!! Create a vision board if you don’t know where to start. Include everything that you love and is important to you. You might find that you would be happier in a creative type of job verses analytical. You can then take the job search from there. Remember that if you are going to make less money, you will absolutely need to be ready to reduce your expenses. If you are not in a position to do that, you might not be able make that change.
Update your resume and stay ready
If you have decided to move forward and look for a new job, you must update your resume and keep it handy at all times. Keep the resume as an attachment on your phone and on your laptop. You might decide to apply to a job while you are sitting around somewhere browsing through the job sites. Most companies now accept mobile applications and you don’t even need to be at your computer! Realize that your resume should be no more than 1 page in length and you should highlight your transferrable skills more than anything else. No need to talk about the day to day activities that you conducted in any specific job. Stick with the tangible results that you achieved in every job and what you are extremely good at. An example of a transferrable skill would be: excellent interpersonal skills, or team building abilities, etc.
Network within your company as well as outside of your company! (including LinkedIn and social media)
Of course this is going to be a lot easier for people who work in a large company versus a small business. However, even if you work for a small employer, share your desire with your boss so they know that you are ready and willing to take on a new role. Large companies usually have an internal job posting board with the name of the hiring managers. Email them directly and ask them if you can “pick their brains” on what thy are looking for in a successful candidate. You would be surprised to find out how helpful this is and how much this will make you look like a valuable asset. Attend any internal events where you know other higher up will be in attendance and just have conversations with them about their experiences. Not yours. This is not the time for you to brag. Just listen to them and they will remember you. I promise.
LinkedIn is a wonderful place. I have had many Skype meetings with CEO’s and hiring managers of other companies by literally messaging them on LinkedIn. Again, make it all about the value that you can bring to them vs. what they can do for you. Let them know that you are a fan of what they are doing! Show them you have done your research. I know a lot of people use social media the same way through Direct Messaging the people they want to work for.
Keep your search “private” on job sites
Now a days, everything is public. Everything you like or comment on is open for the world to see. Linkedin is the same way. It tells recruiters that you are “open to new opportunities.” It also sends a notification to your friends list when you make changes to your profile. Make sure to disable those notifications so you can make changes to your resume on LinkedIn freely without worrying about others seeing. You don’t want to have your boss ask you if you are looking for a job because they found out through social media or a job site. Also update your resume on other sites you might use such as indeed.com, glassdoor.com, or monster.com.
Carve specific times for your search but not during work!
Make it a point to only apply to jobs while you are at home and not while you are at work. Carve out 30 minutes a day or whatever works for you. The last thing you want to do is waste time just doing endless scrolling through job search sites. Hopefully step one helped you get clear on what you are and are not looking for. Whatever you do, don’t spend your working hours on your phone or laptop looking for another job. You would be so embarrassed if anyone sees you and it’s simply not the right thing to do.
Remember to consider benefits
Oh the good ol’ benefits!!! Understand that healthcare is probably your priority unless you are married or on your parents health insurance. When you are looking at a potential new job, always be sure to ask about the benefits. Make an all inclusive comparison chart between your current job and the potential new job. A 401(k) match and employee stock are crucial. If you get a $5,000 raise in your new job but only $1,000 in matching contributions. That wouldn’t be worth it compared to your current company where you are being offered $12,000 in matching 401(k) contributions throughout the year. However, if you are able to receive a $20,000 raise, of course that would make sense!
Don’t forget about things like a funded HSA, student loan repayment of forgiveness. These are benefits that might come by only far and few between but they are out there.
Give your current company an opportunity to match an offer or give you a raise
Once you have a serious offer, have a conversation with your boss and share what you have been up to. If you are unhappy at your current job but love the company your work for, I recommend always having a conversation with your boss about growth. Get your achievements (company wise) together on a piece of paper. Try not to complain. You want to express your desire to be more helpful if that’s the case. Be very honest with what you want and ask if they are able and willing to match your offer. If they can’t match the full difference but they can give you a small raise and your current benefits are better than the potential new gig then it might be best to stay put and take the smaller raise.
Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate
If you get to the point where you get an offer, please make sure to ask for more money up front. Period. Why? Because the worst thing they can do is say “We can’t- sorry.” Other than that, you might not get a lot more than you are being offered but you might be able to negotiate a higher pay and commuter benefits, or a sign on bonus. I like to say that you don’t get because you don’t ask. Ask for more and you will be pleasantly surprised by how easy it was.
Pay yourself first by contributing to your retirement plan if eligible and be aware of vesting schedules!
Ok here is where we talk about saving!! If you are planning to change jobs around, you always need to know what the vesting schedule is for your current job. A vesting schedule is a timeframe that your employer puts in place tied to their matching contributions to make sure that you stay with them at least for a certain period of time if they are offering you a 401(k). The most common vesting schedule is 6 years. You become 20% “vested” after year 2, 40% after year 3, 60% after year 4, 80% after year 5, and 100% after year 6. This is only in place in case you leave the employer and only on the matching contributions. If you are not sure of how much you have “vested” simply go into your account online and there should be a “contribution by source” section that tell you.
Whenever you become eligible for a new 401(k), make sure you are taking full advantage of it. If you plan on “job-hopping” you will want to make sure that you save more than you would otherwise because if you are not fully vesting in the plans that you are in, you want to make up for that. Any time you have a pay increase, PAY YOURSELF FIRST. Increase your contribution by 5% if you get a 15% raise. You want to make sure that you avoid “lifestyle creep” which is what happens when your cost of living goes up every time you get a raise because you spend all your raises instead of saving some of the difference.
10. Know the rules of “cashing out” your 401(k)’s
One thing I will add here is that if your current balance is less than $1,000 you will be sent a check for that amount when you terminate employment. Here is the caveat. If you get that check and you are like 90% of America, you will probably cash that check because it is made out to you. DON’T do this! This is not tax free money. You will not only pay a 10% penalty if you are not 59 1/2 years old, but you will also pay taxes. Now yes, you might be thinking that this is such a small amount that it doesn’t matter but why throw money away just because you didn’t know the rules? Now you know!
If you have a balance between $1,000 and $5,000 you will be sent an email or mailed a letter to tell you that you can roll the funds into an IRA (Individual Retirement Account) of your choice. If you don’t respond they will be rolling it over into an IRA that they have selected for the plan automatically. Be sure to look for that letter and make the decision that is best for you! If you have more than $5,000 you can also leave the money at your old employers but that might not be your best option.
11. Always keep track of your 401(k) when you change jobs
You would be surprised how many times people switch jobs and completely forget that they had a 401(k). There has been engineers, doctors, admin every type of professional that has asked me to help them “find” their old 401(k)’s. There are even people that think there is a tool that will find your 401(k)’s based on your social security number. There is no such tool. No one can keep track of your accounts but you.
If you have a tendency to not even check your statements as often people do, consider rolling your funds over into your new 401(k) once you are eligible or opening up an IRA in which you can roll all of your old 401(k)’s as you go from one job to the next. Most employer 401(k) plans allow you to rollover a previous employer account before becoming eligible to contribute to the plan. All you have to do is call your new employer’s retirement plan provider and ask them to help you do this. If they have very inexpensive funds available (like Vanguard) and your new employer only offers really expensive funds then maybe it is worth it to keep it in the old one.
12. Avoid taking loans out against your 401(k)’s
I understand that it’s tempting and I understand that “you pay the interest to yourself,” but due to the 10% early penalty rule, I highly advice against this. If you take a loan out and you quit your job, you will have to pay back within 60 days. That means that you have to come up with whatever outstanding amount you might have. If you can’t do that you will default on your loan and then you will have a big tax bill come tax season of the following year. It is not worth it!
13. Save for the short and invest for the long term
Having an emergency fund is a must. If you don't yet have an emergency fund be sure to get an automated system in place to set aside at least 3 months worth of monthly expenses in your account.
Once you have that set, move on to save for your mid term goals like buying a home. Automate that savings and don’t compromise on your retirement savings. Try to save for both at the same time. Put away some money in savings while you at least put 6% into your retirement account. Might sound a bit hard but you totally got this! This is why you want a pay increase right? So you can achieve your goals! Never stop saving while job-hopping and if you have a period of time that you have no income coming in, make sure you plan for that ahead of time.
When you are investing you want to keep in mind that you are in this for the long haul! Take an investor stye quiz and understand what kind of an investor you are. You will want to invest according to your risk tolerance and your time horizon. How long do you have until you need the money? Invest accordingly and whatever you do, keep a good healthy diversified portfolio. Especially if you are planning on making multiple job changes through out your career. Ideally you will have all of your accounts growing together in one account as you roll them over because the compounding effect will help the balance grow faster.
There is a new trend that shows that traditional retirement is no longer the most popular type of retirement. People are opting for semi-retirement and mini-retirements. Semi-retirement means you will be working at least part time during retirement and mini retirements mean you have a few gaps in employment throughout your career. If you plan on doing this, you have to make sure that you are saving as much as you can but most importantly, you have to learn to live on a budget and below your means. Your spending rate is more impactful during retirement than your savings rate.
I hope this helps you achieve financial “wholeness”- a life that supports your desires and your dreams while being responsible with your finances and never living above your means. This will provide you with peace of mind and that my friends, is priceless!
Happy responsible job searching!
You got this!