When “Connie,” 26, landed her first job out of college in 2020, she knew she wanted a raise. She was earning $60,000 in New York City as a consultant. Her first raise got her to $67,000, but she knew she’d have to switch jobs to get a substantial raise.
“Everyone tells you you have to switch jobs if you want more than $10,000. There’s no way around it,” she tells Fast Company, speaking on the condition of anonymity to talk openly about the sensitive topic. “A lot of my friends act like they are on a two-year timeline even if they aren’t, because no one is interested in giving you a significant raise if you stay.”
In 2022, Connie started searching for a job and got two offers: one for $85,000 and one for $90,000.
Connie’s story isn’t an anomaly. According to a new study of 1,000 Gen Zers and millennials from ResumeBuilder, job hopping is the way to high salary gains. Sixty-two percent of respondents said they left their jobs because they wanted a higher salary, and 80% of people who left said they got a salary increase. About a fifth of these job hoppers received an increase of $50,000 or more.
“Switching jobs every two to three years can yield large gains in your salary if you’re intentional with skill building, networking, and continuing the job search while you’re employed,” Julia Toothacre, a résumé and career strategist, stated in the study.
Knowing what to say and when to walk
Kayla LaNise, 24, nearly doubled her salary, from $103,000 to $196,000, when she moved from Washington, D.C., to New York. She was so happy to get her first job, in tech sales, that she didn’t negotiate, a move she now regrets.
“I was fresh out of college. I was in the parking lot, and I screamed when I got the call and said, ‘I’ll take it,’” she says.
Later, she went out to dinner with colleagues and learned that some of her coworkers had negotiated for higher base salaries. “I learned base is what really matters because that’s what commissions and performance reviews are based off of, and negotiating at your next job,” LaNise says.
That said, even though LaNise tried to negotiate for her second job, she wasn’t able to make much headway. “The recruiter pretty much told me there was no room for more,” she says.
Even if a recruiter isn’t willing to budge, 22-year-old Qetsiyah (last name withheld) believes it’s important to hold out for the job offer you deserve. Qetsiyah immigrated from Democratic Republic of Congo to Canada at 16. She wasn’t able to afford university, so she started off as a freelancer and worked her way into a job at a marketing agency. She focused heavily on developing her portfolio and building up her online certifications.
Last year, she got a new job offer and was able to go from $48,000 to $70,000. “Before I got that job, I had a job offer that lowballed me and kept explaining why I wasn’t qualified,” she says. “I walked.”
Connie is currently looking for a new job. She plans to negotiate as much as possible. “It’s a lot easier to ask for a raise when you don’t know someone and don’t have a relationship than when they are your manager and you have to please them,” she says. “I have a friend who is my age who is currently making $250,000. She does that by always staying on the market.”