Much has been written about millennials’ propensity to switch jobs. Critics of the career move say job hopping is a sign of flightiness and lack of commitment — stereotypes associated with the millennial generation that are repeated ad nauseum in the media. In actuality, switching jobs isn’t a bad thing and can be beneficial early in your career. You might not find the right place for your skills or be happy with our work environment early in your career, so you look for other jobs that pay or fit better. It’s the same reason you date lots of people in hopes of finding “The One.” Where millennials might falter, though, is not considering the financial factors before making a switch.
According to the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker stays at his or her job for 4.6 years. For workers between 25-34, the average is 3.2 years. Millennials hopping jobs is perfectly reasonable, but young adults must have their financial house in order before making the switch. And more importantly, you need to ask yourself some serious financial questions. Before leaving your job, follow these financially focused career tips for millennials:
1. How is the pay?
Though your salary shouldn’t be the only thing that matters when you switch jobs, it’s definitely an important factor. Since you’re just starting out, you’ll probably be earning an entry-level salary. Ideally, you’ll see your pay increase with each job you take. But in a tough economy, that’s not always going to happen.
We’ll talk about salary negotiation later, but if you’re going to leave a higher-paying job for a lower-paying one, make sure it’s for the right reasons. For example, if you’re changing careers you might need to take a lower-paying job to get your foot in the door. If you’re moving states, you might be dismayed because your salary is lower than your current job. But the cost of living in your new location might go further than it does where you are currently located.
If you need a job at all because you were laid off or are out of work, you might consider taking a lower-paying job. If the benefits outweigh any cuts you’ll experience to your paycheck, it’s OK. Finally, don’t underestimate your personal happiness. Even if you’re just starting out and have your entire working life ahead of you as a millennial, you still deserve to be happy. A well-paying job is not worth it if you’re unhappy or stressed out all the time.
2. How are the benefits?
When you’re young, you might just look at the salary you’re being offered and forget about other things that matter, like benefits. Is your new job offering a retirement plan? When you’re young, a 401(k) might not matter much to you, but if you can start saving for retirement at a young age you absolutely should. The earlier you can start saving, the better off you will be. Another benefit you should consider is the insurance offered. As a millennial, you might not have to worry about health insurance during the first half of your 20s because of the Affordable Care Act, but as you get older it’s something that you will want to consider. A good health plan can go a long way.
Finally, consider other benefits like stock options and vacation time. These benefits alone shouldn’t be enough to sway your decision, but a generous benefits package might soften the blow if your salary isn’t as high as anticipated. Note: benefits don’t always start on your first day. Keep that in mind when you plan your transition.
3. Can you survive if you’re laid off?
You might feel excitement about the possibility of starting a new job, but oftentimes you might be under a probationary period. What if you’re let go once that time is up? Can you handle it financially? Everyone says you should have an emergency savings fund, but when you’re not making a lot of money at the beginning of your career it might be difficult to save. There are a lot of small ways to save money when you don’t earn a lot, though.
The amount you should have saved in your emergency fund is something that’s up for debate. Some experts say three months, others say six. Some say since you’re first starting out you should aim to save $1,000. There’s no magical number that you should have socked away in case things don’t go as planned, but be prepared with at least a few months’ worth of savings.
4. Are there hidden costs?
Getting a new job is exciting, but don’t just think about your paycheck and benefits. Sometimes getting a new job can cost you money. For instance, is your commute longer? That will cost you more money in gas or public transportation costs. Are you going to be paying more for health insurance because your new job doesn’t cover as much of your monthly premium costs? Do you need to buy a new wardrobe because you can’t wear jeans and a t-shirt to work anymore? What about buying lunch or other benefits you might be losing? Spending $10 on lunch each day will cost you more than $2,500 a year.
These are costs that you will have to consider before you move onto another job. While a healthier paycheck may render some of these costs obsolete, keep these costs in mind before signing an acceptance letter and adjust your budget as necessary.
5. Are you prepared to negotiate salary?
Negotiating your starting salary is perhaps one of the most awkward conversations you can ever have. It’s uncomfortable to talk about money, especially because you’re unaccustomed to having those conversations as a young adult. Millennials might wrongly assume that they are in no position to negotiate a salary in a tough job market. A survey by Business Insider of 548 millennials found that 82 percent did not negotiate their first salaries because they didn’t feel comfortable or didn’t know they were allowed to do so. Not negotiating your starting salary is tantamount to leaving free money on the table.
Even if you are able to squeeze out a few thousand dollars more than you were offered, that’s money you wouldn’t have otherwise. If you invest that money properly, it will be worth way more over time. Moreover, each raise that you might receive from the company will be based on the initial amount you’re offered.
Listen, negotiating a salary will be uncomfortable. There’s no way to get around that. But if you’ve received an offer, understand that the company already wants you and values the skills you bring to the table. You have impressed your future bosses enough that they want to hire you — and it’s perfectly acceptable to find a salary that works for both you. If the company won’t budge on salary, you might be able to get additional benefits like more vacation days or a flexible schedule.