Low Earner in a Small-ish Town


Long story short: My small-ish town with low cost-of-living basically has two large employers. We are not currently willing to move. I just left the former employer for a job at the second employer, which is also where my husband works. Former employer is a university, and wage increases are done by union-negotiated increases. Promotions are difficult to come by, as people need to vacate above you. New employer has very awesome career ladders and obvious career paths, and a boss already looking to promote me.

I could potentially get a job that pays me when more right now at former employer, but my fear is the wages would stagnate. On the other hand, I feel confident I could make more eventually at current company, but don’t know exactly how long it would take to get up to the potential pay at former employer–perhaps 2-3 years? Currently paid 35k plus benefits, new job would probably be low 40s.

The crux of the issue: Do you maximize the cash you can make right this instant, without thinking of future earning potential, or do you stick with the place you think will help you maximize earnings over a longer period? Any and all thoughts/advice welcome.


I think it depends on your long term goals. If you are looking at a 5 or 10 year retirement timeline, then in the short term, cash is king.

If you are looking at a longer career horizon, then long term future earning potential should be the focus.

What are your goals? What benefits does your former employer offer the current one does not (e.g. free college education?!)? Have you had a frank discussion with your current boss about your career goals and aspirations? Have you talked to him about how to get that promotion in the quickest way?


The other consideration: you state there are basically only 2 large employers. Be careful pissing off one of them, the other may not work out. If you leave, leave on very, very good terms.

Just a thought…


We are on a long horizon towards retirement at the moment. We should end up early, but we’re talking more like 50, not 35.

My boss and I have had several very frank discussions. He is looking to promote me by the end of the year, but I have no idea what the pay bump will be.

My fear is that it seems you get the big wins in terms of major pay jumps when you switch employers. I think the root of my question is, “Am I screwed for not being able/willing to repeatedly do that?”


No, exactly. That’s exactly why i put that information in there.


I think the short answer is no.

The long answer is no, but…

There are a lot of things you can do to add value to your employer that can result in huge pay bumps. There are many people on these boards that are subject matter experts, so I will defer to them.

In my experience the best thing to do is be honest and frank with your boss about your career goals and aspirations, including salary. Talk to them about what needs to be done for you to achieve those goals. If your boss is good, they will be happy to see initiative and help you develop a plan to get there. Just make sure to follow through if you have big goals, or you will fall flat on your face and your boss will probably never help you out again.