The Struggling Student Rants—Getting Past the 2%

When There's the Will, There's a Way

Wiser words have never been spoken.  Well, perhaps they have, but not as far as going for the gold is concerned.  As Jen Sincero says, “if you’re ready to make more money, you can … even the I’m-a-buy-everyone-I-love-a-house-and-a-golden-tooth kind of money” (2017, 0:43).  It all comes down to mindset and, well, cojones.  While I hate to sound like the cheesy motivational speakers I (embarrassingly) listen to regularly, the reality is “If you’re not happy where you are, move.  You’re not a tree.”  To do this, however, you need the cojones and a good set of earplugs because to move (figuratively or literally) takes an enormous amount of willpower, dedication, and focus.

The cojones are necessary because big changes are scary.  Especially if you’re a mature AU student and you have more obligations than you did when you were 20.  You may have children or others to support.  You may have a mortgage and a car loan, as well as multiple other financial responsibilities.  Disrupting your life to follow the pursuit of wealth, or at least a decent increase in income, by taking quite a few steps backwards sounds insane, and it’s also frightening, especially if your income or savings might take a hit.

The mandatory earplugs, on the other hand, are for the naysayers.  You have to place trust in yourself while utterly and completely ignoring those around you at the same time.  Those that object do not always do so out of malice or spite, they may genuinely care for your welfare and be frightened by big changes.  However, to make that desired pay increase a reality you have to follow your survival instincts, not theirs.  If they insist on blocking your path, you can always be the Trivial Pursuit guru and let them know that in 2020 the national weighted average pay raise was, at best, 2.6% for non-unionized employees while the annual inflation rate just hit 3.4% in April 2021.  Now, I’m no math whiz, but in my mind the only way to achieve an increase higher than the inflation rate, say every two years, is to find a position that provides at minimum a 6.8% pay increase.  Not only will this never happen if you stay within the same organization, but if you stick around past the two-year mark you will, on average, end up earning approximately 50% less over your lifetime—assuming you would retire in ten years.  I hope the naysayers are no longer still yapping in your ear.  Scared to take the leap still?

Many also worry that changing jobs too often reflects poorly on them, as professionals.  Everyone fears being labelled as a ‘job-hopper’ or as ‘unmarketable.’ People forget, though, that it’s the ‘job-hoppers’ that earn more money, grow bigger muscles, and as a result end up becoming more marketable than non-job-hoppers.  In most cases, the longer you stay at a job after the first couple of years, the more your skills degrade in value as you ease into the comfort of your everyday sleepy tempo.  This decomposition sneaks up on us because the opportunities to learn new skills degrades as we stick around in our current jobs.  In order to keep growing, we have to look for new learning opportunities all the time.  The only way to do this is to step outside of our comfort zone and take control.  Going to sleep on our career and relying on our boss to take care of it for us is just living in a false reality.  Therefore, if you find yourself labelled as a ‘job-hopper’ or as ‘unmarketable’ by a company’s decision-maker, I would just continue on your path and ignore them.  You wouldn’t want to work for that backwards-thinking organization for very long anyway.  Don’t sell yourself short and remember that only those who value you and your way of thinking deserve you!

If you’re still hesitating to take the leap after all this, think of standing at a crossroad with multiple paths to choose from.  Rather than choosing, however, we sit there, paralyzed in fear of making a decision we may regret.  So, we continue to analyze rather than just choose, hemming and hawing, continuously going over the choices and watching scenarios play out in our head.  In the meantime, the weeds all around us have slowly turned to roots and taken hold of our ankles, creating a stronger hold day by day and swallowing us up into their pool of mind-numbing poison ivy.  The days and seasons are ignored as they pass us by, along with the opportunities, while we continue to lie to ourselves about having all the time in the world and not being ready.  The more we analyze, the more time passes by—as we make way for others who are going down their chosen path and secretly wishing we could do the same.  And the days flow by indifferently…  day in, day out.

If you find yourself at this crossroad, one of the first things you need to do is to understand why you want a change in the first place.  Whatever your reasons, they are yours and yours alone.  Nonetheless, if your reason is the pay, you have to jump ship.  There’s no other way around it.  Most companies have one speed; usually in first gear.  If your skills are developing at higher currents than the sleepy pace of your workplace, you may have to find a different crew to join to be compensated and recognized for the value you bring to the table.  That may, fearfully, entail being stuck in a rowboat with no oars for awhile, with only Wilson for company.  Fear not; soon enough you’ll find another ship sailing down a faster moving river.  We simply have to learn to surrender to the current.

Sincero, J. (2017) You are a badass at making money: Master the mindset of wealth. (J. Sincero, Narr.) [Audiobook]. Penguin Audio.