Dear Mrs. Riches:
I've been in my current job for three years, and I've basically stayed in the same position, getting awarded very basic raises (the standard cost-of-living-allowance kind of deal). I get decent performance reviews and have a cordial relationship with my boss. The job itself is OK -- not super-exciting -- but it pays the bills, just barely. I have the chance to jump ship and work for a rival company for a little more pay, and I am tempted to make the change. My boyfriend argues that I should stay where I am but ask for a raise. What do you think?
-- Loyal to the Bottom Line

Dear Bottom Line:
I'm with your boyfriend on this one, unless you're holding back a whole lot of other great reasons to switch jobs. Why? In your current company, you have three years of experience under your belt (translate: mini-seniority), you know the job and the players, and you seem to be doing well. With a new company, you'll have to rebuild from the ground up, and while that sounds exciting from this vantage point, it may just be a big pain.

Suppose you try asking for a raise before worrying about other jobs. Before you ask, take into account how the company is faring; if it's in the middle of cutbacks or layoffs, for example, you may want to hold off until its outlook is a little brighter. Also, do more market research. How does your pay compare to others in your field? (Online sites like and can help.) Within your company? If you're solidly within normal salary limits, you'll want to prepare an even stronger case, highlighting your accomplishments and detailing how you exceed job expectations.

If your boss denies the raise, your first inclination may be to head straight to that other job. But do use this as an opportunity to take a closer look at your job performance. Perhaps there are key things you're doing (or not doing) that are standing in the way of your advancement. This will be critical information to know, whether you stick around at your current company or decide to make a fresh start. A simple query, such as "I really value working here and would like to know what things I can do to make my skills even more competitive," may elicit some helpful feedback from your boss.

But let me ask you this: Why go from a job that's "just OK," to "OK plus a tiny bit more money?" If it's change you're after, why not think about finding a job that would get your juices flowing? Start by thinking about your own strengths and interests, then research what careers might make use of those skills. Contact your local community college to see what kind of job information and placement resources they make available to the general public. You may be able to speak with a career counselor, take career inventories that will help point you in a new direction, or enroll in classes that will help you strengthen your qualifications. Best of luck in navigating your career choices, Bottom Line.

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Fool contributor Elizabeth Brokamp, a.k.a. "Mrs. Riches," is a licensed professional counselor. She's married to Robert Brokamp, editor of The Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter.