Dear Mrs. Riches:
I have been at my current company for two years and counting. I like my work and my colleagues, and my relationship with the boss is solid. But I recently found out that our competitor could offer me a similar job with a base salary that is higher than what I'm currently making. Yes, I could simply tell my boss and then ask for a raise, but I'm thinking instead of jumping ship and trying out the other firm. To me, it says something good about the company that they place higher value on their fresh employees. My girlfriend thinks I'm crazy, though, and should stick with what I know. Your two cents?
-- Disloyal or Smart
Why two cents when you could find another advice columnist to offer you four? Maybe I'll even counteroffer (fair warning, though: I get testy in lengthy negotiations). Seriously, money isn't all that matters when it comes to a career. You also want to consider factors such as seniority, work culture, quality of colleagues, your relationship with the boss, the benefits package, length of the commute, workload and expectations, and opportunities for advancement. If you take an in-depth look at all of these factors and find out that, indeed, the new company is a much better work environment, the higher salary doesn't mean that some other crucial benefit was cut (like premium health insurance), and all the other perks check out well, then by all means, take the plunge.
But so far, your reasons for leaving your current job boil down to wanting higher base pay, an assumption that the higher salary is a reliable indicator of the company's quality, and a whimsical love of change. Hmmm, I'd start listening to the girlfriend if I were you. Why? Two years isn't a long track record when it comes to a career. "Fresh" is just a euphemism for "new to the field," something that can signal a lack of maturity and experience. I would bet you'll do more for yourself in the long run by staying put, gaining on-the-job experience, and showing loyalty and a strong work ethic.
Since money is a real and important issue, talk with your boss about what you need to do to earn a raise. If you are a star performer (and the company is on solid footing), it shouldn't take much to merit a pay increase. If you plan to mention starting salaries at the competition, do be prepared to provide a written job offer that states the base pay you would earn. No one likes to feel held over a barrel, and you'll burn a valuable bridge with your current boss if he or she feels your salary request is a threat, rather than a career decision that's based on a genuine job offer.
Fool contributor Elizabeth Brokamp, a.k.a. "Mrs. Riches," is a licensed professional counselor who's married to Robert Brokamp, editor of The Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter. You can see his handsome mug and the Fool's cool office environment in this video clip.