Researching Salary Expectations for a Career Change

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Calculator and glasses
Career pro Krystal Hicks offers tips to Granite State College students.

Krystal Hicks, Founder,
Career Strategist,
JOBTALK, LLC

Editor’s Note: In a guest blog, Krystal Hicks, founder of JOBTALK, shares her insights on navigating career changes in today’s job market. JOBTALK is an accessible and inclusive career counseling and employer branding consulting practice.

When I launched my career counseling practice, JOBTALK, I quickly noticed that most people reaching out for help were not just looking to change companies – they needed help changing careers. Regardless of if it was a major industry change or a desire to go back to school to learn a completely different skill set, I saw more and more 30-somethings trying to make the leap. With 91% of millennials expecting to change jobs every three years, salary changes and expectations are important areas to consider. If you’re a 30-something reading this and can relate, or even if you’re a more seasoned professional, below are a few tips for researching salary expectations that can help you jump start and navigate a career change.

Do Your Research

When you’re thinking of making the leap from one career to another, the same early-career advice applies: research, research, research. With a career change may also come a salary change. How can you determine what an appropriate salary change looks like? Research!

The beauty of where we are today (versus 10-20 years ago) is that we have way more tools at our disposal to help us validate that this is a financially feasible move for us to make. Be sure to look up projected salary bands for different roles in your new sector or profession and see what you might expect for pay. I hate being a dream crusher, but if you can’t survive living off $35K a year, you want to know that before you go and invest time, energy, and possibly a lot of money on this new career path.

A few resources I highly recommend checking out include:

Salary.com & PayScale.com

Salary.com and PayScale.com are excellent resources for market and salary data. In addition, PayScale offers a “career path planning” tool as well as a “cost-of-living calculator” in the event you’re considering relocating. (Because trust me – if you’re looking to move from Nashua, NH, to Seattle, WA, it’s helpful to know in advance that if you’ve been making a $50K-salary in Nashua, you’re going to need to earn $60,341 in Seattle to maintain the same standard of living because the cost of housing is 46.4% higher than in New Hampshire.)

Glassdoor.com

In addition to salary information, Glassdoor provides anonymous employee reviews on how top employers in your new space treat their people and what may be expected of you in the job/field. This is what I call the biggest “regrettable recon” people don’t do and then wish they had before making the jump.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn.com is by far the most important resource you’ll use during this transition, and it starts with researching people who are in your future roles and industries right now. What do their profiles tell you about their background, their day-to-day tasks, and what skills they’ve honed to not just do their job – but do it well? You also want to start expanding your network to include not only these people, but also related companies and groups. This ensures your newsfeed will begin to reflect everything these companies and groups are posting and discussing, including jobs. By becoming a fly on the wall of your new industry, you’ll gain a better understanding of what trends or disruptors this field is experiencing or anticipating – long before you commit to joining it.

Conclusion

If you’re considering a career transition, you’re not alone. I’ll turn 36 this year, and when I reflected and counted how many “real jobs” I’ve had since I graduated from college 15 years ago, I was surprised to find that I’m in my 6th full-time position. I’m working for myself now, but still – 6 employers in 15 years? It sounds like a lot, but according to a 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, the median tenure for employees now is only about 4 years.