Enterprise Software

Stay or go: What to do when your salary is too low

In the TechRepublic forums, one member is trying to make an important career choice: stay with the current company or jump ship? Money and Windows 2000 are both factors in this decision. See what kind of advice TechRepublic members have to offer.

In the forums of the TrainingRepublic, Sselinger is offering 445 Tech points for some career advice.

Sselinger wrote: “I have both my MCSE and my A+ and am waiting for my MCT application. I am working in a smaller market (70,000 people/city) and am starting to worry a little about my future. I just finished teaching my first full time track. This included A+, Core MCSE and TCP/IP and IIS. My salary is under $20 per hour, which seems low, but my thought was to work for experience first—not money. I also have been doing consulting on the side to bring in extra money.

“The company I work for is great but is feeling major growing pains. Should I be looking elsewhere? I am in Canada now but could be sponsored for the U.S.

“The other problem is with Windows 2000 coming out, we have to change our course to Windows 2000. I am not sure if the company will pay for my course, and I am feeling quickly outdated. Ideas?”

Don’t jump ship yet
lvachon suggests exploring the prospects of advancement at Sselinger’s current company and doing a little salary research.

“You may want to have a candid discussion with your employer about growth/career prospects and what kind of training they will or will not offer you. Get their fix on it first, and if they will train you, get it in writing. You may be limited greatly by the market size—check salary averages on the larger job sites, zdnet, monster.com, techies.com, guru.com, as well as government labor salary ranges and statistics.

“Know what your skills are worth and what larger markets are paying. I suspect you will have to move to get fair pay for your skills (you are underpaid). If asking for a raise, research pay scales in your area and in other markets, and base your request on a median range percentage (since you are in a smaller market). I would try and negotiate a raise and training.

“It may be best to get the company you work for now to invest in your training and a raise while recognizing that you should either move to a larger and more lucrative market or specialize (i.e., become an expert in SQL or Exchange or SMS + MCSE—highly desirable).”

Soulrider also suggests trying to work with Sselinger’s current company to see what it can offer.

“You have a year's experience, and that will be good background experience. So now you need to talk to your employer and see what direction the company is going, and how they will utilize the skills you have, and what opportunities will be there for you, and what the company is willing to do to upgrade your skills.”

American wages vs. Canadian wages
MCSE Lee said that money is a valid concern, but suggests a compromise: get the Windows 2000 certification now, and negotiate with the company to get a better salary when the certification is complete.

“If you're making under $20/hour, then you're underpaid. MCSE (with A+) should be making mid to upper $50's (annual) to start (low to mid $60's with 3+ years experience); maybe a bit less for trainers. I don't know if this applies in Canada, but that's the average rate in the U.S. Growing pains are a good thing—it means that your company will likely be around for a while (as long as they handle the growth responsibly). As for Win2000—if they won't pay for it, do it yourself!

“Once you have the new certification, then ask them to reimburse you—it gives them a chance to see your new value, and it also allows them time to build up the finances to support you. Maybe talk to them about a trade off—certification now, better salary later.”

Pallan wrote that the Canadian pay scale can’t compare to American wages. He also suggests branching out into other operating systems.

“You're not underpaid as far as the Canadian market is concerned. (I'm Canadian, I should know). I work in Buffalo. If you can get into the U.S. market, do it. You'll be paid more, and if my experience is any indication, you'll be worth more should you decide to return to Canada.

“Also consider getting certs in other network operating systems (and, of course, an upgrade to W2K).”

Billeast76 said that it’s time to move on.

“You could definitely be making more money in the U.S. I feel a company should pay for your certifications, and should meet the industry standards with your skill sets. So if I were you, I would start looking for another position. As far as the Windows 2000 track is concerned, if you have your MCSE, passing all three NT 4.0 exams (workstation, enterprise, server), then the upgrade should be easier for you.”

Sometimes patience pays off
Steve189 reminds us that it’s not always true that "The only way up is out." There are always other factors to consider besides money.

“You stated that your company is great, you live in a small community, do some consulting work, and teach. You are most likely appreciated and respected. Sounds like a nice life. You have done well in your studies; your career has a solid platform to build on. Don't be in a rush. As you said, you need to build experience. Keep up to speed with Windows 2000. Ask your employer about reimbursement if you must, but do talk about career advancement. Let them know you are continuing studies and want to know how that will ‘help’ the company. I do advise [you] to stay on for at least two years.”
It’s always a gamble: Stay or go? There are advantages and disadvantages either way. Send us a note about your career or job-search adventures.
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