Why do I make less (or more) money? And how do I get more?

A raise is like a martini: it elevates the spirit, but only temporarily. (Dan Seligman)

Harrisburg, PA is a money pit.  Washington, DC is a cash mountain 2 hours away.  Many jobs pay twice as much in Washington, DC.  Let’s make it worse.  An hour north of Harrisburg, in beautiful rural Perry County, pay is even less than in Harrisburg.

I have moved people to Harrisburg for less than half their previous pay.  Those people were thrilled.  Their commute was cut from 3 hours a day to 20 minutes.  They got to choose a great school district for their kids.  They sold their highly mortgaged 3 bedroom house on a postage stamp lot. By moving they got the option of buying a bigger house free and clear or getting a mansion with a mortgage.

State government jobs pay pretty well around here.  This is the state capital.  Corporate management, computers, sales and other jobs pay less.  Here’s why:

You get paid what is necessary to keep your job competently filled.

In Washington, DC highly skilled people only have to think of switching jobs and they have 3 offers.  The cost of living and commute times are so horrible that no one really looks forward to moving to DC, except from Boston or San Francisco.  If DC companies don’t pay a fortune in salary, everyone will leave.  DC residents will quickly go to another company or move to Omaha.

In Harrisburg, PA a project manager, marketer or COO will have to really look for a job.  They may get lucky, or they may look a year. There is no feeding frenzy by employers.  Of course if you want a lot more money you can move to DC.

Where you live, companies pay what is necessary to keep your job competently filled.  That is all.  A few companies demand greater results and pay more. Your salary is really dependent on the cost to replace you with someone who is competent.

So how do I get more money?

Get so much better than competent that you can’t be replaced at your current salary.  Raise the benchmark performance for your job. Get a promotion or at least get recognized as exceptional.  Make sure your boss knows how much you are worth.

Something to do today

Find out how much you should be earning from several sources. Google “salary” and try three different services for the exact same job. Then think about why all three came up with different numbers.

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