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Don't Quit Yet! 5 Ways to Improve Your Current Job

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I have been working for the same company since 1998 (fresh out of university). While I've outlasted numerous layoffs in my department, I haven't seen raises that are expected for my industry (programming). I haven't been promoted because there is no promotion track for the line of work I'm in.

I've agonized over the decision to move jobs so that I don't look like a loser on my resume, but the benefits at my company are STELLAR compared to most, and the hours are great. 8-5 M-F, no mandatory overtime, nada. In the programming industry, that's nearly unheard of. Should I stay or should he look for another company? My wife and I have tossed up on the issue and would like some outside input.

So, your question is, "Should I leave my great job so that my resume doesn't look bad?" Most people would be thrilled to have the hours and benefits that you have. (And remember, when calculating your salary, you really should be looking at the whole picture, which includes benefits.) But, most people haven't been in a job for 12 years.

First, I'm going to be the depressing voice of doom: Just because you've avoided the layoffs in the past doesn't mean you aren't going to get hit by one in the future. But, of course, you know that.

It can be a little disconcerting if your resume doesn't show a clear upward path. But, it's not the end of the world and it is fixable. First, let's analyze if you should stay or go. Of course, I can't make that decision for you, but I can give you some things to think about:

Reasons to stay: Great benefits, great hours. You clearly understand what is expected and are a truly known quantity, well liked by management. (I know the latter is true because you haven't been laid off. I'm not saying that people who are well liked don't get laid off, they do. But, people that annoy the snot out of their managers seem to find their way to top of the layoff list.) A new job is an unknown. You may get a bad boss, still have no career path and have to work a zillion hours a week.

Reasons to go: Lousy salary, no career path, stagnation, better opportunities may be on the outside.

The real problem is that you can't guarantee a better situation at a different company. Anyone who has ever had a nightmare job situation where 11 hour days are the norm and the boss screams at you will tell you, "Stay! Stay! Stay!" But, I honestly think there are three options instead of two. Option No. 1: stay. Option No. 2: find a new job. Option No. 3: change your current job. Here are 5 things you can do to boost your resume without giving up the perks of your current job:

Tell your boss you want a promotion. This may seem silly. Your boss doesn't have any place to promote you, so why bother asking? Because you honestly don't know if that's true or not. And promotions come in many formats. Most of us are familiar with a traditional or bona fide promotion--where you are moved into a vacant position in a higher pay grade. But, there is also the ever elusive promotion-in-place or growth promotion. This is essentially doing the same job with more responsibilities added and a better title. So, you've been an analyst, you get a growth promotion to a senior analyst and the a few years later to project manager.

Pretend you've changed jobs every two years. Not officially, of course. But, write up a resume as if you had a new job title every two years. As you do this little exercise, I bet you'll find that you have had a clear career path -- you just haven't gotten appropriate titles and raises to go with it. The projects you were working on in 1998 will be substantially different from the projects you are are working on in 2010. (And if they are not, see above.) Once you've done this little exercise, re-write your resume to show a time line; make sure it demonstrates your upward path, even if your title didn't change.

Think sideways, not upward. There's no upward career path at your current company in your current area. There's no law that says, "once a programmer, always a programmer." Heck, I've worked with numerous HR people who had advanced degrees in information systems. They moved into HR through the systems side of HR. And, I've also seen HR people move into Information Systems roles through the same sideways moves. Once you've moved sideways, you can move upward through that path.

Make your own opportunities. Remember that meeting with your boss where you discussed a growth promotion? If it didn't go well, no worries. Make out your own career path. Look for growth opportunities and take them. Demonstrate to your management team that you are doing more and learning more and this is benefiting the company. This qualifies you for the growth promotion you asked for earlier.

Ask for more money. I'm not talking about getting a new job offer and then trying to get a counter offer. This often backfires. (And if you came to me to ask for a counter offer, unless we had a super big problem that only you could solve, I'd say, "Gee, we'll miss you! Congratulations!") Instead, gather information on what you would bring on the open market and present it to your boss. Ask straight out for a raise. You'd be surprised at how few people are willing to be direct. As long as you aren't ridiculous in your asking (Hey boss, I deserve $150,000 more a year than I'm making now!) the worst thing that will happen is your boss will say no. Most likely the answer will be, "Not now." But you've set that little seed that you are worth more money than you are making right now.>

At the end of the day, you have to decide whether the perks of staying outweigh the potential of leaving. But I would strongly look towards ways to change up your current job. Because, who wants to give up great benefits and a 40-hour work week? Unless you do, of course. Then do it.

Got a workplace dilemma? Email your questions to

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