Q: I have just started the search for a new job and my biggest fear is that I'll actually find one. You see, I love my present job, everyone I work with, the commute--even a hard day may be draining, but so fulfilling. The career growth has been tremendous and it would be a very sad day to say goodbye. Unfortunately, I just can't afford to stay. My husband is disabled with a pension and even my super-frugal powers have only slowed the financial burn-rate to now a paycheck-to-paycheck status. My question is, when should I tell my VP? Could I possibly use this as an opportunity to push for more money (even though other directors earn the same as me)? How can I feel good about taking on a new opportunity (more prestige, higher income) when I'm leaving a place that means so much to me?
A: Wow! There are few readers who write so passionately about their current job. I can understand why you are torn.
It sounds like you have an ideal role except for the dollars. You are being paid at a rate comparable to your peers. If your VP raised your salary, this may create a problem with "internal equity." The term "internal equity" means that employees in the same or similar roles are paid at roughly the same level of pay, though there may be some variations depending upon experience, performance level, skill set, geography, education or other factors. Additionally, if a modest compensation increase was a possibility, would it be enough to put you in better financial situation?
Regarding approaching your VP, I am uncertain of your relationship with your VP. There is always a risk when you "tip off" your current employer if you are serious about leaving the company. Your employer and your VP could perceive you as less committed and/or offer you fewer opportunities (e.g., conferences, workshops, etc.). Though rare, your employer could ask you to resign immediately, which is sometimes a horrible shock to the departing employee. I have also seen the complete opposite happen: where your VP may ask you what it would take for you to remain in your current position. However, knowing that other directors are paid at a similar rate, this may be unlikely.
One other option to consider may include landing a part-time role elsewhere to supplement your income but remain in your current full-time role. Before accepting a part-time role, evaluate the pay to ensure that it will elevate your income to a level required for financial stability.