Silicon Valley's Dirty Little Secret (Part 2)

Silicon Valley

In Part 1 of this post I talked about why big tech companies are so difficult to interview with. In this post, I'll talk about why it's not such a great deal after all.

You could make $100k+ at one of the big firms. That may sound like a lot of money if you're in an average part of the country.

But with cost of living adjustments, 100k is worth much less.

In Seattle, 100k is worth about 75k. In New York it's more like 60k and in San Francisco you're making 55k.

One of the comments on reddit for Part 1 of this article states that a studio apartment in San Francisco rents for $2,200 per month.

What the hell could you buy (not rent) for $2,200 in your current city? In Wildwood, MO, a nice suburb of St. Louis, you could buy this instead.

It's an insane 4 bed / 4.5 bath house on almost 2 acres. Or you could have a 1 bedroom apartment.

If you already live in an expensive market, then you're in a different ballgame. Presumably you're already making 100k+, but even if you are, then you could probably get a huge raise just by moving somewhere less expensive.

If you're making 75k now, in a cheaper city, you couldn't even move to Seattle at $100k.

If you've been at software development for a few years already, you may already be making close to 100k even in a cheap market. If that's the case then you're going to need some major money, just to break even on a move.

How much money? In San Francisco you'd need a whopping $180k per year, just to make the equivalent of $100k.

Company Culture Shock

A lot of the big tech firms have long hours engrained into their culture. Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and many others are notorious for this.

If you can work 40 hours and go home, why would you want to go somewhere that expected you to work 55 hours a week?

In fact, that raise may be a pay cut once you take into account the hours you'll be working. Not to mention the added stress to your life.

What about commute? Many of the expensive cities are notorious for horrendous traffic as well.

Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, they all are known for adding hundreds of hours per year to your commute.

"But Chris" you say, "San Francisco is so exciting!"

Hey, I'm not mad at you. Go for it. But you know what's really exciting? Making more money and being able to afford a nice life.

It could mean sending your kids to a great college, buying your dream home or starting your own company. Whatever your goal is, some extra cash can be the difference between making it happen or not.

How are you going to retire (EVER) if you're paying $2,200 for a studio apartment?

You can make more money, faster, by focusing on what's right in front of you. The city you live in now and the job you go to every day.

I am in the St. Louis area and I used to think this place was so lame, that every other city was so much cooler.

Well it turns out that it was me that was lame. It was just a matter of laziness really.

There are so many things to do and places to go in St. Louis that you'll never have time for it all.

Cash In On Your Experience

If you've been at that job for 5 or 6 years now, do you know what that is? A 400 pound watermelon, that's way overdue for harvest.

The easiest way to lose money and stall your career, is to stay at a job too long. Especially early on in your career. Later in your career, this may change.

It's simple to see though. Companies never give you as much of a raise at your performance review as a new company would to hire you.

Because the new company needs someone new and now. Yesterday, in fact, and they are willing (or forced) to pay more, to convince you to come work for them.

The classic fallacy is that if you move around too much companies will look at that as a huge negative and refuse to talk to you. Because you're not loyal enough.

That's just what companies want you to you'll stay. The reality is that they need people. And if you're qualified and good at what you do, then they will hire you. Even if you've moved around a little.

Companies already know that millenials are notorious for this. Why not live up to their expectations and make more money. Any company that's not accepting this new reality is already in trouble.

What would a new company pay to get you? The answer is just supply and demand in your market. You are a worker, you are a commodity. Okay you're a software developer so you're not lead exactly, you're a little rarer than that, but even if you're platinum you're still a commodity.

Your price is determined by supply of developers in your market versus demand of developers in your market. It's your job to find out the balance of supply and demand in your market. In other words, to find out the most they will pay you.

It's easy anymore. Go on Glassdoor. Search for companies in your area. Look at consulting firms. See what the top hourly rates and salaries are for the types of positions you qualify.

Many of you will be shocked to find out that you are making much less than some of your peers with equivalent experience.

And it's because you stayed where you are and got 3% raises while they moved and got 20%+ raises.

When it comes time to negotiate, don't ask for less than the market rate even if it's a lot higher than your current salary. If the average is a lot higher, why are you asking for less? Are you admitting that you suck?

And when I say negotiation, I'm referring to the new job you are going to get, not your current job. That's a lost cause. Your current job will likely never pay you enough to catch up to the market.

You can go into your next performance review at your current job and demand that you be given a 30% raise, just don't hold your breath.

And if you are making 100-140k in a big city and you decide to get a new job, it may be very lucrative to move somewhere cheaper.

You may be able to get the same salary or close to it, for half the cost of living and a fraction of the traffic, with better hours. Maybe even with an upgrade in living quarters.

I know it seems counter-intuitive, but if you're in San Francisco making $130,000 per year and you get offered a job in St. Louis for $85,000, then you just got a 20% raise.

My first software job, I stayed there two and a half years. Over that period, my salary increased around 15% which I thought was pretty good at the time.

When I left that job, I got a 15% raise and I got to work from home full-time. In that instant, when I accepted that new position, I got in one second, what I had waited 2.5 years for, simply by changing jobs.

It may not be what's best for companies, but it's what's best for your career.

And don't feel bad about leaving your job. They're a company, they have lots of money. You're one person just looking to support yourself and your family the best that you can. Anyone that's being realistic would do the same.

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