Yes and No. To clarify the question, can you stay in the same field and work for another employer and get an immediate 20% pay raise?
If any of the following conditions apply, the answer is yes:
There have been two occasions over the past 20 years or so that it was fairly common to jump companies and get a 20% raise. The first was in the 1980s, when inflation peaked at ~14%, and it was possible to get a 20% raise by going to another company, who then was often simply giving you your next 1.5 years worth of raises up front! The second is the present time, when multiple new industries, such as the Silicon Valley computer industry, the internet, web, movie special effects, etc., created a whole new class of jobs whose salaries in many cases skyrocketed. Both occasions are non-equilibrium conditions, and conditions will surely return to normal soon just as they did after the early 1980s.
If your salary is already in the upper 25% of the salary curve, the answer is most likely no, unless salaries are changing rapidly.
It can certainly happen that your salary ends up incorrectly low, and I have seen this happen, but infrequently. Supervisors generally go to great lengths to make sure that their top employees are adequately compensated, because they don't want to lose them. Salaries that are artificially low are one of the two best ways to lose good employees. (The other popular way is to manage them poorly.) However, because most supervisors don't understand the salary curve, and in general receive no instruction whatsoever about how to distribute raises, they can fail to move younger employees along the salary curve rapidly enough.
At IPAC, part of the yearly evaluations is to examine where everyone lies on the salary curves, and then to correct inequities that we find.
Copyright © 1997 by Tom Chester.
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Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Last update: 7 October 1997.