Less Pay, but More Rewarding Work

Good news: I found a new job! Bad news: its pay is less than I make now!

This is the conundrum facing a client today and I’m sharing with her permission. She has been looking around for a new job in higher ed. After months of looking and applying and interviewing for a couple promising leads that didn’t pan out, she finally got an offer. Here’s what she says:

I just got a final offer from the HR. I want to say I’m excited – and I am! – but…well, the pay isn’t what I would hope. In fact, let’s just cut to the chase: it’s 8k less than I make now. And they made it clear that’s as high as they can possibly go. So I’m excited, but I’m also bummed. What should I do?


Know Your Budget Needs

Alright, so I do know a couple other details. The pay isn’t so low that she can’t still pay her bills. And she won’t have to take on more debt. And while everyone needs more money, it’s not like 8k less is the difference between living in a cardboard box and being able to stay in her apartment in her geographic area.

But if any of those were the case, that would be a full stop right there. There’s no use considering an offer that

  • hurts your financial goals,
  • would be a serious step down in your lifestyle, or
  • jeopardizes your ability to meet your monthly budget obligations.

The Need for Challenging Work Matters

Another thing that I know is why she’s been looking around in the first place, which is: she is BORED OUT OF HER MIND. Her current job has run its course. It wasn’t super challenging to begin with, but now that she’s been doing it for 2 years, she can do it in her sleep and still not feel challenged. And as a result of having some conversations with her boss (at my insistence) about that and there being no apparent plans of giving her tougher assignments or promoting her into a more challenging level, she’s become disengaged. Checked out. Unhappy.

Your Coworkers Matter

And the final thing I know is that she just clicked with the potential new team. She was intrigued by their work, had interesting conversations during the interview process, and felt pretty engaged by the idea of working with some really bright, scrappy, like-minded folks, doing different work.

Sooooo. I’ll ask you: what do you think she should do? By the way, there is no right or wrong answer, but alot of times we all find ourselves grappling with this scenario, so I’m curious how you would handle this.

Know Your Priorities

You have to know yourself pretty well and be honest with what you value. Would you be okay with walking away from something that could feel really great for the workday but also put a bit of a damper on or slow down your financial goals?

Like what if you are always on the prowl for the hip new restaurant but the pay would force you to commit to brown bagging it to stay on track? Or what if you had already gone pretty bare bones in your entertainment budget, having dropped cable years ago and refusing to pay for streaming music, but the new smaller paycheck would also force you to take a long, hard look at Netflix and Hulu, too?

Does the idea of working with a new, invigorating and like-minded team suddenly make you perk up and feel alive again? Or do you have the ability to stay positive and motivate yourself, even when your team feels apathetic or antisocial?

Would you lean towards declining the smaller offer knowing that something else that’s great will come along in the next few months? Or is 6 months or more too long for you? Will you go stir crazy if you have to stay at a job one more second where you twiddle your thumbs and already feel brain atrophy?

It’s the Whole Package

The point is: job offers are never just about pay, or the work. There’s a whole combination of factors you need to consider, including your lifestyle, what you need out of your work, what work asks you to contribute and do, your pay, and the team you work with. You have to know you.

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