Q: I’ve been offered a better job but there is a pay cut involved. I’m tempted. People might think me crazy. Should I take it? (DF, email ).
A: A lot of people would struggle to see how a job with lower pay could be construed as being better, but there are times when this is exactly the case. ‘Better’ could mean a great deal of things and, ultimately, only you can decide what works best for you, all things considered.
What I will do here is outline some scenarios when taking a pay cut could be a good idea – perhaps you fall into one of these categories:
1. You want to change ladders. You have gone up one ladder in your career, and you now want to reverse and pursue a different one. Quite often in a scenario like this, you will be obliged to take a pay cut, but you do so wittingly on the basis that you may power up the right ladder in due course. Changing ladders can be understandably frightening for people, particularly if they have a ‘what we have, we hold’ tendency.
2. You want to get different experience in your existing field and know that it will not come in the direction you're currently travelling. The glass ceiling manifests itself at varying points depending on the area of work you're in. Employees sometimes recognise that they are about to hit said ceiling and make a change to another company to open up new opportunities. They take a pay cut in the offing, trusting that it’s a wiser long-term punt.
3. You define ‘better’ as being a more enjoyable job, one that appeals to your interests or orientation. ‘Better’ is not always the highest point, sometimes it’s just the point that’s most comfortable or appropriate for you. I have seen supervisors turn in their guns, so to speak, because they wanted a simpler life without the hassle of managing others. And after all we have been through over the past two years, and are still going through, there’s a lot to be said for a simpler life.
4. Your health may require you to slow down and take a different job that allows you to attend to more pressing personal concerns.
5. You want to expand the range of your experience within your existing company so that you can prepare for a fresh assault on the higher peaks later on. Strategic people often ramble off into unusual corners of a business so that they can familiarise themselves with all that's going on there, knowing that this segue may stand to them later on. The morning of the fair is no time for fattening the calf…
It can be an exciting thing to ponder a pay cut. It makes us reconsider some apparent certainties that may not be certainties at all.
I am always curious when I see a student with 600 points opting for a course that only required 450 points – I suspect they are doing something they want to do rather than something that their skills and qualifications entitles them to do. It may well be the first step on the road to a more fulfilling career.
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