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For years, my wife struggled unsuccessfully to gain a career-oriented (and non-sales ) job in marketing. After years of low-paying work in a completely unrelated field, she resigned and eventually found a position that was personally fulfilling. Although the new job paid only $10k, it enabled her to find her true calling. She recently earned a Master’s degree in this field and will soon have a job that she enjoys that pays about $40k.

I have been unemployed for the past three months and received my last severance payment last week. My wife is now asking me to take any job I can get, even if it pays as much as $30k less than I earned before.

After a decade of career progression, my most recent salary was about $90k. Recruiters tell me that’s about 10% lower than the typical pay for my role. That being said, I have an interview tomorrow for a job I am qualified to do, but is not aligned with my career interests. It pays about $60k; $30k less than my former job, and enough to enable my wife and I to make ends meet.

Accepting this $60k job with no career growth potential would set me back to my 2004 salary. I would continue to seek employment elsewhere that would be better aligned with my skills, career goals, and former salary. I think it would be even more difficult to find a suitable position at my former salary after doing this.

Savings would carry us for another 2 months and we have another 3 months of cash in the bank which is the proceeds of a loan taken out the day I was terminated. Our home equity line could add another 4 months. As a last resort, my retirement savings could keep us afloat for an additional year (yes, I have listened to the Finances Rule podcast).

What are others thoughts? When unemployed and in the absence of temporary consulting work, should a person take a substantial step backwards in their career solely to earn a paycheck? Should they hold out for the right position even if it means taking on debt or spending retirement savings to keep afloat?

jhack's picture

Victor,

Since we don't know if you're 24 or 54, or if you have kids, etc, it's hard to know the impact of drawing down any retirement money. Only you know that.

Have you considered a non-profit / volunteer project in your field? You'll stay in the game while you job hunt, and it won't look like a step back on your resume.

Another avenue is working with a startup. You might be paid below grade but get options or other contingent compensation. It won't look like a step back on your resume, and you might find it suits you.

Finally, if you listen to the recent John Lucht interviews, he states that no one has a straight upward trajectory. Don't worry so much about the resume - find a job you like. It's unfortunate when folks feel they must accept a job they don't like.

John

Victor's picture

John,

Thanks for your feedback. The points you made were particularly helpful to me. I’m 35 without children but have a rental property worth $100k less than owed that will drain my finances fast if it becomes and stays unoccupied for long. The position I may be offered is with the county government. Since governmental jobs are generally perceived as lower paying than jobs with for -profit organizations, subsequent employers may not view this salary setback as reason to doubt my abilities. I am a volunteer for a professional association that I belong to, but it’s a just a few hours a week of administrative work. Thanks for reminding me about what John Lucht said; I had forgotten about that.

Victor

kklogic's picture

Victor,

I'm hearing something underlying here. Is it possible that you resent that you've supported your wife to pursue her career goals (which do not seems revolve around upward mobility and money) --- while you are not getting that same support to pursue yours (which do include those things)? You don't have to answer that if you don't want to, but I thought I might be hearing some of that in the background of what you wrote. If I'm right, it's something you two might want to discuss before it consumes you and you say something you'll regret.

As to the job situation - wow. I really have to think about that more. It's a tough situation, to be certain. I'm not a person who is comfortable taking a job knowing full well that I intend to move on soon. However, I understand your potential need to do so. I think I'll need to let this one marinate a while.

HMac's picture

Hi Victor - Welcome!

First of all, my heart goes out to you. Some of my current circumstances are similar to yours - so I can't make any pretense of providing "objective" advice :lol:

[quote]I have been unemployed for the past three months and received my last severance payment last week. My wife is now asking me to take any job I can get, even if it pays as much as $30k less than I earned before.[/quote]

[b][i]Family first.[/i][/b]

You need the support of your wife/family members, particularly now. If you don't have that support, you're just adding to the emotional burden you're carrying through your job search. So my observations start from that bias. Your wife loves you - and maybe she feels this way for reasons other than money. Talk it through.

[quote]Savings would carry us for another 2 months and we have another 3 months of cash in the bank which is the proceeds of a loan taken out the day I was terminated. Our home equity line could add another 4 months. [/quote]

Using savings or going into debt is a joint decision - even if those savings were primarily generated by one spouse. I just believe there is no "mine" and "yours" in a marriage. You're free to disagree; it's just how I feel.

[quote]Accepting this $60k job with no career growth potential would set me back to my 2004 salary. I would continue to seek employment elsewhere that would be better aligned with my skills, career goals, and former salary.[/quote]

Of course your job search would become a little harder, because you wouldn't be free to call, email, interview at all times.

[quote]I think it would be even more difficult to find a suitable position at my former salary after doing this. [/quote]

Maybe - But when you're dealing with professional companies, salaries are based on the value and responsibilities of the position, NOT on what applicants are currently earning. As long as you don't establish a trend of several positions over the course of say, three years, it will show as an abberation.

[quote]When unemployed and in the absence of temporary consulting work, should a person take a substantial step backwards in their career solely to earn a paycheck?[/quote]

Earn the paycheck. Live to fight another day. Do a great job, knowing that someday (soon!), you're going to tell them you've found another job with more responsibility and more pay.

[quote]Should they hold out for the right position even if it means taking on debt or spending retirement savings to keep afloat?[/quote]

What if you hold out, take it, and then discover it wasn't the "right position" after all? Maybe the boss turns out to be really bad. Maybe the company is financially wobbly. Maybe your direct reports turn out to include the CEO's useless nephew. There are a lot of things you can't see from the outside looking in...

[quote]That being said, I have an interview tomorrow for a job I am qualified to do, but is not aligned with my career interests. It pays about $60k; $30k less than my former job, and enough to enable my wife and I to make ends meet. [/quote]

Good luck on the interview. Who knows exactly where it could lead. You have no decision to make about this job- yet [i](except that you must do what you need to prepare to knock them out in the interview).[/i]

And keep looking. Good luck Victor, keep us posted.

-Hugh

Victor's picture

[quote="kklogic"]Is it possible that you resent that you've supported your wife to pursue her career goals (which do not seems revolve around upward mobility and money) --- while you are not getting that same support to pursue yours (which do include those things)?[/quote]

Thanks KK, I’m grateful that I had the ability to enable my wife to find her true calling (teaching). Sure, I wish we could afford for me to take all the time needed to find a comparable job, but that’s simply not possible in our circumstances, which I accept. Years ago, I advised her to hold out for a marketing job that met her expectations. It took almost a year before she found a job that seemed to be a good fit. Unfortunately, it was clear within a couple months that this wasn’t going to work out. Same thing happened with the next marketing job. Eventually, she recognized that she had been pursuing the wrong career. She found that holding out for the “ideal” job kept her unemployed for about a year and we fear the same thing could potentially happen to me.

Victor's picture

HMac, thanks for your thoughtful and helpful feedback :D The advice of you and others has been a tremendous help. I woke up this morning seriously contemplated calling off the interview, explaining to the interviewer that I had done some soul-searching and realized that I wasn’t a good fit for the job.

I think I’m pre-judging the job before even learning much about it. Maybe I’ll enjoy it – I’ve certainly been adaptable in the past. If nothing else comes of this, I’ll at least have gotten some interviewing experience (it’s been a long time since I’ve interviewed).

Thanks to all, I’ll keep you posted.

asteriskrntt1's picture

Victor,

I am just having this same conversation with Wendii about my cousin, whom the recruiters are telling that he can get over $100K right now. There is no way. They are telling him what he wants to hear so they have candidates to present. So far, he has had no offers and his current salary (that would be ZERO) is considerably less than what the recruiters are telling him he is worth.

1. Employed people have better chances of finding new jobs.
2. Your intent is to keep looking. There is no guarantee you are leaving.
3. The market determines your worth, not the recruiters.

Today, my cousin thought he was being interviewed for a big time salary. They said he would be in the $55 K range. So his resume (Not an MT resume), which the recruiters said presented him well and is a $100K resume, is attracting $55k Jobs

If you get an offer, take it.

*RNTT

HMac's picture

Hey Victor: I went to an interview for a position late Monday. A six month contract at a lower level, but like your example, one that would help us "make ends meet."

I was not particularly pumped as I prepared, because the job description was vague - except for the parts that I DIDN'T have a very deep background in. :lol: But I prepped (the company is kinda interesting) and I went (because you never know, and you can never get enough interview experience).

Turns out, job was very different from what the writeup said (they started the interview by saying "the job description was very generic; let's take a few minutes to describe what it's really all about.")

Turns out I had three KILLER behavioral examples from my past that I could use to show a great fit. And the next day they told me I'd be one of the two candidates to be brought back in.

Look - it's still not a "right" fit from a career standpoint...and the money's low...and I haven't yet made it to the offer stage, and may not make it to that stage. But it just shows that "you never know."

Speak with anybody who wants to speak with you. And always bring your "A" game.

-Hugh

asteriskrntt1's picture

Nicely done Hugh

See what happens when you keep your feathers numbered! Good luck.

*RNTT

tomw's picture

What's the downside of taking this other low-paying position while you keep looking for work?

You don't know when your next offer might come. In the mean time, 60K per year is better than 0K per year. That addition to food, clothing, and shelter could go cold turkey pretty fast with no income.

If you decide to live off the savings, you don't know if the two months is enough time to get another offer. In 1 3/4 months, you don't want to be accepting an offer for $7 an hour as a cashier.

Nik's picture

this is probably obvious, but don't plan on leavi g this "temporary" job too early. Leaving an employer in The lurch is a far darker mark than a pay cut. Count on staying in the position for at least a year, and let that timeframe inform your decision.

also look at other cash flows you can open up. There's all ok ds of temp work, as well as consulti g or writing opportunities. They may be few and far between, but all together they might extend your hint for another month.

HMac's picture

[quote="Nik"]Leaving an employer in The lurch is a far darker mark than a pay cut. Count on staying in the position for at least a year, and let that timeframe inform your decision.[/quote]

I agree wholeheartedly with not leaving the employer in the lurch.

As long as you take any job with the genuine intention of doing the best possible job while you're there, I think you're doing everything you can to not leave 'em in the lurch.

Where I part ways with you Nik, is picking a length of time that would making leaving OK. Depending entirely on the specific circumstances, leaving sooner could be just fine for Victor.

I'm not advocating taking any job under false pretenses (eg., talking about making a company your "career" while you know full well that it's a temporary measure). So don't be disingenuous.

Maybe I misunderstood your post, Nik. If what you're saying is to inform your decision by projecting yourself in the job for at least a year [i]("What if I stayed there a year? Would it work? Could I stand it? Would it put me ahead or back?"),[/i] that's a really good thought exercise and way to evaluate it.

So, sorry if I misunderstood you.

[i][b]ALL[/b] jobs are temporary.[/i] Some just last longer than others!

-Hugh

Victor's picture

Thanks everyone for the helpful feedback. The last week has been very eventful... I interviewed for a position that I wasn't thrilled about, but offered stability and a great benefits. I liked what I heard and became genuinely excited about this opportunity. Later that afternoon, I got a call from the recruiter who, just a weeks prior, arranged an interview with a company in a line of business I really thought I would enjoy. The employer wanted me to bring me on as a temp with the potential of hiring me as a regular employee at some undetermined future date. I explained that I'd be happy to do that, but as long as they can't make a commitment to me, I need to continue to pursue this other opportunity. They agreed and I started this past Monday. By the second day, I recognized that the responsibilities of the position differed quite a bit from what I had envisioned. I got a call today about the other position and was told I was the candidate they were going to recommend to their boss (an elected official). Assuming that my 15 minute meeting with him goes well, I will be offered the position. We've already discussed salary, the need to provide transcripts, drug test, etc.. It's almost a done deal :D I explained this to my "temp" employer and they understand. They said they would keep me on in the event that the offer didn't materialize. What an interesting turn of events! Thanks again for everyone's support!

HMac's picture

Fingers crossed, Victor. Good luck!

-Hugh

lazerus's picture

That's great, Victor. :D

I'm going to tag on to the end of this thread with a related question for the forum.

I work in a very specialized (but growing) segment of what is statistically a dying industry (printing). There are very very few people in my industry who work in this segment (high-end variable data printing/marketing). The economic downturn has created, I believe, a job market which favors employers heavily. More unemployed=more candidates=employer power. I think I have a higher market value for a position I've been offered than the employer, and in fact, like Victor, made significantly more in my last job than anything I'm seeing now.

I did not have a layoff immunization, and so never having been laid off before, I am learning that lesson the hard way. In addition, I already dipped into my life savings to take this opportunity in Denver, and have been paying it back for the past three years.

Now I have an offer which, frankly, will just make me go further in debt. Again, honestly, this offer is terrible for the work I would be doing, but there's always that "We need someone with entrepreneurial spirit to grow this place into the market leader! You're the guy! Think of it like a startup! There is so much opportunity right now! [b]But we can't pay you what you're worth... YET![/b] Come on board, work your ass off for us for a year, and when we're 4x revenue next year, all the boats rise!

In the interview series, Mark says that if you decline an offer, decline the offer. If you decline the offer, then they make a counter, you may inhibit your ability to get a raise later and/or cause suspicion early in your career at that company.

But ya know, I'm kind of tired of employers crying poverty. My employers have never seemed to care about the poverty of their own employees, yet they are asking candidates to "try to understand the company's position". So, do I decline an offer I have on the table, which is 35% less than I should be making, or do I take it, piss off my family, and hope? :?:

AManagerTool's picture

This is purely a personal decision. Nobody on this board is qualified to make it for you.

From my own experience, I can only advise against believing in promises of revenue to come.

I got two words for you [size=18][b]STOCK OPTIONS[/b][/size]

I'd let them cement that offer with stock options and then consider it to be real. With some stock options in hand that assertion of "just wait till we are at 4x revenue" has real value. It costs them nothing, they are not voting shares and you have some guarentee.

I had my heart broken twice (what can I say...I'm an optimist...LOL) just like that and it will NEVER happen again. [/b]

lazerus's picture

[quote="AManagerTool"]This is purely a personal decision. Nobody on this board is qualified to make it for you.

From my own experience, I can only advise against believing in promises of revenue to come.

I got two words for you [size=18][b]STOCK OPTIONS[/b][/size][/quote]

:o OOH! I didn't even think about that! Thank you!

bflynn's picture

A promise of more things to come and $4.50 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. I treat any promise of something to happen in the future as worthless.

Options are nice, but if you're going to do this, make sure its a mega-grant. I've seen options severely devalued when companies are re-capitalized. At least if you've got 100,000 shares, if they do a 1-10 reverse split, you're still at 10,000. If you had 5000, you would have 500. Technically, it should be worth the same, but it never seems that way.

I would request an unlimited bonus based on corporate performance, especially if your job is to grow the company. Don't play around with stock options. If you double the size of the company, they should double your salary by paying a bonus. If you triple the company, your bonus is twice your salary. Simple and straight forward.

And be ready to say no and walk away. You're taking a risk, the upside has to be worth it.

Brian

lazerus's picture

[quote="bflynn"]A promise of more things to come and $4.50 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. I treat any promise of something to happen in the future as worthless.

I would request an unlimited bonus based on corporate performance, especially if your job is to grow the company. Don't play around with stock options. If you double the size of the company, they should double your salary by paying a bonus. If you triple the company, your bonus is twice your salary. Simple and straight forward.

[/quote]

Thanks Brian, as usual, excellent practical advice. The general consensus here and offline is "Don't count your chickens..." If I get an offer with bonus and/or stock options, then they fail to deliver for some reason, I'm probably no worse off than before.