Tough Times = Tough Choices

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I got a call today from a friend who got laid off from her job a few months ago. She is visiting job fairs, calling old colleagues, and sending her resume to every job that is in her field. After weeks of searching, she finally got two interviews this week. Both went very well, but at the end of her first interview they explained that the job pays half of her old salary. She left the position feeling defeated and asked me, “What should I do?”

I know that there are many of you out there asking yourself the same question, do I take less, or keep collecting unemployment and praying that something else comes along. When she did the math she realized that she would be making less from the job that she was offered than if she stayed on unemployment. But her days of unemployment are numbered and once the offer comes in she may risk losing it. Should she hold out for more money?

This is a REALLY tough question, a catch-22 for most candidates in this market. First, be realistic on how long it will take to get another job offer, how long did it take to get your first job offer? If it took three months, and you have six months worth of unemployment you can estimate about one more job offer before you are out of benefits. In this market, what are the chances the other offer will be equal to, or more than your previous position, when employers know that you are unemployed? Probably slim, in this market if you are offered about 75% of your old pay you are LUCKY.

Next, ask yourself if this position is one that you will really enjoy. Do you like the people and company? What other benefits and perks does it offer? The pay may be less, but if they pay for health care, education, flextime, and offers salary plus bonus you might make more if you perform well. So please check your ego and do not get hung up on just the salary. Bottom line, if you feel like you are going to enjoy the job and be successful at it, go for it! If you feel insulted by the offer or position you probably you will grow to resent the employer and you are not going to remain in the position long. Be fair to yourself, and others by letting the position go to someone who really wants it if you are going to resent it.

Last, can you survive financially on the lower income? If so, for how long? Will this position give you time to continue to look for other positions or for a promotion in the current company. Ask the company about promotions and your opportunity. If they think you could be promoted in 1-2 years, could you get by for that long?

My friend had until Monday to give her final answer, but after we talked and did the math, it was better for her to accept the position. She was offered full benefits, flex time, a bonus, free education, a shorter commute, and more vacation time. So the initial salary was lower, but the perks made the lower salary worth it. This was also a new department, that was expecting rapid growth and many new opportunities. I think her initial reaction of insult ended when we examined the position from a logical perspective rather than an emotional one.

In summary, first estimate how many job offers you can expect before your benefits run out? Next, determine if this is a position that you will really enjoy with hidden perks? And last, will the position cover your basic expenses? Can you survive on the income?

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