[07.06.10]
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Should I Accept A Job Offer Below My Pay Range?

job offer, cookie, job search, decision, career

I get this question a lot.  At events and via the blog.

It is such an important one that I sometimes hesitate to answer it.  But since I’ve experienced it and spent a good amount of time thinking about it, I will.  And do every time it is asked.

Should I Accept A Job Offer Below My Pay Range?

It is a very personal question.  Because no one knows your financial situation. And no one knows how far you can bend before you break.  There are no universal answers.

And sometimes the offer is well below your range.  25-50% below.  Surprising but true.

Let me start with this answer.

No.

But that isn’t a very helpful answer is it?

Here are the pros and cons to accepting a job offer below your pay range:

PROS

  • Gets you back to work
  • Returns an income stream and important benefits
  • Makes you feel “whole” again
  • Confirms that you are wanted (validation)
  • Brings back a work community

CONS

  • Requires you to live on less (sometimes substantially less) income
  • Introduces possibility of regret (bad decision)
  • Asks you to play financial catch-up
  • Risks bitterness between you and boss/company
  • Forces you to explain this decision next time you are looking

But there are so many factors that will influence this for each of us.  So a simple set of pros and cons is not sufficient.

They are:

1.  Your Financial Situation – In the end it comes down to two things.  Your tolerance for risk and your comfort level with spending savings.  Some have spent it all already and do not have anything left.  Others have savings still to go.  Only you can decide whether a job offer below your prior pay is acceptable.  Can you reasonably live on it?  And will you still be spending savings to stay afloat?

2.  Your Psychology – If you are tired of the job search process.  Feeling desperate.  You are likely more susceptible to the call of any offer.  If you feel like things have really slowed down for you.  On the worst days, you will be tempted.

3.  Your Stage In Job Search – Early on you have more confidence.  More energy.  And a belief that, like in the past, someone will see you and land you.  Like the big fish that you are.  Later in your process (over 6 months) your view may change.  Many just want to get back to work.

4.  Your Other Options – Hopefully you have other options.  Not other offers necessarily (although that is nice) but rather a few fresh leads or other opportunities brewing.  There is a power in multiple options.  And a frustration in having none.

5.  Your Career Path – Are you on your way up?  Looking to change industry or function?  On your way toward retirement?  Where you are on your path can help determine a decision that makes sense for you.

And while it may sound easy for me to say “no” to this question, I think it is the right place to start.

Of course, by thinking through the factors above, you may decide the answer for you is “yes”.  For example, if you are:

  • out of savings
  • burned out on networking
  • out of work over a year
  • have no options
  • five years from your planned retirement

You may decide to take a job offering lower pay.

Getting an offer is very exciting.  It says that someone wants you and thinks you will add value to the the team.  And in many cases, saying yes feels good.

But you don’t have to take the offer.

In fact an offer turned down can be a motivator and a great conversation piece for the next interview.  Instead of an opportunity lost.

How have you dealt with this question in your own job search?  What did you decide in the end?

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Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Career Advice

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