Fools' Gold: Your Salary Or Your Career

Have you ever heard the phrase “Life is just one damn thing after another”? Whether you take on career jobs, or simple jobs for the sake of making money, that is all there is to it. What is different is the utility for someone who takes on jobs as they are building their career versus someone who takes on a job and sees it as nothing but work. The latter is more likely to be someone who sees his/ her job as a means to an end at best with the end being to earn a salary. There is nothing wrong with the approach, depending on your material desires and you must have a high tolerance to accept what you can’t change in your work environment (you don’t like your job, you don’t like your boss, you don’t like your colleagues, you don’t like the traffic to get to work, etc.). People, who are building a career, tend to have more options when their current circumstances are not as they would like. They can think with a long term view and if need be they have the ability to take two steps back in order to be able to go three steps forward thereafter.

Should you choose the money or the career opportunity? There is no right answer to that, but there is definitely an answer that works and is different in each situation. I worked with someone recently, who for the sake of confidentiality I will call Paul. Paul was looking to move from his existing employer, On-line Marketing Company A (OMCA) as he felt he needed growth (not to be confused with more money, he wanted new mental stimulation and challenges). Paul is a bright guy who’s situation I could understand in that there was nothing wrong with OMCA as a company, but he had become the Specialist in his function, with no peers to bounce ideas off of or learn new tricks from and in the current shape and form of the business he was not going to learn much further. He knew the industry very well, was technically very competent and had a commercial mind that helped apply his skills to something operationally effective from a business strategy perspective. Being ambitious, he realized that being a Big Fish in a Small Pond was not going to take him where he wanted to go. Paul was looking for real growth.

I managed to get Paul introduced to Financial Services Company B (FSCB) as they were looking for a Senior MI Analyst. After a rigorous interview process, perseverance and patience, Paul got the job offer he wanted from FSCB. He would be surrounded by similar minds, the organization was much larger and the industry completely new! He would be behind the curve for the first time in a while for him as he had to get up to speed before contributing real value in future. For someone about to embark on a learning process that had depth, he was not exactly getting paid peanuts, but FSCB felt that he was worth the investment in the long run. When Paul resigned from OMCA, his employer was in a corner and made him a counter offer which would increase his salary by 50% as well as share options in the business (OMCA). I was not surprised as I realized Paul’s value to OMCA, given their size and what he did for them. Paul on the other hand did not see it coming, even though we had the discussion prior to that. It is one of the attractive qualities of Paul; he is unassuming, humble, extremely confident and yet not at all arrogant.

Paul was in a state of confusion and asked for my advice? I told him I could not make up his mind for him and he had to make the call. What I did suggest was that he be true to himself in his decision making and think what would serve him best in the long run. I suggested that his decision making process should factor in the following:

* He must take the quantum difference of the money out of the equation! The money was noise in the process as his current salary, before either increase per FSCB or OMCA was fair value relative to what he was doing. Working for a salary that is above your intrinsic value to your employer has an effect of being a retention strategy for the employer paying your salary. You can never move for the same salary as it is way above what anyone else is prepared to pay. It can leave you as the employee stuck with your employer, unless if you moved for less money, which most people aren’t wired to do as they live a lifestyle within their existing salary.

* He must answer the question; “Has the reason I wanted to leave OMCA in the first place changed”. If it hasn’t, then it would only be a short term fix not to leave as the thought will resurface and the need to move come into play sooner rather than later.

* He must answer the question; “Has the reason I wanted to join FSCB when I got the offer changed”. If that has changed then at least he knows that going to FSCB is not the answer, so don’t join them either as that will only be a short term play again.

Paul made his own decision and it was not an easy one for him. He chose to take the offer of FSCB. He was therefore going to get significantly less money, he was no longer going to be King Of The Hill, and he would be well out of his comfort zone. These are all short term results of his decision. In the long term though, I have no doubt he will shoot the lights out at FSCB, which he also believes. He will certainly be amongst the cream of the crop in terms of star performers there when he is settled. The money problem he was faced with (albeit a nice problem to have) has caused a problem for many people downstream in their careers. Too often people chase the money without looking at the real benefits and impact on their career for choosing to stay in their current job or moving onto greener pastures.

You want to be confident that what you are doing is of value to the person receiving your services and therefore do not price yourself out of the market. The world is a much more competitive environment and you are not only competing with local people for your job. I have heard of people that feel hard done by as they are told they are overqualified for a position they applied for. This is just a euphemism for “you are too expensive for the job I want done”! I would happily hire a driver who has an MBA as there is a likelihood I would get someone who will be able to do more than follow my instructions as to where to go. He/she will likely have a thinking capacity that would be useful to the business while working for us as a driver. I just would not pay that person the same as a Senior Manager. I would pay him/her what I would perceive as value for a great driver, whether he/she has an MBA or not.

So when you are feeling as though your remuneration is not fair value to what your contribution is to your employer, is that true? Know your purpose and whether you are building a career, taking on a job or chasing the money? They are not mutually exclusive, but most materially successful people will tell you they did not start because they were chasing the money. They did something they believed in and loved doing, and the money followed. That is why they are successful!


Related articles can be found on Thabo Hermanus

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