Archive for August, 2014

Cash or Cachet?

Friday, August 1st, 2014

You find a great job opportunity but discover the salary is lower than you expected.

Several years ago, I was thrilled when I could tell people I worked for The Washington Post because I no longer had to explain who, where or what they did. Then I moved briefly to a very large organization that will unfortunately always be cited for some of the executives’ egregious business dealings. Now I get to work with rocket scientists and engineers and others that make space exploration and earth’s climate knowledge possible at NASA.

For many organizations, there is a “wow” factor that lasts far beyond the initial on-boarding. Whether this is a name-brand organization, or one that has special significance to you, you have a warm sense of pride when people ask, “Where do you work?”

Would you be proud to tell people what your employer produces? Whether it’s financial services, diapers, or food safety policy, can you take pride in being a part of that business?

There is also the resume-building factor of working for an organization that is held in high esteem. Consider the organization’s reputation: There is the public opinion developed by news and public relations, its financial progress, awards and contributions, stories of what it’s like to work there, leadership, its professional thought leaders and more. Would that be important for your future career opportunities?

So how much is that cachet worth to you?

When weighing all the factors of a job offer – salary, benefits, vacation, type of work, etc., we also consider the career enhancing aspects.  I once turned down a job offer with a 20% hike in salary in a public utility because I would not continue learning my profession as well as if I stayed in my current role in a bank. The extra year I stayed in the current job gave me knowledge and experience I used to this day in my consulting business. That was more valuable to me at that time in my career than working for a high profile company.

If you are faced with an enticing job and employer  but the salary is lower than you want, double-check your expectations.  Your previous salary may not be relevant in this business decision. Make sure you’ve done your homework and know the salary range for this role in your profession, in the industry and in the location as well as your unique expertise and experience. There are several websites that can get your started. Then in your networking conversations, ask people to verify or correct what you think the range is based on your research.

Salary is important both now and in your future as it is the basis for benefits and future increases. But it isn’t the only thing to negotiate. Factor in the intangibles that are important to you such as work-life flexibility arrangements. If you need money now,  such as for a mortgage payment, ask about a signing bonus. Another common strategy is to get agreement to revisit salary in 3-6 months when you’ve proven your stellar value to the organization.  But get it in writing from not only your current boss, but also HR, in case your boss has moved on.

What’s more important to you – a high starting salary or working with a high profile organization for a lower salary that meets your overall career and work-life needs?