EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

Probably one of the most upsetting and disappointing aspects of searching for a new job when you are “well experienced” is the need to consider positions for which the compensation is considerably less than your last job.

I suppose it is part of our mind set as accountants that we tend to view our gradual increases in pay over the years as hard won. I guess that’s because they probably were. The prospect of losing ground from the heights we have obtained is, at best, difficult to face.

I can tell you from my personal experience that early on in my search in 1991 I passed on several reasonable opportunities because they were slightly below my former salary. If only I hadn’t been so foolish. But then, how was I supposed to know that I was going to be unemployed for almost 2 years?

Whether the job market is soft or strong, what is most important for our more senior members is the need to understand that “we aren’t as young as we used to be.” (But then, who is?) Finding a job in your 40’s and 50’s is not only more difficult, we are also in a very real sense over qualified for most jobs. And, since these jobs don’t use all of our accumulated talents, it is hard to get paid for them.

The anecdotal evidence is that most of our members move from large companies to smaller ones. Sure, these smaller companies need our “been there, done that” expertise, but they frequently can’t pay as much as we were getting in our last job.

I have to ask you at this point if it matters.

Sure, money is the yardstick by which we measure our success, but being secretive financial types, we are probably the only ones who know that our new job with a better title pays less than our last job. You may have to look at yourself in the mirror each day and try to avoid thinking that you have failed in some way, but in reality, you have succeeded if you are now working.

We have all witnessed the shorter time cycles of jobs these days. Even the ones you win may only last 2-3 years, and then you have to look again. What you need to consider is your total earned compensation over long periods of time. This is what you are trying to maximize, and accepting jobs that come along at less than your previous salary can make sense if it gets you “off the street” quickly. No one needs to know the exact details, and generally all a company can say is that you worked there. It is in effect your secret.

If you take a job for which you are over qualified and underpaid, one factoid that may have escaped your thinking is that it is kind of hard to get fired from jobs like this. Because of all you bring to the party, you are one of the most valuable folks at the company. It is an effect that is subtle at times, but if you are alert to the fact that everyone is always trooping through your office asking for your advice, it may dawn on you.

The most important thing is to be working. Whatever sacrifices you need to make, you need to make them and be happy with them. Yes I know, easily said, but hard to accept. Still, life is compromise.

By the way, a low paying job working for miserable people is not what I am taking about. That is never worth the money, even if they are over paying you. But, if the people are okay and perhaps you don’t have to move, the deal can make sense.

Don’t let the “idea” of a pay cut that is known only to you, stand in the way of your happiness.

Regards, Matt

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