Should I take a 40% pay cut to change jobs?
February 12, 2012 6:19 PM   Subscribe

Should I take a 40% pay cut to change jobs? The new job is in a different industry where I'll be starting from scratch. It will probably mean longer hours and the pay is terrible compared to what I'm getting now, but I really want to leave my current job.

To be honest, I've been meaning to leave for almost exactly a year now. I know I'm incredibly indecisive and can't put thoughts into actions. But I finally managed to apply for a job and go to an interview last week. It went really well - it ended with the interviewer telling me I'm welcome to come in for the second interview should I want to.

He said this because he knows I'll be taking a 40% pay cut. He was very direct in the salary they were offering and made it clear there was no room for negotiation.

So now I'm torn between a well paid job that I hate, and a poorly paid job that I could like. There is considerable risk in going for the new job, regardless of the money. It will probably involve longer hours (around 12 hour days; I know someone who works there) which is part of the reason I want to leave my current job. I want to get my life back and have hobbies again.

If I did take the job, I could probably change companies and get close to what I'm earning now after a year.

The money would be less of a factor if I were single. My girlfriend is also quite well paid and she's fond of our current lifestyle and disposable income. Cutting out our expensive weekend dinners (or making her pay for them!) would feel terrible for me. I know she would say she doesn't care about those kinds of things, but I know it makes her happy.

The third option is to keep looking. I'd be happy to take up to a 30% pay cut if the job was right. Ideally I would have regular hours and receive sufficient training, as opposed to the "sink or swim" attitude. I just don't know if this job exists.
posted by fry to Work & Money (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So if I'm reading this right, you hate your current job because of the hours, and you're considering taking a job that involves even longer hours, AND a 40% pay cut? That's insane. You also haven't given any other upside to this new job- is the new company better? Is the new industry one that you've just been dying to break into?

The fact that you didn't seem to list any positives pretty much answers the question from this outsider's point of view, though.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 6:24 PM on February 12, 2012 [15 favorites]

This was your first application and interview in the field you want to transition to, right? I think you need to interview at a few other places. Are you learning all new skills or do some of your skills transfer to the new field? Is the lower pay typical in the new industry or does this one company treat it's employee's poorly? Can you ask for an hourly position instead of salary so you can get overtime? I think you should keep looking and choose a job you want to do instead of choosing a job as an escape from what you currently do.
posted by saucysault at 6:35 PM on February 12, 2012

I totally identify with that fight-or-flight instinct, but this sounds like out of the frying pan, into the fire. Use the fact that you actually have a job as a tool to score one that is actually worth switching to.
posted by threeants at 6:35 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you want to change jobs in part because of your hours, but also because you want to change industries. And it sounds like the first or one of the first applications you sent in got you an interview and a second interview. That's great! It's definitely not the only interview you are going to get, so you should hold out for a job that either has the same hours and same pay or less hours and less pay. (12 hour days PLUS a 40% pay cut? For something you could like?) Keep trying.
posted by jeather at 6:47 PM on February 12, 2012

Not too long ago I took a job that was a 30+% cut in total compensation. It was a more fulfilling job that I lasted less than a year in before returning to a former employer. Either way I was very well paid but the difference in terms of after-tax cash-in-vs-cash-out was something that I was reminded of twice a month.

Big big questions to ask yourself:

1. are you the main source of income for your family?

2. are you independently wealthy?

3. are you at the end of your current career or the beginning?

4. would you rather sock away another few years of good money and then pursue this?

Btw, you are very, very, very unlikely to get a 66% raise (getting you back up to 100%) after one year.
posted by rr at 6:54 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't sound like you really want this new job. You certainly haven't written anything about why it's great for you, only about how it's not your old job. So it's more like you're running away from a bad situation, rather than toward a good one.

Unless there's something really wrong (e.g. abusive boss, negative influence on your home life, crushing of your soul), stay put and keep applying. The right opportunity will come along!
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:27 PM on February 12, 2012


"There is considerable risk in going for the new job, regardless of the money. It will probably involve longer hours (around 12 hour days; I know someone who works there) which is part of the reason I want to leave my current job. I want to get my life back and have hobbies again."

This makes no sense. Please clarify.
posted by jbenben at 7:33 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

What additional value would you get out of your new job that you don't currently get from the current one? Is that value worth the paycut and additional hours?
posted by Pants! at 7:47 PM on February 12, 2012

Am I missing something? You're still in the interview process - you don't even know if you have the job you aren't sure you want to take? Further, what could you potentially like about this job that would make taking this position more palatable?

It sounds, though, like you should just keep looking; not knowing your industry, it's impossible to really say whether the type of job you seek is out there or available to you, but as this doesn't sound remarkably close I'd keep looking.
posted by sm1tten at 7:50 PM on February 12, 2012

Either I just massively misread, or you just answered your own AskMe by telling us that you're thinking about a job that will make your current problem WORSE, and pay you less at the same time, that you're not even sure you're interested in. As this is the career equivalent of "Should I drink this milk that's past its expiration date?" Why risk it?
posted by StrikeTheViol at 7:56 PM on February 12, 2012

*As written
posted by StrikeTheViol at 7:58 PM on February 12, 2012

OK, what I'm hearing from you is desperation -- you so want out of the current job you'd consider working longer hours for far less pay.

There is one and only one reason to take a job working longer hours for far less pay: The new job fits your lifelong passion. You're quitting a mid-level manager position to become a teacher, for example.

I had a friend who did just that, in fact. Quit as an accountant to teach elementary school and took a brutal pay cut in the process (exacerbated by the cost of going back for a teaching certificate). But he's happy, he loves the kids, and he's found his passion.

I don't hear that out of you. I hear this is something you might like more. And that's not a reason to take a huge pay cut.

Throw it back. You're better than this.
posted by dw at 8:04 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was in this situation, and decided not to do it. It is not just the financial impact of the huge pay cut that you have to think about. You're going to get paid less than you're worth, and that's something that's bad for your career and bad for your long-term earning potential.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 8:10 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Please don't assume that after a year you will be able to get a better paying job in your new industry. There are millions of very qualified people who are out of work, and whether or not you think you would be able to get a better job, make this decision based on the idea that your salary will not go up for quite some time.

Also, don't do it. If you want your life back, and this new job will take up all of your time, than you shouldn't do it unless you absolutely know you will love the new job more than anything else in the world. That doesn't seem to be the case.
posted by markblasco at 8:45 PM on February 12, 2012

Thank you all for your responses. It has definitely cleared up my thinking. I'm still amazed that intelligent discussion does exist online.

I'll admit that I'm only considering this job because I'm desperate and tryin to escape. It's in an industry closely related to my current job, and I'm almost certain I will enjoy it more.

I've been half-heartedly applying for new jobs for about a year. I've made two unsuccessful applications so far, so it's great to have a really positive interview and feel like I'm wanted. I know three applications isn't a lot (especially in a year) but I can't get over my fear of failure.

I didn't mean to sound like I've already been offered the job - It was entirely hypothetical in my head.

I have no family to support, I've worked in my current job for two years since graduating, and I have minimal savings. I feel like if I don't change industries now, I never will. I definitely don't want to stay at my current job for another year.

Taking onboard all the advice here, I've decided to keep looking. I know I'll have to take a pay cut to change industries, but the job and company have to be right.
posted by fry at 2:27 AM on February 13, 2012

How much is 40%? Lets say it's $4,000. Would you pay $4,000 er year for the extra benefits this job will bring you?

This is a bit of an odd way to look at it, but it's helped me decide in the past. For example, I'm unwell and deciding whether to go into work. I ask myself if the money I'd get that day is worth the hassle of being unwell and doing my job. It helps me decide sometimes.
posted by Solomon at 2:38 AM on February 13, 2012

On top of all the other sensible things that people have already said, I would add only this...

I know she would say she doesn't care about those kinds of things, but I know it makes her happy.

Let other people be the judge of what's important to them. For example, I might enjoy going out for a nice meal every weekend, and nice meals certainly make me happy. And yet if it was a choice between my partner being miserable in their high paid job, and us not having so many fancy dinners, well that's a no brainer. Partner's happiness wins every time. More than that, I'd get a warm glow from helping them make that change that would outweigh any number of fine dining experiences.

However if my partner said what you've said here, I'd be concerned that they're probably not actually going to be any happier in this new job than the old one.
posted by philipy at 6:15 AM on February 13, 2012

The only way the second work option would be worth the 40% pay cut is if the workplace were right next door to you. You don't mention the commute involved, either in your current job, or the hypothetical new one.

Please keep looking. And look closer to where you live, if possible.
posted by BostonTerrier at 6:36 AM on February 13, 2012

I did this about ten years ago when changing industries and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I work in an industry where I'll never be rich, but I am incredibly happy. Totally worth it. But, I'm not seeing that here. It seems like you are lukewarm about the new option. If that's the case, maybe it's not the best decision to increase your hours and decrease your pay for something that you don't flat-out love.

Unless of course your current job is making you actively depressed/anxious which I kind of get a hint of from the phrase "desperate and trying to escape". Your well being always wins out over disposable income. Or it should anyway. Life is too short to spend it miserable. You can make dinner at home with your girlfriend and still be happy.
posted by troublewithwolves at 10:09 AM on February 13, 2012

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