What is a Pay Cut Worth?

In the last few weeks, several people have reached out for career coaching with a similar theme. They want to change careers, but they don’t want to take a pay cut. It got me thinking about my own situation, in which this year, for the first time in over 15 years, I’ll be taking a pay cut. So I pose the question to all you job clarity seekers, “What is a pay cut worth to you?”

According to the February 2019 statistic from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person will hold about 12 jobs in their lifetime. Now mind you, jobs are different than careers. In my 15 years in the Human Resources field, I had eight different positions with unique job duties and separate position titles. That said, I’m on my third career. First, I was a Geologist, second an HR professional and currently, a coach.

Those who have been seeking career coaching are looking for support in thinking through significant career changes. One individual I spoke with wanted to change from the music industry to advertizing & marketing. Another wanted to get out of the Finance industry and try his hand at management consulting. These career pivots are entirely possible. People make them all the time. The more open you are to consider a pay cut, the faster you may arrive at your desired destination. Why? Two reasons. 1. There’s more opportunity at junior levels in an organization. 2. Companies are more likely to take a risk on a candidate with an unconventional employment background at say, $65,000 than at $165,000.

How much is a pay cut worth to you? Ask yourself these questions?

  1. What am I willing to keep tolerating in a career field I don’t love at the salary I currently make?
  2. What am I no longer willing to tolerate at the salary I currently make?
  3. How might making less benefit me?
  4. How might making less hurt me?
  5. What stories am I telling myself about taking what appears to be “a step back?”

From my own experience, making less money has exponentially decreased my stress levels, increased my work-life-balance, and generally created a more positive sense of well-being. Can I purchase as indiscriminately as I did before or take as fancy of a vacation? No. The benefits of making less this year, however, have far outweighed the cons. If you know your quality of life would improve, how much income would you be willing to give up? Remember, we spend the majority of our waking hours working. Make sure it’s doing something you love.