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Accepting a job for less money: when is it worth it?

By Ana Isabel Alonsagay

When it comes to finding a job, what do Australians value above the rest? Surprisingly enough, the answer isn’t money.

In fact, according to recent statistics,  almost two out of three Australians place their personal happiness above a salary, with one in two valuing meaningful relationships in the workplace over a pay rise. This is furthered by a statement from Frank Ribuot (CEO of Randstad Australia, New Zealand, India, and Southeast Asia) in an article for Business Insider; where he explains that Australian workers are no longer solely focused on “salary or long-term job security”, but rather the “genuine” and “balanced” working experience a company can provide. 

Accepting jobs for a pay cut have become increasingly common among Australian workers, provided they cater to the now-evolved priorities of modern-day workers

Before we dive into the reasons for accepting jobs with less pay, let’s explore a common question among beginner job seekers. 

How do you respond to a low salary offer?

woman wearing glasses smiling looking at laptop screen

Those just starting out in their industry are likely to encounter a job offer with less-than-impressive pay. However, it helps to have your facts about you – research is a crucial factor at this stage, and doing a bit of digging on sites such as Payscale or Glassdoor can help you determine the average salary ranges for the role and field you’re pursuing. Having this information will verify if you’ve truly received a lowball offer or one simply of industry standards (in rare cases, it may even be generous.)

It also helps to inquire on their decision-making process – their final number may be connected to your previous education or experience, or could simply be restricted by your job title.

If their offer truly isn’t up to standard, then it’s time to negotiate. It’s best to be honest about the minimum you require, and to highlight any evidence to support your counteroffer. This could include any past work accomplishments; degrees and certifications; or specific skills to bolster you in your new role. Alternatively, you may be able to compromise by requesting for more benefits instead, such as extra vacation time, training opportunities, or flexible hours.   

On top of it all, keep a level head. Responding defensively or appearing insulted can potentially damage this new relationship, dissolving any bargaining power you have. 

3 reasons to take a lower paying job

  1. It provides a better lifestyle.
  2. There are other financial benefits.
  3. It offers valuable career opportunity. 

1. It provides a better lifestyle.

Work-life balance has become an increasingly prevalent priority among Australians, with 56% citing it as the best “work perk”, according to a study by Business Insider. In a similar survey by the annual Hays Salary Guide, this number is bumped up to a whopping 73%. 

Needless to say, workers are placing higher value on work schedules that allow them to balance other personal commitments; whether it’s parental duties, side projects, or educational pursuits. Who can blame them; the opportunity to step out of work and indulge in self-care, family commitments, and other hobbies has been proven to prevent burnout or excess stress at the workplace. This helps keep you in your best mental and physical state. 

A Forbes article on pay cuts discusses a case study on a freelance software developer named Ivan Karp. They describe how he used to work at a demanding consulting firm, pressured to work long hours under a demanding boss in a detached office culture. He eventually made the leap to freelance, and while the obvious trade-off was significantly less pay – he had a far less stressful schedule, the ability to pursue side passions, and a chance for more quality time with loved ones. 

A new job that’s less demanding, offers more vacation time and allows for a flexible schedule can thus very well make up for that salary cut. 

2. There are other financial benefits.

On top of a potentially more flexible lifestyle, your job offer may also include other alternative monetary benefits.

If the workplace is geographically closer, for example, you’ll save a significant bulk of your monthly travel expenses. Perhaps the office culture is a more casual one, staving off the need to invest in expensive office attire. If they offer work-from-home privileges, then all the better! 

Other financial benefits could include bonuses, health care coverage, and educational stipends. In a blog for Glassdoor, Andrew Pentis writes how his new job – although providing him with lesser pay – covered his entire health care plan, allowing him to save on $1,020 per year. He was also able to gain annual raises for work experience, and any educational or living expenses related to his role were paid for. 

Before turning on the offer, it helps to look through your entire benefits package; there may be a handful of generous perks your pay cut can compensate for.

3. It offers valuable career opportunity.

Lastly, if a job offer provides an overall better opportunity to advance your career goals, then it may be worth taking despite the low pay.

This is especially important to remember when stepping into a field for the first time; you can’t expect to earn “top dollar” as a fresh face in the industry with little to no experience. If accepting a low-paying job means getting your foot in the door, paving the way for further, better opportunities in the field – then it may be smart to take it. 

This opportunity for greater career growth can also benefit those who’ve capped their salary potential at their current job. While your new role may offer lower pay, it might provide more earning potential over time, with opportunities to earn promotions and advance the ladder quicker. 

Additionally, take training benefits into consideration. Your new employer might offer to pay for extra classes or courses that can help you build on your current skillset, helping you excel and progress at their company. This also provides you with opportunity to explore other areas of work and discover any hidden passions or talents you’d want to pursue. 

Should I take a lower-paying job to be happier? 

guy with glasses grinning while in a handshake

As discussed, there are myriad of other factors that make up job satisfaction, other than the base salary it offers. 

A lower-paying job may not provide you with much monetary gain for now – but grabbing the opportunity could pave way for greater earnings in the long-term. You may have other benefits to make up for it too, including a healthier mental and physical lifestyle.  

If it means a happier working life and a potentially brighter career future, taking that pay cut may well be worth it. You wouldn’t be alone in that choice, either, as studies show most workers are willing to take a 32% salary cut for more “personally meaningful” work. 

As long as you’re well-prepared for the financial change (having adjusted your lifestyle and budget accordingly) – then why not take the plunge?

Does your job offer training perks?

As previously mentioned, funded courses and further training may be an alternative benefit to accepting a lower-paying job. Upskilled provides over 80 qualifications in a variety of industries (including community services, information technology, and business) to help you further your skillset. Enquire today to begin advancing your career. 
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