I’m sure some of you have been seriously considered for jobs that paid less than you were previously earning. As an experienced sailor would tell you: any port in a storm.
Unfortunately, there is always a bit of disbelief coming from across the table that ANYONE would work for less than they earned before and not bolt for the door once the economy picks up. My own experience has been that this is not what financial folks do. However, telling someone you will work for food, is probably taking their employment offer a little too far.
First, let’s do the math from your side. Every month you stay unemployed is 8% of the year. It doesn’t take long at these rates for you to come out on the losing end. And, that is assuming that you will ultimately get another job at your previous salary. Depending on what you do and how specialized you are, that may be a big assumption.
Let’s also take into account where you now are in your life and what the job has to offer. If you are now a lot older, say over 50, I would argue it is always better to be working. Staying out of work to save your pride just doesn’t make any sense. Perhaps you were earning the “big bucks” because your previous job was a little distasteful. It might have required considerable travel or a need to work with really disagreeable people.
Please understand that I would never advocate taking a lower paying job working for miserable people with a work content that you know you are going to hate. The presumption is that OTHER THAN THE SALARY, this is a great opportunity.
I have introduced this discussion from your point of view first because I have found that financial people can’t sell anything they don’t believe in. If your true feelings are that you will enjoy this “work opportunity,” all you need are the tools to handle their legitimate customer objections.
The problem you face in selling yourself into a position that pays less than you previously earned can present itself in two ways. First is where they just don’t consider you because of your prior compensation and never ask, and the second is where they “ambush” you with the question and phrase it in a way that makes you uncomfortable.
As they say, inquiring minds want to know, and YOU should know the situation and understand that your “customer” is just dying to ask you the question, but may not feel comfortable bringing it up. The answer is for you to bring it up. If you bring it up, you can control the conversation. If you prefer to whistle past the graveyard and hope they offer you more than the salary range they have mentioned several times, dream on, and potentially lose a viable job opportunity.
You can start out by saying: I am sure you know the salary range we discussed is less than I earned previously. (Pregnant pause). In a stress situation, people will start babbling. Let them babble so you can answer the question they really have.
And, what are your answers? The first is: location, location, location. You and your family have lived in the area for many years, have family and friends that you cherish and you are prepared to make what sacrifices you need to make to stay put. (It helps if this is true.) The second is that you have enjoyed meeting all the folks you are going to be working with on a daily basis and think the work will be very interesting. Being happy coming to work every day is very important to you, and more money doesn’t really make up for that.
The reality is that the “younger folks” are more likely to leave when the economy picks up. It is also possible that as the years go by, your compensation will increase to something comfortable, but that is really beside the point. As an individual who is being under paid, you are going to be one of their high value employees. THEY are getting a bargain, and they shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. (Humor can work here in small doses.)
This is where I would start you. Those among us who have more suggestions on how to handle this very difficult issue are invited to post their suggestions in the comments.
I will work for food is just sounds too desperate, even if it’s true.