Sure, none of us would turn down a raise if we were offered one, but a job with a meager paycheck isn’t always a bad thing. Job-seekers — whether currently unemployed or working but looking for something new — tend to focus on what comes after the dollar figure, but HR experts say there are factors relating to your happiness and quality of life you need to keep in mind, too.
Working when you want to. The idea of flexibility means different things to different people. Some people thrive in jobs where they have the ability to, say, leave early to attend kids’ school functions, as long as their work gets done. As an example, CareerBliss points to research or teaching assistant positions, saying, “These individuals could pick and choose when they worked and the order in which they completed tasks.”
Not working when you’re “off the clock.” For other people, the reverse is true: They might not get paid a bundle, but when they walk out the door, they leave work at work and aren’t expected to field calls from clients or supervisors in their off-hours. “When I was an hourly worker, what was critical for me was being able to exit the job at 5 p.m. to get to the daycare by 6 p.m.,” says Margaret Spence, HR expert and president and CEO of Douglas Claims & Risk Consultants, Inc. “The ability to focus on your children while earning a paycheck is very important.”
Opportunity for advancement. For some workers, especially ones in entry-level positions, taking a lower-paying job might be worth the trade-off if it means being able to advance rapidly through the organization. In a Salary.com survey in 2013, 54% of respondents said they would accept a job with lower pay if it meant they were happier at work, says Salary.com general manager Abby Euler. “People decide to take a job with less pay because they trust the leadership in place [or] they have more growth potential where they are,” she says. “Feeling personally fulfilled is far more powerful than we think.”
Decision-making autonomy. CareerBliss found that people who get to make decisions that impact the company or customer experiences are fulfilled by this. This is the case even though these types of jobs, which can include front-line customer service positions, often don’t pay very much. In the case of store and office managers, the company says many enjoy their jobs because, “[They're] able to make decisions that impacted the overall product of either a retail store, product, office or process… Ownership over process and product was a key factor, despite a lower salary range.”
Positive interactions with colleagues and customers. Some people thrive on interaction and social stimulation, CareerBliss says. It finds that bank tellers, for instance, love their jobs even though they don’t get paid a lot, which the company chalks up to the social factor. “Often times when employees work in teams the bonds created within the team is stronger than the possibility of leaving the team to work with others,” Spence says. “One of the main reasons why employees turn down promotion or offers to be promoted is the fact that the new department they may be going to doesn’t have a cohesive team or work environment.”