Look Beyond the Paycheck

money-with-wingsRecently several of my clients have asked for help in evaluating their job offers.  Those who graduated two weeks ago tend to be happy just to receive an offer that they do not spend much time in evaluating the details.  Still, there are those who receive multiple offers and those experienced professionals who are considering leaving their current role for another opportunity – and these situations are where “the Devil is in the details” of the job offer.

Let me begin by stating when you evaluate a job offer, the first consideration should always be “Will I like this role and the people I will work with?”.  If you are not happy in the role or do not like the people you work with, no amount of money is going to make this situation a positive one.  Ask anyone who has taken a role strictly because it was a pay raise and not because they enjoyed the work/environment…see if you find any trends in their stories.

As my clients share the details of their offers, the first piece of information they share is the salary number.  I am not going to pretend this piece of information does not matter – it does.  If you know you have $X of commitments (car/mortgage or rent/student loans/etc.) you can budget what a reasonable, livable salary number is for you.  This should be your threshold for your salary consideration.  If there is a wide disparity among salaries of two comparable offers (ex: 10% or more), the difference in monies should be given serious consideration (but not be the only factor) in  your decision.  Still, I usually find my clients are evaluating two offers that are within $5000 of each other.  Five thousand dollars sounds substantial and it is substantial. Is five thousand dollars a deal breaker between offers, no.  Remember that after taxes, $5000 comes to about $70 per weekly paycheck, and this extra money can disappear quickly.

Things to consider beyond the salary number:

1) Commute – length, time, tolls, gas, parking

A client I have lives in Connecticut.  He has a long work day (investment banker) and chose to live within 10 minutes of his office in Stamford.  Due to a change in structure, he was asked to commute to the NYC office.  The change in offices would increase his commute from 10 minutes to 75; he would incur tolls getting to and from work, his gasoline bill would increase significantly and he would need to pay for a parking space at his firms’ office garage.  While his firm was willing to increase his salary, he did not feel like it compensated for the additional expenses and time (2+ more hours per day) he would have to take on.  The increase in salary disappeared when he looked into the details.

2) Insurance/Healthcare costs – Employee contribution amounts can play havoc

When evaluating an offer, a client noticed she would be paying an extra $135 a month for comparable family health insurance with her new employer.  Over a year, that works out to $1620 extra out of her pay check.  While she can cover the additional expense because of a $5000 increase in her salary, it is good for her to know that she will not see as substantial a bump in her paycheck as she had hoped.

3) Vacation/Benefits – Watch the paid holidays, sick vs PTO

While vacation days will not affect your paycheck, it does have an effect on your work/life balance.  Be sure you know what is being offered.  Some employers offer vacation and sick days whereas others offer Paid-Time-Off (PTO) where everything is included.  Depending upon your situation (ex: may miss days caring for an ill family member) and your health, this could greatly affect your work situation.  Some employers will give off certain days (ex: Friday after Thanksgiving) or will close the office early on summer Friday’s – and this does not count against your PTO – these extra bonus times can save vacation days for other needs.  Another piece to consider, do any unused vacation days “roll over” into the next year or do you have to use them or lose them by year’s end?

Another piece is the benefits or perks that are offered.  Some employers provide free lunch, reduced gym memberships, flex-time, tuition reimbursement, etc.  These benefits do not add to your paycheck but can lessen your expenses to help a lower paycheck go further each month.  Be careful, if you are not going to use these benefits, they do not help close the salary gap – be honest about the likelihood of your using these benefits.

4) Growth/Career Potential – Are you moving in the right direction?

A fat paycheck is nice, we all want one, but if you know the job offer will move you further away from your goals, the job is a poor fit.  Look beyond the immediate and see where this opportunity is leading you.  Will it help you achieve the goals that you have set for yourself?

Evaluating a job offer is a personal process, the only person who can determine if an offer is a good one for you is you.  Just be sure to look beyond the salary number to ensure you are making a wise career move in all aspects and not just your bank account.


About Kevin Monahan

I have 10+ years experience in coaching clients in their career management and career change efforts. Personal career consulting services combined with employer outreach to help find opportunities for both constituents.
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