A few weeks ago we started a How to Say It challenge in the newsletter, and submissions have been voluminous! Here’s a good one:

I think your tree analogy in Taking a Salary Cut to Change Careers is an excellent way to describe the potential pitfalls associated with climbing the wrong branch, and the rewards associated with backtracking and choosing a more fruitful branch.

However, how do you convey to a potential employer that you are willing to take a salary cut (perhaps a substantial one) without actually saying those words and cheapening your overall worth?  The company I am interested in working for (in a different industry) has a lower pay scale than my current employer, but based on my research, has greater potential for advancement and rewards.

Isn’t it frustrating when you want to say something that’s so clear, so honest — but you’re afraid it will be misunderstood? I find that the solution is often just as simple as your intent. Engage the other person in a discussion and ask for their candid advice:

Use the tree analogy that makes so much sense to you. Describe to the manager what you read in Taking a Salary Cut to Change Careers: “I think I see the wisdom in that article. This is the industry I want to work in. While I’d like to keep my current salary, I’d like your candid opinion about this idea of moving down one branch to go back up a stronger branch. What do you think about the cost of making the transition? …Every step along my career is an investment, and if I can see profit at the end of the tunnel, I’m willing to go in… So please tell me what you think. If I’m motivated to make change into this industry, how do you think that would affect my earnings now and in the long term?”

That’s how I would say it. Other suggestions?

  1. I’ve sometimes told people about the advice the late Richard Carlson gave in one of his _Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff_ books. It applies especially in these tough times.

    He said in order to really feel well financially, don’t save money that’ll last you for 6 months if you lose your job. Save at least enough to last you 2 years, if not longer.

    If a client or employer has something that’s attractive outside my usual range, I tell them the Carlson advice. Then depending how blunt I want to say it, I tell them I’m not doing the job because I need the money for survival. I’m not approaching them out of need, I’m approaching them out of interest.

    Afterwards, whether they see that as an advantage or not is up to them.

  2. Hold on as long as you can because IT candidates cannot afford to make this mistake.

    [Some of this I had just posted on another website …] Recruiters all over the country at citing “hard economic times” as the reason for quoting lower rates or salaries, yet …if you speak to one of their competitors, you might find that the agency or headhunter firm is taking a larger cut.

    An example, I have an offer for Arkansas on C2C for $100/hr …descent rate, right? Then, a recruiter from New York City cals and offers me $55-60/hr on C2C. How can that be a realistic rate?

    Along with this, there have been many articles, etc. “framing” jobseekers in this market as “undesirables” or outcasts …completely ignoring the fact that corporate budgets have been cut-back on contracts, hence releasing (not “firing” which suggests that the person was an FTE or did not satisfy job requirements), their contractors to reduce costs.

    In Minnesota, for instance, the board of unemployment has taken the position that a contractor should be hired or extended by a firm (unless something is wrong with the person’s work). If the contractor does not find another job with the same agency or firm, Minnesota Unemployment indicates that the contractor “Quit” the position or company. Contractors are required to receive a form from the paying company to indicate that no further work was available. [A statement of no expectation of follow-on work is written into most W-2, 1099, and C2C contracts as a disclaimer.]

    This position is contrary to the reality of contract or consulting work, especially if the contractor has taken steps to create and LLC or S-Corp and in being paid as a business.

    Likewise, if a backward move is taken …after this position is over (which would be certain to re-acquire competitive salary and address expenses and rent/mortgages which were based on higher pay), the recruiters and agencies then justify lower rates and salary offers based on the previous pay, regardless of economic circumstances.

    The cycle is vicious and predictable …jobseekers have to use defensive tactics because employers (like those who require privacy data through agencies before submission), then use inability to find candidates at below market rates as justification for hiring H1-B, etc. [Again, for the record, I have nothing against H1-B — if the skills are scarce in the U.S., not becuase the company prefers to offer under market rates.]

    This, says nothing of the expenses that candidates are being asked to take on, face-to-face interview(s), no benefits, business insurance — often quoted higher than needed to force the candidate from seeking C2C rates.