Loving My Job vs. Making More Money: Round 2
Friday, October 19, 2012Tweet
Two years ago, I was faced with a real-life choice between work I enjoy and making more money.
I chose to stick with the work I enjoyed doing. Shortly thereafter, a new position was created for me so I could keep doing that work, plus get a more appropriate title and a significant raise.
Then two years later found me in a new city, searching for a new job.
A few weeks ago, I went to interview for an evaluator position with a small consulting firm in Whoville. I knew the least about this company than anywhere else I'd applied, but even from the little I knew I was incredibly excited and nervous about this interview. I made Mike practice with me for over an hour, which I taped, watched, and then re-recorded.
It was the best interview I'd ever had. Not simply because I felt confident about my answers, but because I felt so comfortable with this team. They clearly loved working together -- they teased each other, laughed a lot, made me laugh, and talked about their work with genuine enthusiasm. I asked my would-be supervisor about her management style, and it sounded so much like my amazing boss at my previous job that I could practically hear the "Hallelujah" chorus singing in my head.
When I got out to my car, I texted Mike: "I WANT THIS JOB SO MUCH."
At this point, the only thing I didn't know about the job was the salary. (*cue dramatic music*)
At the same time, I was under consideration for a 30 hr/wk position at a college that paid more than my previous job (which tells you how underpaid I was, which I knew already), as well as a half-time position with an hourly wage that also well exceeded my previous job.
Long story short, I got multiple offers at once. The place I most wanted to work was the last -- they sped things up as soon as I told them I'd gotten another offer. When the firm's president called to make me an offer, everything sounded fantastic.
Until he told me the salary.
It was quite a pay cut. And I told him so. We discussed it, and he finally raised it several thousand, but it was still below my last job, and well below what I was hoping to make at my next job. I told him I needed time to look over everything and I'd get back to him.
You guys, I really, really, really wanted this job. Just like when I met Mike and it was as if God designed a husband just for me, I felt like this job was made exactly for me. But was that enough reason to take a salary well below what I knew I was capable of making?
My Christian/career struggle came back full force. Should I simply be grateful and humbled to find a job so clearly made for me? Or did I have a responsibility to women everywhere to earn a salary on par with my abilities?
I'll tell you my thought process, and then what decision I made.
There's an interesting relationship between happiness and income. The majority of articles and studies I've read about this come to the same conclusion, which is that money does improve happiness up to a point. If you're having trouble meeting your basic needs, then having more money is likely to make you a lot happier. But past a certain level, it's hard to find any consistent differences in happiness between people bringing in different incomes or spending different amounts of money.
On the other hand, life goals are important to happiness. I have very few big life goals, but as you know, they're quite expensive. Could I be happy with a salary that put our child-adopting and land-owning and house-building dreams that much farther into the future?
One of the most helpful models I've found for thinking about money is Ramit Sethi's material about being rich. (See my recommendation of his book here.) He reminded me that money is simply a tool. Having money in and of itself doesn't create the kind of life you want. It's what you do with it. You have to decide what's most important to you, and then focus your money on those aspects of your life and stop spending it on things that aren't important to you.
So I went back and reflected on what's most important to me. I've written about the motivations that drive everything I do and what larger purpose I work toward. I thought about all the time I was bored at work and when I was overwhelmed by meaningless tasks.
And I realized that happiness, for me, is largely tied to how I spend my time.
There are 168 hours in a week. When you take out the time sleeping, eating, commuting, chores, and all the other necessary parts of life, I'm going to be spending at least as much (if not more) time at work as I am on any voluntary activities I might be doing outside of work. Work is a significant part of my life.
I don't want work to be the thing I do just to make the rest of my life what I want it to be. That's not a recipe for wholeness. If I'm spending 40+ hours a week doing meaningful, fulfilling, challenging work, then I'm already creating the life I want right there.
And then on top of that, I can focus on channeling the money I do make toward the things most important to me outside of work.
So yes, I accepted the job. And I couldn't be happier. (I start November 1st.)
There are other considerations related to income and career, of course. Many aspects of this job are new to me, and I'm planning to throw myself into learning as much as I possibly can as quickly as possible. In a few years I'll either have a higher salary here or be well-equipped to find another job I love. In the meantime, we should be able to continue living on Mike's salary, so most of mine can go into savings and investments until we're able to adopt and he leaves his job.
God has provided well for us thus far, so I have faith that everything will work out just as it's supposed to.
What would you have done in my situation? ...Are you sure?