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High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

(OP)
I've worked for the same company for 4+ years since graduating with my BSME. Through various internal shifts I ended up getting some significant raises very early in my career and now make 90k in a lower cost of living area. Seems like a good problem to have I realize, but I'm not terribly satisfied in my job and have been looking around. I recently interviewed for a really interesting sounding position and it was going well until the interviewer kind of deflated upon hearing my current salary. This isn't the only time this has happened either. I feel like I'm marketable enough, but people get turned off by a 27 year old with not a lot of experience and a way above market salary. How can I approach convincing interviewers that I understand my salary is inflated without inadvertently selling myself short?

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

Don't tell them your salary.

I used to count sand. Now I don't count at all.

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

I usually say this is my currently salary, but if you are interested, I am willing to listen to offers.

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

The first question is, are you willing to accept a lower salary than you are currently making?

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

(OP)
Well I'm certainly not excited about a cut. I'm also realistic enough to realize that what I make now is, for whatever reason, well above market for my experience. So yes, I'm willing to take a cut. I want to figure out how to not scare off employers and how to effectively minimize the cut I'll have to take. For this last interview I tried to emphasize that job satisfaction was worth something to me. They said they'd talk about what they could potentially offer and get back to me.

I think even if you say you're willing to take a cut employers assume you're going to be at least somewhat disgruntled about it and it's a mark against you in the hiring process.

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

I'm personally of the opinion that honesty is the best policy. Informing them that you're aware your current salary is higher than market average for someone of your age and experience, and also informing them that a lower wage for improved job satisfaction is acceptable to you, would likely go a long way in actually receiving offers. Be prepared to say no to significantly low-balled offers, have some evidence at hand for the average wage for someone in your position and the standard deviation from that wage. Our professional association publishes the salary survey yearly, however it is only as accurate as the people responding.

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

Have you done some market research to see what the earning curve is for the positions you have applied for? It wouldn't hurt to take a look and see where you would be willing to land on the curve. Especially if these new positions are in different industries than what you are currently in.

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

Salaries tend to be discipline and locale constrained. I know of several 25 yr olds that are making $150k+, but in computer science, in Silicon Valley.

However, rather than apologizing for a strong achievement, demonstrate and explain why you are worth that much to your current employer, and why you might be worth that much to a new employer. Are you a Growth Mindset type of person? What accomplishments can you detail that justifies your worth to your present company?

In fact, those details ought to be in your resume; if you can assign quantitative benefits achieved for your company, so much the better.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

Probably, don't tell them.

If you go in too low, it will never be fixed. Cheap companies are cheap right up until they can't be.

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

Take a look at the various society salary surveys to see where you rate. Not sure your industry, but IMHO if you were a decent engineer in automotive $90k is about right for someone with four years experience. I know plenty at your age earning that base with another $10-20k annual bonus.

Since you mentioned being in a low cost of living area, are you rural enough that your previous employer may have been a bit of a unicorn regarding their offered salaries? There's many rural areas in the US where I'd love to live but unless I found a unicorn (which sucks for job security) I'd be taking a 20-30% salary cut.

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

And there are many rural areas that realize to get qualified talent to such remote places, they need to pay a premium.

Research is the only way to tell which side of the fence you are on.

--Scott
www.aerornd.com

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

(OP)
The large company I work for is quite bureaucratic and HR takes a big role in hiring and promotion decisions. I took a promotion early on that resulted in a 15% raise. This was not negotiated by me, just churned through the HR system and they spit that number out surprising my manager and I a lot. I ended up doing off hours work which gave me a 10% differential on top of that. Later on I took a job with a different business within the company and just used previous salary plus differential as a negotiating starting point and ended up at $90k. My newest role is actually an almost entirely work from home job. I originally worked in a moderate cost of living large metro area. Since I can now work anywhere I ended up moving to a medium sized economically stagnant city where my significant other had a good job opportunity and that's the area I'm looking in now.

I figure I don't have much to lose on the recent interview I mentioned so I think I'm going to write the interviewer an email emphasizing that I understand my current salary is pretty high for what I'm doing.

The main reason I'm looking is job satisfaction and personal development concerns. While my company compensates me generously, I get very little in the way of true development opportunities (not the same thing as shuffling job title around) and have had essentially no engineering mentoring. Much of my time is spent dealing with bureaucracy or going to meetings and I feel like there is no path for me to develop into a better engineer.

Thanks for all the responses so far.

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

Consider the scenario where - after playing smart - you get hired and succeed to keep your "high" wages in a work environment where people are typically payed way lower than you (say average 70K vs. you 90K). To my opinion - be very careful with that.

At best, people will rationalize and understand that the level of salary you earn is something you have built BEFORE and "brought" with you. In this case fine but to me this rationalization is utopia.

In a culture of scarcity with severity "low to moderate", you could end up in a situation where people will perceive you as if you are ANYWAY privileged. This could become poisonous to your work and even introduce bias in your relationship that would be hard to overcome (this may include your co-workers / peers and even whom you report to..). If that is the case, people could behave in nasty ways...e.g. they could ask you to get up to speed in less than 2 weeks of time. They could put too high expectations on you and/or no good work will be good enough, also next time they downsize their office... remember you are not the cheapest employee (relatively speaking).
Well it may sound exaggerating...but there is even worse: it could leave you (and rightly so) with a devastating feeling of having been treated in a unfair manner.

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

Quote:

90k seems a touch high for automotive at 27, that's 4-5 years of 15-11% raises from a typical starting salary at graduation

IME you cant hire a decent BSME grad today for <$70-75k, so $90k is only accounting for a pretty standard annual increase (~3.5-5%) and not an annual bonus. Not knocking the OP but it sounds pretty typical to me, definitely not a fast-riser so I wouldn't settle for any less than that even in a cheap cost of living area.

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

Just explain you want to work THERE because you think it would be interesting, and are willing to take a pay cut to do it. Most people are just looking for a pay check anywhere they can find it, so they pretend to be interested in the work. Do your research first, come prepared, be totally open and honest but make sure you explain it well.

Or keep cashing in and find an engineering related hobby for personal development. What do the locals get up to in their spare time?

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

2
Heck, cash in and find a NON-engineering related hobby for personal development. You're making money which, if rigorously saved over the next 5 to 10 years can put you in a position of financial independence. Frankly, that is my goal, not some other career related thing. After about 10 years in the biz, I have realized that aside from being a partner or owning my own company, there is not much about an engineering career that really sets me on fire. There is not much about any job working for someone else that does that for me. You're either at one place working for someone, or you're at another place working for someone. The work all becomes rote after a while. It's more important who you're stuck with all day and how much you get paid, and how soon you can get out of the rat race.

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

No idea why they need to know your current salary. Tell them what you believe you're worth (not what you currently make, which in your case may be lower than your current) for the current market and go from there. Removes all issues with your current salary scaring them off, and sets things up to re-boot your salary climb along a more appropriate vector.

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

My son did approximately what you're talking about, fiercely defended his reasoning, actions, and enjoys what he is now doing, living a simple life. He's not particularly happy about his wife working as many hours as she does now, but has enough of a stash to buy another decent used car if need be. They've been smart with their expenses and savings, and plan on being lifelong renters, having no kids, never retiring, and going to another country if some major medical crisis arrises.

Get my drift? Go for the lower wage satisfaction only when and if you are prepared for ALL the rest that a lower income will bring you.

.

(Me,,,wrong? ...aw, just fine-tuning my sarcasm!)

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

(OP)
Thanks for all the insight that's been posted here.

My takeaway from all this is that what I'm making might not be as disproportionate as I think.

As for my most recent interview that prompted this thread we went back and forth after I explained I was willing to lower my salary. However, they will max out at 65k for the role with some nebulous bonus potential which is in my opinion pretty low, even for the local market. I'm not really sure how they plan to find anyone decent at that rate considering its a field role requiring lots of travel and responsibility.

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

IRstuff,
Space exploration is ongoing and will soon tap into unlimited resources..

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

I keep hearing (reading) the desire for "job satisfaction".
Perhaps if you were to rephrase that from a desire for "job satisfaction" to a desire for "to challenge yourself" in a new position.

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

Either context can likely trigger caution alerts. "New challenges" potentially raises the issue that you are easily bored, as it says that you're done with the "old challenges," for whatever reason. In some sense "job satisfaction" is more nebulous and therefore somewhat less concerning, as it could mean that you had a nasty boss/coworkers, too long a commute, etc.

Since you are leaving your current job, you do need to convey at least the impression that two years from now, you aren't going to leaving the job you're interviewing for. While companies aren't necessarily loyal to their employees, they still seemingly demand loyalty in the other direction.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

So you're going to accept less money, to get more engineering experience, to be a better value to your employer, so you can make more money?

What's the job stability like in your current position? If it's good, I'd stay put, and find classes or courses to increase your engineering worth, unless you find a position where you know you'll be working on something personally satisfying to you. The job is a means to an end, not the end, generally.

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

What companies pay is all over the place, location and business are only part of it.
I have been on interviews and had CEOs of $1B companies tell me that they couldn't pay me what I was asking, and then gone to work for a small private company for more money than that.
Interviewing sucks, but you need to think of it as a job. Research and go in with a plan.
Keep a detailed list of everyone that you talk to by phone and in person. I wish that I had.
Over the years I interviewed with many companies that couldn't afford full time/full pay engineering help, but they would have made good consulting clients.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
P.E. Metallurgy, Plymouth Tube

RE: High Salary Early Career Job Search Woes

Uh, BTW, $90k isn't that much for engineering work. Invest all your extra money, you'll want it someday.

.

(Me,,,wrong? ...aw, just fine-tuning my sarcasm!)

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