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What justification do you need to take a pay cut?

What justification do you need to take a pay cut?

What justification do you need to take a pay cut?

Hi all, I've been thinking a lot about my career as an engineer. I've got a couple years under my belt but my new position is quite underwhelming. I'm happy with the salary but about nothing else. I know some might criticize me for complaining about a paycheck but there has to be more than that... I recently transferred to a new plant where I am the only engineer. I don't have a team or senior to learn from and the work is underwhelming. At this point, just mindlessly drafting. (Creating drawings for existing fixtures)

I recently applied to some new opportunities and am thinking about jumping ship. I have made it through a couple rounds, have my fingers crossed, but obviously there are no guarantees. The new prospect would have me take a pay cut but the team sounds large, the wealth of knowledge seems beneficial, and the work sounds fascinating. I'm still fairly green and I feel like I am stagnating in my current position and not learning as much as I should. The only problem is I got a relocation stipend I would have to payback if I leave before my contract ends. I am leaning towards just losing out on that because I am incredibly unhappy in my current position.

I was hoping to get insight from others who made decisions to jump ship or opinions on my situation. Maybe I'm being idiotic about this and should just suck it up until the end of contract.

RE: What justification do you need to take a pay cut?

I've been there. And I jumped. First job out of college was working for a building components manufacturer. They had engineers, but they were all manufacturing engineers. I had a civil degree and wanted to go into structural engineering, so they brought me on to help them get initial packages through permitting. By the 3rd month I had created a spreadsheet to do almost my entire job.

3 months later, I was bored (but had finished 3 masters level courses while my spreadsheet did my day job for me!) and interviewed with a structural design/consulting firm. I took a 20% pay cut to get in and have zero regrets.

RE: What justification do you need to take a pay cut?

From my chair, it would boil down to a couple simple questions:

If I'm unhappy now, do I see it getting any better in the near future, or long term?
Can bills / household budget be comfortably (or not-so comfortably) covered by what the new position would offer? Balance that against the level of unhappy to determine comfort level.
If I DON'T go now, and instead wait 4 years, is that 4 years of raises at the new job I am happy trading for being unhappy but on cruise control?

If I don't see current getting better, and I could afford to make the jump, I probably would... I've stayed at unhappy jobs before. Short term, it's tolerable. Life-long, no.

Good salary makes up for some, but only some. I'd rather be happy and driving a Buick, than hate my life and drive a Lambo.

Related to your contract, how much time is left? I'd try to balance that against the cost of leaving (or the cost of staying... depends on how unhappy it makes you, and what out-of-pocket would be....) Take the total and divide by months of contract... That's the monthly cost of happiness, for lack of a better way to say it.

If it was a job I didn't like, but there was a wealth of knowledge and experience to learn from, that might tip the scales but sounds like that's not your situation.

As I've gotten older, happy gets heavier on those scales... Tips it more than it used to when I was a greenhorn.

Your mileage may vary.

RE: What justification do you need to take a pay cut?

About 30 years back, the economy slowed down and work was scarce. I approached the senior engineers in the company and we got together and approached management with the proposal to take a pay cut of 10% or 15% if that would help weather the slowdown... The offer was declined... I was laid off a couple of months later. With the exception of one firm, I've always been lucky to work with great consultants... and have never voluntarily left to find a 'better' position.

One of my 'problems' is that I'm not financially motivated. I do not continually seek a better place of employment. I have not had a raise in over 3 years. My current employer pays me enough and the work is really interesting. I have a low threshold for boredom.

So strange to see the singularity approaching while the entire planet is rapidly turning into a hellscape. -John Coates


RE: What justification do you need to take a pay cut?

"..I am incredibly unhappy in my current position."

That's not sustainable in any shape or form.

I always tell people the first two years you can move a long way but if you need to start again then you will take a pay cut.

But stagnation at what? 25? is no good. 50 maybe. I left a very lucrative post in my late 20's because I could see the position and the project going no where and I wasn't learning anything but could have easily stayed and taken the money. Definetly a good move IMO.

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: What justification do you need to take a pay cut?

Life is too short to be unhappy.

Good Luck,

RE: What justification do you need to take a pay cut?

Yep, agree 100% with latexman, and others above.

Assuming you can afford the pay cut (and just cut expenses, particularly debts), and the relocation reimbursement isn’t crazy, and assuming the new job has reasonable potential for pay increases, then go for it.

RE: What justification do you need to take a pay cut?

For me the real kicker is if they are aware of how you feel about the current role and are basically indifferent to changing anything, then that's basically a means of making up your mind for you if you're on the fence. The grass is greener elsewhere as they say....

It's perhaps hard at the beginning of your career to drive change for your personal circumstances. But once you're in a position where it all starts to revolve around you, a good employer would be stupid not to come to the party to improve things.

Speak up and if you don't hear what you like just take a leap.


RE: What justification do you need to take a pay cut?

How does your income history stack up against the applicable (ASME/other) salary surveys? Consistently in the top 30%? mostly in the bottom 50%? Income history can be a big factor in both getting hired and negotiating salary. If you have a history of being paid less than your peers then managers will often assume you're a lousy engineer, not want to hire, and/or pay you less. JMO but if you're in the bottom 70% and <15 years into your career I wouldnt accept any pay cut, I'd shop around for large pay increases to ensure the rest of your career is successful.

If you're in the top 30% I would only accept a pay cut in a few circumstances. If family matters were involved I would consider taking a significant pay cut for a few years, you'd still have an otherwise successful history and can explain away the cut. I would also consider accepting a small pay cut if the new employer is likely to lead to a much larger paycheck within a year or two. Otherwise no, there are many companies hiring engineers and you only need one job.

RE: What justification do you need to take a pay cut?

20 years into my career, I took a 15% pay cut to work with people that I liked; I retired with a salary that was 2.5x my salary before the pay cut, so anything is possible.

Working solely because of a salary is a soul-sucking existence; if you have no interest in the work, how can you possibly excel and if you can't excel, then you'll likely be stuck at the salary and you're going to be useless to any future employer

TTFN (ta ta for now)
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RE: What justification do you need to take a pay cut?

Quote (Working solely because of a salary is a soul-sucking existence;)

bang on, IRS...

So strange to see the singularity approaching while the entire planet is rapidly turning into a hellscape. -John Coates


RE: What justification do you need to take a pay cut?

5 years back i was laid off and i thought that i would get a job fast and take it from there. I accepted a serious pay cut (15%) and also switched to a new business although still working as an engineer at the same level of responsibility. Turns out that i like my work place, tasks and colleagues a lot better where i am now. I have not recovered my salary cut completely but i don't have any plans to change position. I live in a high tax area so the cut does not hurt so much winky smile

--- Best regards, Morten Andersen

RE: What justification do you need to take a pay cut?


Working solely because of a salary is a soul-sucking existence

Failing to meet financial/life goals bc you're underpaid also sucks. IME the best pay generally comes with the most challenging/interesting projects, which are my two main motivations as an engineer. Culture is subjective. I emjoy direct communication and accountability, and find lazy management that enables endless excuses extremely frustrating, esp when low profits yield little/no raises and bonuses. Conversely I've worked with a few that decried direct communication and accountability as "toxic" culture, esp when it meant working past 1630.

I took a 30% pay cut for a year to move back near family in a rural area. The company turned out to be poorly-managed and failing financially, the engineering dept was poorly-educated/inexperienced, the local economy was poor, and we didnt see family much more than we did living 1k miles away...so leaving after a year was easy. I love that area, became close friends with quite a few coworkers, and renewed many old friendships but I didnt become an engineer to struggle financially or even "get by" as many former colleagues/classmates do. I became an engineer to do fun projects and become wealthy. Engineering incomes vary widely across the US so IMHO its important to break the cultural taboo, discuss income, and encourage younger folks to make the best decision for them. Had I stayed near "home" as former colleagues/classmates did, my income would be less than half what it is today.

RE: What justification do you need to take a pay cut?

Thank you everybody, I've read all the replies and have thought about them quite a bit in the past week. I appreciate it very much. Everything has lined up and I am taking a pay cut. My current position has no room for growth and I tried to have a talk with my management with very lack luster results. I can afford to take the pay cut as I will be going to a lower cost of living area. Also no kids or financial responsibility besides students loans.

I am beyond excited to jump ship as the growth potential is great, and the work sounds very interesting. The relocation bonus is bigger than my current so I'm coming out net positive in the whole ordeal. And they're paying for my moving truck on top of that!

RE: What justification do you need to take a pay cut?

Congratulations! Good luck in your new position and in a new place.

RE: What justification do you need to take a pay cut?

Congrats! And don't look back.

RE: What justification do you need to take a pay cut?

Sounds great! Good luck and safe travels

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