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Should I take a pay cut for better quality of life?

(25 Posts)
moggle Tue 02-Jul-13 16:23:13

Posting here to try and get some external opinions on what has become in my mind a complete mess and I am unable to make a decision on what to do!

I'm 32 and have worked in London for the same public sector / academic org for almost 8yrs, and finished a PhD last summer. Since finishing that I've changed roles and it isn't really my cup of tea. Not only that but am feeling very disillusioned with work in general and just don't know what to do next. It's relevant that we are currently TTC our first, for 18 months with no luck so far; honestly my perfect thing to do right now would be to get the work break afforded by maternity leave. I just seem to have lost ambition and drive since hitting my 30s. I've always been very strong academically but now just seem to be feeling detached and lost from my career, I feel like a bit of a failure.

Looking at relevant job sites for possible new jobs at the end of last year I found myself making excuses for virtually everything I found, oh I can't do that, commute is too long, etc. I finally applied for a public sector job almost purely because it was very close to home, in a different field but a role I'm well qualified for (a sideways move really). This was back in April. It took them a week to tell me they were offering the job; then came a month of background checks. Then I was sent a contract out of the blue with the minimum salary on. Trying to get the salary increased has been a long drama - the range in the job ad included my current salary near the top; I assumed I'd have to take a small pay cut for moving out of London but they are unable to offer me more than halfway up the pay scale (10% pay cut). Even this suggested max offer is subject to an lengthy approval process (just started). During this saga after various conversations with my future line manager, I've realised that the job is actually a slight backwards step for me in terms of my career, probably, however since I'm so lacking in enthusiasm for my career I don't know how to make a forward step.

TBH, the pay issue is probably a red herring. Once I remove commuting costs from my current pay, what's left over is not that different to the proposed new salary. Saving an hour of commuting time each day is going to be profitable both from money POV (I'll have more time for a hobby which earns me money), and quality of life POV - a chance to exercise more and possibly restart some voluntary work I've shelved.

So is the pay cut and stall in my career worth the increase in quality of life at the age of 32? I think to myself, OK then, I won't take this job, I'll wait for something better - but then I think that truly, this response may be actually due to my fear of leaving my familiar organisation where I've been since leaving uni. I'm fed up with the job but have good friends here. And why do I think I'll find something better this time of searching? I still look at job ads and think "I can't do that", even though objectively, I know they are entirely reasonable next steps for me - why do I think I'm going to have the confidence to apply now when I didn't before?! So then I think, OK, I'll take the job. But worry that I'm putting myself "out to pasture" prematurely - if I had kids already it would make more sense. however it's unlikely an opportunity this convenient will come up again. I should be able to return to working in my current area in a couple of years if I realised I'd made a mistake but it'd be hard to return to working in London when hopefully we might have had a baby by then.

I have talked til I'm blue in the face about this to family, friends and colleagues. People either say "It's really bad to take a pay cut, you should never do it. Don't take the job" or "Of course you have to expect to take a pay cut if you are moving out of London". I know I need to make the decision but I feel completely unable to. I'm secretly hoping the pay approval process WON'T be successful, as then the pay will be way too low and I definitely won't take it!

Just any thoughts please from an outsider - have you made a sideways move for better QoL and regretted it / best thing you ever did? Is it really really bad to take a pay cut even if I'm moving out of London? Stupid to do this when I don't even have kids yet? Or just tell me what the heck I need to do to get my life back on track! (Apart from have a baby- the one thing that I have zero control over!)

moggle Tue 02-Jul-13 16:23:29

oh jeez that was long, sorry.

RobotBananas Tue 02-Jul-13 16:28:58

So, financially you wouldn't be any worse off, you'd have an extra 2 hours a daty by not having to commute and its only a slight backwards step?

If you have a baby it sounds like the new job will make things a lot easier, which is worth its weight in gold.

Only you know what effect it will have on your career though, and it the other benefits are worth risking it a bit, I'd go for it.

Good luck TTC flowers

RobotBananas Tue 02-Jul-13 16:30:25

And I wouldnt consider 10% less for moving to a job outside London as a cut in real terms.

moggle Tue 02-Jul-13 16:30:54

Thanks Robot smile. It's half an hour each way compared to 1 hour currently, so 1 hour total saved per day. If it was 2 I would definitely without a doubt take it!

LaurieFairyCake Tue 02-Jul-13 16:44:18

I don't know if I'm reading this wrongly but I think you're saying you're definitely not keen on your current job and fractionally more keen on the prospective job.

If the above is true then I'm going to say that moving is definitely the best choice for you - it will free you up to have a baby, it will free you up to (I assume) make more money for your hobby that pays, it will give you a better mental quality of life?

I think it's more important (maybe not right now) to think about what you want for the future if neither of these jobs floats your boat.

You may be able to cope with having a slightly dull job but a more exciting life (baby/hobby)? I know a lot of people like this - dislike their jobs but are happy with their home life so it balances the crappy job out.

Or you may not be able to cope long term with a dull job but moving to the new job will allow you to think of different possibilities (baby/hobby)? - this is the area where I know the most people - the people that have actively changed their lives to find something they feel passionate about doing, nearly all of which results from their 'hobby' job smile

moggle Tue 02-Jul-13 16:57:53

Laurie I would really love to turn my "hobby" into a bigger part of my life, had a grand plan to expand it (slowly!) during maternity leave, as it would be fairly flexible around a new baby, and my current job has a generous ML policy. Then if it went well I could either quit the day job or do it part time, perhaps a day at work and a day at home a week.

Before I started looking for a new job it took me a while to get over the idea of leaving a job with good ML for one where it'll be at least 6m if not a year before I get anything above SMP. But I'm over that now; we can afford it, and the benefits of living 6 miles from home once we have a baby should outweigh the loss of salary during ML. Plus there's an onsite nursery at the new job which may be helpful...

I think you're right that I might be the kind of person who is happy having a boring job as long as the rest of my life is good. I just feel that I've spent so much time in education being a high flier, and doing this PhD that it's almost a cop out to "settle" now. But then hopefully that good background should give me a better chance of rejoining the "rat race" if I do decide I've made a mistake...

slev Tue 02-Jul-13 17:27:57

I've just done exactly what you're deliberating about - turned down a promotion in my old company to get a role much closer to home. I was lucky in that I moved on the same salary but I would have done it for less - again, same thing in that my saving in commuting costs would have made this perfectly affordable.

I'm happy with the decision - it's definitely more relaxing not having to commute into London every day and I think that has an impact on how motivated I am. I've never been a big career person anyway - I work to live rather than live to work and so if I can earn enough money without being too stressed, that's all I'm really after. Plus the atmosphere of an office outside of London is a bit more relaxed which I like but might not be for everyone.

I've also found it's easier with DS (and good luck on that one for you, hope you have some joy soon). I'm not as rushed with picking him up from nursery, don't have to leave early and feel like I'm being awkward, and we get home early enough for the evenings not to be such a rush either which really helps - just makes it feel like I've got time to speak to him etc.

So from my perspective I'd say yes, do it - career isn't everything (and I say that as someone who could never be a SAHM - I need to do something and this is the right balance for me). And worst case, you try it, it's not for you, and you move back at a later date - I think as long as you're in work, you'll find you're still perfectly employable and prospective employers will understand why you might have made the decision to move.

But someone else will no doubt say something different! Good luck with whatever you decide.

Triumphoveradversity Tue 02-Jul-13 17:34:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Twitterqueen Tue 02-Jul-13 17:38:21

If you have to make that long an argument about whether or not to take it, don't.

Your heart is clearly not in it and from what you say, I don't believe you would be any more satisfied if you took it, despite the extra couple of hours freedom.

IMHO you would be better off where you are until you find something you really do want to do. Good luck!

CountryCob Tue 02-Jul-13 17:50:39

Me too except about to apply for a completely different job in a related area, commute is finishing me off and heart not in it. Trying but don't have kids myself - do have other caring responsibilities that are pretty demanding though and mornings are mad, I worry about falling pregnant before starting in new place and not getting any maternity/security, doesn't that worry you? No point in counting chickens though as not got job yet, I can identify with the fatigue having spent a long time studying and in high pressure job you are not alone, if you can make your life easier do it, if you don't actually want this job though that is a different matter

moggle Tue 02-Jul-13 18:10:02

CountryCob it does worry me, getting pg before starting the job but you do would still get maternity allowance which is £135 a week for 39 weeks I think. SMP is that, plus 90% of salary for 6 weeks. So not a massive difference. The bigger difference would be going from SMP to the extra mat leave provided by work.
If I was a few months into TTC I might consider stopping TTC for a while when starting a new job, but after 18m I don't think we can really afford to wait. Plus I think it's really unlikely to happen anyway for us without some kind of assistance but that's just me being pessimistic!

Thanks for all comments on both sides, it is really helpful to hear some different POVs.

carolthesecretary Tue 02-Jul-13 19:43:31

It sounds like your heart isn't either so I would just keep looking closer to home.

I've found that when there is a range, employers are planning on paying closer to the lower figure so if you're looking for £35k you're better off applying for jobs that are £35k to £40k than £30k to £35k.

moggle Tue 02-Jul-13 20:13:54

Unfortunately there are barely any employers for my role around where I live, it's basically London or bust. This one was a real find.
I have been reminded this evening how ecstatic I was when I found out I had got the job by a friend who was with me when I found out...

rubylovesshopping Wed 03-Jul-13 06:08:29

I think you also need to approach the job from the angle that it may take 3 or 5 or even 10 years before you go on mat leave or even at all. If this were the case would you feel stuck in a dead end job? Would you be down about long term ttc as well as a job you wished you hadn't taken. There will be plenty of time once you've had your dc to find work more locally but right now would be best to do the best you can for yourself prior to them coming along.

williaminajetfighter Wed 03-Jul-13 06:39:44

Take the job. London is no place for the 'nursery run'. The job isn't forever but it sounds like you're in a rut and need a change. You may find the change will clear the cobwebs and make you clearer about next steps.

Jyst a word of warning: I recently took a pay cut and while I find the loss of earnings ok I find the loss of power much much worse. Going from somebody with power who was seen as senior to going back to a very middling role where I get given almost administrative tasks has been quietly soul-destroying. I am about to go on ML but after that hope to find something much more senior as necessary for my ego.

williaminajetfighter Wed 03-Jul-13 06:41:46

And OP it's a big move so understandable if you're a bit indecisive! Ive had 6 job offers in last 2 years all of which I turned down as just couldn't decide. There were some beautiful jobs in there as well. I regret not taking them due to sheer indecision and faffing!!

CreatureRetorts Wed 03-Jul-13 06:50:05

Maybe you're getting cold feet because of the change?

I'm job hunting at the moment and a bit like you, I talk myself out of applying. I hate my job but when I start thinking about a move, I think "but I know it here" etc etc.

Coincidently (or not) I work in the public sector too - I'm convinced it sucks out any confidence because we're constantly told how crap we are grin

Take the job! What's the worse that will happen?

moggle Wed 03-Jul-13 08:51:47

Creature so true I do think it is endemic in the public sector! I see people at work who constantly complain about their job yet have been there for 15 or 20 years and will not apply or anything else and say things like "well who else would take me?!" Even though they are brilliant, clever people with tons of qualifications.

Thinking it overnight I am now swinging towards taking the new job. I think a lot of my reluctance is fear of change and leaving somewhere so familiar. If this job is not the perfect one I can move on in a couple of years and in the meantime the proximity to home should make it more bearable. If we don't get pregnant in the next couple of years then I can move back into the area I'm in now and will have some different experiences under my belt. The best outcome is that the change gives me a boost, and the need to work hard to impress new people gives me some of my confidence back.

At the end of the day I can convince myself either way so I dont think either option will be a disaster, so i need to just make a decision. The one thing I don't want is to be stuck in my current job for another year and that is a possibility if nothing ideal comes up in that time / I am too scared to take it...

Thanks again all smile

moggle Wed 03-Jul-13 10:09:58

I have told them I will take the job if they get approval for the salary they are trying to get me. Eep! Feel scared but excited. It's always easiest to take the path of least resistance and I am totally guilty of that in my life so am pleased that I haven't in this case.

I was considering a punnet square. Two factors: Do I get pregnant in the next 2 years, Do I like my new job. If I like the new job, no problem whatever happens. If I don't like the job but get pregnant, then the benefits of the job will probably outweigh the dislike, and if they don't, I can take 6 or 9m mat leave and take stock at that point. If I don't like the job and am not pregnant after two years then I can return to my current field or do something completely different. Maybe my hobby will have expanded with 5 extra hours a week to work on it and I will be ready to go fully self employed...

slev Wed 03-Jul-13 11:01:24

Semi-congratulations then pending the pay issue! I think you'll find getting that time back and not slogging into London every day will definitely make it worth it in the short term, even if the job isn't that thrilling - and as you say, you can always look again at a later date if need be.

Hope it all works out for you!

finefatmama Wed 03-Jul-13 11:41:21

Is it possible to take a break or sabbatical to allow you to rest and really think about what you want?

moggle Wed 03-Jul-13 13:03:25

Thanks slev
finefatmama theoretically I could ask for a break (unpaid), however my last appraisal wasn't that great due to all the reasons above so I'm not sure if they'd agree to a break at the moment. Although we could pay mortgage and vital bills without my salary, it would be quite a lifestyle change and I guess things aren't quite bad enough that I would really consider that right now. Also having spent 3 years on a PhD stipend with my husband mainly supporting us doing a stressful job, I feel I owe it to him to pay a bit back (he's now in a less well paid but less stressful job and I don't want him to have to go back to the other one).

CountryCob Fri 05-Jul-13 12:34:43

Well done on taking the decision I hope it all works out, am doing my job app at weekend and have decided to keep looking while trying, my maternity leave here is rubbish anyway and if we all took the view of waiting to see all prospective mums would be stuck in jobs that might not be right for them which is not good for the sisterhood, especially as could be years if ever to have baby, good to know that there is money available anyway didn't know that

TinyDiamond Thu 08-Aug-13 13:53:54

in your situation I would absolutely move jobs. good luck!!

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