Money can in fact buy happiness – but what's the cost?
The holy grail of any career is to put in your time, get noticed, and get paid what you’re worth (at least, in your mind.) For many, that road is not a straight one. It most likely resembles a crazy squiggle. In uncertain times, many of us hunker down with the role we have because it’s preferable to not having it, and some of us re-evaluate our priorities and take roles where intangibles- flex time, working from home, a creative approach to work take priority over seeking the dollar.
What happens when you find yourself in a position to take a role with a much higher salary, but you’d have to give up the intangibles?
There used to be a negative connotation about “selling out” or “going corporate” that put a damper on the excitement around taking a role that was a jump salary wise. Is it unfairly maligned?
A Princeton study actually confirmed that money can buy you happiness, as long as you define happiness as “enough money to be comfortable.” The study admits that the optimal number for salary is $75,000. After that point, the monetary gains stop having a considerable impact on your happiness.
So what happens when you’re presented with an opportunity to make a lot more money, but you might have to give up your cool office, or your “summer Friday hours?” The answer is different for everyone.
“For me, I was incredibly interested in the company at first, which is why the interview process got so far. There was a promise of being able to build something and helm a totally new product. I was excited at the prospect. The money seemed like the icing on the cake. It was a lot more than I currently make” said Marceline from Toronto. “The thing is, as it went forward, I got the sense that the job wasn’t going to be a “helming” role, as much as I was going to be micromanaged by the founder of the company, and that people at that level often had to answer emails in the middle of the night. Suddenly, the bloom was off the rose. I’m glad I did my own reconnaissance. I’m really happy in the culture of my company, so rescinding the offer wasn’t a problem.”
While some roles might be “too good to be true” like Marceline’s, other roles are exactly as advertised, or the added money is in exchange for a role at a company that might not be as “sexy” as advertising or media, but instead is in a business that generates high revenue and can pay talent what they are worth on the market. The job might be more dry and corporate than a role in a “cool” environment, but the money might incentives you to overlook that. How can you approach a role that you feel dampened enthusiasm about vs a role in a better cultural fit? Negotiation.
If a role comes your way, and you’re giving something up (a fun environment, or cool perks) you need to make that clear upfront and make sure you negotiate some concessions from the company that wants to hire you. “Get concessions in writing. For an employer, it’s easy to negotiate an extra week’s holidays, or to guarantee you get to go to industry events several times a year, or give you a signing bonus to join. These don’t come out of the same “bucket” as salary, and if you’ve proven yourself to be the right candidate, it doesn’t hurt to ask.” Says Sarah Paul, Director of Human Resources at Govan Brown Construction Managers. “ “Be prepared however, for the reality of the position and the understanding that there is likely always a price to pay for a big salary. You just need to determine if the money will be worth the change in lifestyle, reduced work/life balance or excitement about the company.”
Navigating your career can sometimes feel like a road for which there is no map, but if you do your research and negotiate for concessions that are important to you, you can be happy choosing a role that isn’t as culturally comfortable in favor of the comforts you can afford after hours.