You’ve got bills to pay. You need a job. Balancing your budget is a daily battle between that mocha triple latte and your bank account. But should you stay in your job—or take that new gig—just for the bucks?
The short answer? Not necessarily. The long answer? There are a lot of factors to consider, and money is only one of those factors. Read on for our tips on what you need to think about when you’re choosing between your dreams and your wallet.
1. Know your values
Before you even start thinking about job searching, this should be step one. What do you care about?
You have to know what will make you happy. Says Heather Huhman, Founder and President of Come Recommended, “You should ask yourself before even factoring in salary: ‘Do I see myself growing as a person from this job? Do I fit in with the culture of this company? Does thinking of my future in this company excite me? Am I going to wake up every day motivated to contribute? Am I going to be happy? If you answer “no” to most of these questions, you shouldn’t even consider salary because it’s evident this job isn’t for you.’”
It doesn’t have to be your ultimate dream or a corner office. Think about the small things that add up to a daily life where you’re happy. Maybe that’s the ability to fund your Soul Cycle addiction. Maybe it’s more important to do work you absolutely love every day. Maybe it’s both.
2. Know what motivates you
Motivation researcher, Daniel Pink, talks about what drives us in his aptly titled book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Essentially, he shows how our society values extrinsic motivation—such as money, awards, or bonuses—and tends to overlook the intrinsic (such as satisfaction from a job well done).
Know what motivates you day in and day out. In college, did you study because you wanted the A? Or because you wanted to understand the material better? If you lived or died by your grade, an external motivator like money might push you to greatness. If you were more focused on the material, money is probably lower on your list. Neither is better or worse—it’s about you.
3. Prioritize what matters
Knowing your values and what motivates you is one thing. Prioritizing them is another. Understand not just everything you care about, but what is most important to you. Money is one piece of a larger puzzle; if it’s the most important piece, you have your answer.
Alaina Leary, a graduate student at Emerson College and frequent intern, recommends “consider[ing] other factors, such as how long [you] plan to work there, how [you’ll] get experience simultaneously for the career [you] do want, and what the company is like.” After taking a summer gig making double what she made at her old job, she quickly learned there’s more than just money at play.
As you hone in on specific jobs and companies, revisit your values and what is most important to you. Whether that’s paying off your loans or finding “your people,” stick to them.
Who knows? You may end up loving your job beyond what it does for your budget. Says 29-year-old Jillian*, “When my paycheck said my year-to-date was my total I had made the year before (three jobs!), and it wasn’t the end of the year, I was in disbelief. I changed careers for my financial well-being, but I ended up loving the new role. Who would know that I would do so well and like it?”
Related: What To Do If You Hate Your Job
3. What to do if you already took it… and hate it
Let’s face it. You might be a success story, like Jillian… but it could also be the worst thing ever.
“People have made this mistake before, myself included, and I swear it’s not the end of the world,” says Huhman.
Don’t despair: this is just one job. Financially, you’ve got a big silver lining: your paycheck. And while that may not be the most satisfying thing in the world, you’re putting yourself in a position to find your next big thing.
You’re in charge of your career—no one else is. Remember those values and priorities we mentioned earlier? It’s time to dust those off to figure out what to do next:
- List what you love: Even in a job you hate, there’s got to be something you like. If that’s your work best friend, office location, or easy-peasy commute—note it down for future reference.
- List what you hate: This is your burn book. Focus on specifics—your hours, your manager’s leadership style or your work environment—so you’ll know what the solution will be. Do you hate your cubicle and long for the open floor plans of startups? Do you wish people would shut up and you had your own cubicle space to yourself? It all depends on you.
- Make a budget: This is the most important. Know what leaving your cushy high paying job could mean—or alternatively, what you’re aiming for next. How much of a pay cut can you take? How much of a raise do you need? Is that in line with what people with your experience are making? If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve got you covered.
- List what you’re learning: Chances are, what you’re learning every day will give you the skills and experience to make the leap to your next position. It can be anything from Google AdWords to public speaking to politicking, and anything in between.
- Finally, list what you’ve done: grab yourself some sticky notes and a whiteboard. Write down everything you’ve done, one thing per sticky note. Find the patterns and the story you have to tell about your experience and what you love doing. Take these keywords and turn them into what you’re searching for in your next role.
5. Ultimately, it’s your decision
Taking a job only for the money isn’t the way to go. Money is just one piece that goes into your decision. At the end of the day, your decision to take a job for any reason is just that: yours. Take some time to reflect, dig deeper, and figure out what’s right for you. You never know what you’ll fall in love with.
*Name has been changed