The State of Colorado and the Governor’s Office of Information Technology in particular have a well known reputation for not being able to offer the most competitive salaries, so it’s no secret that I took a pay cut to come to the State. In my networking I regularly get asked about the merit of this move, so I thought I’d blog on the issue.
Taking a pay cut is a very personal decision. Many are forced into it because having a job is a higher priority than holding out for the right job. I was fortunate to be in a situation where I could hold out for the right job, so my rationale for taking a pay cut was about my career and family.
- Career Planning. Hollywood actors often worry about being “type cast” because it limits their ability to compete for a variety of roles. Casting agents rarely view action stars like Steven Seagal and Bruce Willis, for example, as candidates for dramatic roles – unless you think Armageddon was a drama! I worried about being type cast as a start-up executive, someone who excelled only within the narrow confines of start-up companies. I knew I was developing skills that would be valuable in organizations of all sizes, but it was becoming difficult to explain that to recruiters and even more difficult to communicate on a résumé. As the Director of Enterprise Applications for the State, my worries about type casting are gone and I’m adding a whole new dimension to my career. I now manage a department that is over seven times as large as either of the start-up companies. My skills as an executive, forged in entrepreneurial fires, are now being tested, proven and hardened in a large-scale public sector entity. I’m confident that my next job, whatever it is, will be one that I choose from a much broader array of possibilities because of this job. If you’re a recruiter (casting agent), please share your thoughts!
Work-Life Balance. The highest paying jobs often require long hours and/or extensive travel. I’ve done both in my career, but my priorities are different today. At the time that I accepted this job, my son was just nine months old. The joy that he brings to me and my wife is hard to describe, but it has a way of putting work into perspective. I want to earn enough to provide a certain standard of living for my family, and I want to actively participate in the raising of my son. If I leave the office promptly at 5p, I generally get home in time to spend about 90 minutes with my son before he goes to bed. And so I’m thrilled to have a job where I can leave at 5p and not feel guilty about it, where travel is almost always in-state rather than cross-country or half way around the globe.
So if you’re one of those people who is thinking about taking a pay cut, here’s one person who has absolutely no regrets. Just make sure you are doing it for the right reasons!