When to consider taking a pay cut

December 1, 2009 at 1:20 pm Leave a comment

Job hunters don’t need to be told it’s highly competitive out there. With more than 18 million Americans unemployed — and sometimes it feels like most of them are laid-off or bought-out journalists! — there are many, many people competing for every job opening. Employers are well aware of this, and a growing number are taking advantage of the supply-and-demand situation by reducing starting salaries.

So the question arises in every job hunt: Should I take a pay cut from my previous salary? And how much?

In a recent eye-opening survey by Next Step Career Solutions (the 2009 Annual Career Fair Survey), fully 65 percent of respondents said they would take up to a 30 percent pay cut to land a job. Another 7 percent said they would take pay cuts of 40 percent or more.

Yet experts caution against racing to take a job at a much lower salary without doing some serious calculations — not all of them financial. Obviously, there are pros and cons to accepting a pay cut from your previous salary. The benefits are that you’re likely to land a new job more quickly and you’ll have plenty of room to rise salary-wise in the organization. The downside is the obvious one: less pay. And if you are more senior in your career, there may not be much time to make up the difference (especially when these are supposed to be your “high-paid” earning years for calculating Social Security and other future benefits). Also, if you go in too low, you’re likely to resent it, and it’s never good to start a new job frustrated and resentful (there’s always plenty of time to develop those feelings later on — just kidding!). You also want to respect your new employer and feel like they are giving you a fair shake, not trying to low-ball you from the start.

Given these competing demands, here is some advice from experts on when to consider a pay cut and how to negotiate so you’re not underselling yourself:

*If you have been looking for a while — at least several months — and especially if your severance money and emergency funds are running low.  Taking a pay cut should not be your first step in a job hunt. But if you are finding few takers at your current asking price, you may want to consider taking a 10 percent to 15 percent cut — just like when a homeowner reduces the price on a slow-selling house to attract more interest.

*If you realize you are “overpriced” from the start. Though this isn’t typically a consideration for most journalists —  it has been for those in the financial services industry, for example, in recent years — if you had a high-paying job that is not being replaced in the current market, you’ll need to do some research and “get real” about salaries. Just as you don’t want to undersell yourself, you don’t want to price yourself out of well-paying and good jobs. Though this research isn’t easy, try to find out what others with your experience level and who are in similar types of jobs are being paid and aim your expectations in that range.

*If you want to transition into a new field and need to develop some new skills and make some new contacts. Often, it’s tough to command your same salary — especially at a senior level — if you don’t have the experience of those in this field. But if you can afford to do so, even for a year or two, taking a job at a lower salary to gain experience that will boost your career prospects in the future may be a smart long-term strategy. Don’t undersell yourself in this situation either, though, and make sure to promote your “transferrable” skills that may not be obvious to a prospective employer.

*If you can make up some of the salary cut through free-lance or consulting work on the side. More employers recognize that it’s tough to make it on just a journalism salary these days and, as long as there are no direct conflicts of interest and you keep up with your “day job,” may be quite willing to allow you the flexibility to take on free-lance projects on your own time. Of course, you have to weigh the downside of working day and night but you may be able to generate your previous annual income even with a salary cut if you take this route.

*In negotiating (and see the Nov. 3 blog post, “Talking about money,” for other tips) make sure you are honest, direct and firm — you don’t want to appear to be coming from a place of weakness. Prospective employers can smell that. You also don’t want to appear presumptuous in discussing salary matters before an organization is serious about you as a job candidate. When the time is right — and usually the employer will bring up salary — state what you earned in your previous job, and if you are willing to take a cut to land this job, state your bottom line. You might say something like: “I earned XX in my previous position and obviously would like to earn that in my next job, but I am realistic about the job market. I would look at a good position — like this one — that pays XX (again, I wouldn’t go too low — usually 20 percent or so below your previous job).”  Be honest and direct, this is information, and a good employer will respect you for it. If they state they can’t go higher than a certain level and it’s below your asking price, tell them you’d like to think about that (if you would) or if it’s too low, tell them that as well and that you hope you can stay in touch and continue discussions when a job that is a better fit comes along.

*As always, some job leads to pass along…

*The first, courtesy of mediabistro.com, is for a digital reporter at ABC TV in D.C.:

Digital Reporter

Publication or Company Disney ABC Television Group
Industry Internet/Online/New Media, TV/Cable
Job Duration Full Time
Job Location Washington, DC USA
Job Requirements The ABC Investigative Team with The Brian Ross unit has an opening in our Washington DC News Bureau for AN INVESTIGATIVE DIGITAL REPORTER for the “The Blotter”, the daily investigative page of ABCNews.com.


Qualified candidates must have at least 5 years of reporting and writing experience at a daily national or major metropolitan newspaper or web outlet, with a background in investigative reporting. Must be well sourced, a self-starter and strong writer, capable of producing several stories a week.

Education: BA
Work Experience: 5-7 Years
Non-Technical Skills: Well sourced in Washington DC ; strong fast writing and investigative reporting experience

Education: MA
Work Experience: 10+ Years
Non-Technical Skills: Well sourced in Washington DC ; strong fast writing and investigative reporting experience

Location: Washington, DC
Req ID: 212103
The Walt Disney Company is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
Please apply online by visiting http://www.disneyabcjobs.com and searching for Req ID 212103.

About Our Company Founded in 1923 as a cartoon studio, The Walt Disney Company has grown to become a diversified, international family entertainment and media company.


The mission of The Walt Disney Company is to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information. Using our portfolio of brands to differentiate our content, services and consumer products, we seek to develop the most creative, innovative and profitable entertainment experiences and related products in the world.

*NPR has an opening for a business reporter/correspondent (via Poynter.org):


Job Summary


Reporter/Correspondent, Business (0810305049RFEA)
Job Code: 216381
POSTED: Nov 25
Salary: Open Location: Washington, D.C.
Employer: National Public Radio Type: Full Time – Experienced
Category: Broadcast, Newspapers and Magazines Required Education: 4 Year Degree


Employer Information



NPR (National Public Radio) is an internationally acclaimed producer and distributor of noncommercial news, talk, and entertainment programming. NPR produces and distributes more than 130 hours of original programming each week, and local NPR stations also broadcast many programs which are produced by stations and other radio networks.

View all our jobs


Job Description


Identifies and reports stories for all NPR News programs and platforms. Responds to breaking news, initiates and develops short term news and feature stories and in-depth enterprise reports, as well as spots for NPR newscast. Will involve traveling. Correspondent may serve as substitute host for NPR news programs.


This position may be based in Washington, D.C., New York or Los Angeles. MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS: Bachelor’s degree or equivalent combination of education and experience. Required for Reporter: At least four years’ reporting experience. Demonstrated expertise in covering business. At least four years’ experience in journalism. Experience working on deadline and working independently. Experience in long-form journalism. Demonstrated expertise at developing a major journalism specialty. Required for Correspondent: At least six years’ broadcast experience. At least two years of specialized reporting experience. Excellence in analysis and interpretation. Demonstrated experience and success breaking news, developing sources and original, enterprise reporting. Additional Requirements for Reporter or for Correspondent: Experience producing stories on national news issues. Demonstrable interest in business-related issues. Ability to break news and aggressively set a coverage agenda. Ability and willingness to relocate. NPR may choose to transfer employees to other geographic locations. Severance provisions of the AFTRA collective bargaining agreement will apply should you choose not to accept a transfer. Understanding that reporter/correspondent may be reassigned to a new region. Ability to work quickly and efficiently under deadline pressure. Incumbent must be able to report breaking stories for both newscasts and major programs. Ability and willingness to work varied shifts. Proven ability to consistently work well with others, demonstrating at all times respect for the diverse constituencies at NPR and within the public radio system. Preferred for Reporter or for Correspondent: Expertise in business issues. Experience in broadcast journalism. Experience in use of microphones, recorders and telecommunication equipment. Experience in online journalism. Experience producing on digital audio workstations.


*Finally, with a hat tip to journalismjobs.com, the Globalist is looking for a part-time editorial assistant in D.C. This might be a good way into journalism for someone just starting out:

Washington, District of Columbia
Job Status: Part-time
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
January 3, 2010
Job ID: 825333
Website: http://www.theglobalist.com

The Globalist (www.TheGlobalist.com), an online magazine and media features service covering the global economy, politics and culture, is seeking one D.C.-based part-time (20-25 hours/week) editorial assistant with a strong interest in international and economic issues.

The paid position — available immediately and ideal for a first- year graduate student — will provide editorial, research and administrative support for the operations of our daily online magazine, as well as our global media features and weekly e-learning and executive briefing services used by leading newspapers and companies worldwide.

The successful candidate will:

* Be a first-year D.C.-based graduate student or college senior
* Have excellent writing, editing and interpersonal skills
* Have proven administrative skills
* Have the ability to multi-task and work under deadline pressure
* Have solid Internet research skills
* Have familiarity with data analysis and presentation in Microsoft Excel
* Be familiar with Adobe PhotoShop
* Be proficient in a major foreign language (especially Spanish, German and/or French)


If interested, please email resume, cover letter and short (no longer than 500 words) writing sample to:

Michael McCarthy

Please include “editorial assistant” in the subject line of your email.


The Globalist
927 15th Street, NW
Suite 500
Washington, District of Columbia 20005
United States
No phone calls please.

Happy hunting in this new month!



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Investing in your job hunt How to handle gaps in your resume

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