When is an average job offer too good to refuse?

People expect that if they make a change in their career, they have to take a massive pay cut, but that's not always necessarily true.

In the current economic climate, simply having a job may be seen as a ‘win’. For those seeking employment, does that mean you should accept the first role that comes your way?

By Johanna Leggatt

In these challenging economic times, it can be tempting to take whatever career breaks or job offers come our way.

With the Australian Government spending billions of dollars to support and stimulate the economy and hundreds of thousands of people unemployed in Australia – do we even have a right to say no to a job offer that is wrong for us?

According to learning and development consultant, international speaker and author of Add Value, Mark Carter: “Yes, we do.

“You can and should say no to a job if it’s not right,” he says.

Melbourne career consultant Denise Mooney agrees, and says while many industries have been hit hard by the pandemic, some are booming or unaffected.

“I’m seeing a lot of fear among people and it isn’t always well placed,” Mooney says.

“It’s not the same situation across every sector, some industries and services are actually quite well-funded right now, such as mental health.”

However, both Mooney and Carter add a crucial caveat: if you are facing very real and pressing financial obligations, then there is nothing wrong with taking a job that isn’t quite the right fit.

Mooney says this may involve applying your skills more broadly.

“You may not necessarily be re-employed into a similar role, and instead you will have to think about your skill set and see where else you can apply those skills in other areas, and what else you might find fulfilling,” she says.

Don’t sell yourself short

It may be tempting to lower your salary expectations, too, in this current climate, and while it’s important to be realistic, Carter says employees shouldn’t assume they are the ones who should be making all the concessions.

“I would say hold firm on what you believe you’re worth and your value to a company,” Carter says.

If there is a mismatch between your salary expectations and what the organisation can afford, then Carter suggests an open conversation. “You may wish to find a different way to bundle your remuneration package, so it works for both parties,” he says.

Mooney also believes that a career move does not have to result in a pay cut, even in a pandemic, nor should workers be coy about asking for their desired salary. 

“If you're changing to a different type of role, in a different type of industry, then you really have to do your research regarding salary and talk to people in those jobs,” Mooney says.

“People expect that if they make a change in their career, they have to take a massive pay cut, but that's not always necessarily true.”

Check the company credentials

Mooney says that while due diligence of the company’s value and history may not seem a priority in a more competitive job market, “it’s more important than ever to pay attention to corporate culture” as we continue to work from home and juggle competing work and life demands.

“Companies have really got the memo on this front, too, especially in Melbourne, and they're investing in their employees’ wellbeing, with online meditation and yoga and so forth,” Mooney says.

To gauge the health of the culture, Carter recommends “forgetting the surface level of the brand” and digging deeper into the company.

Crucially, ask the hiring manager what the business will do to invest in you as a worker because “up-skilling in a constantly moving market is really important”.

“One of the factors in predicting future success of Fortune 500 companies is whether or not they continue to invest in the development of their people, even amid challenging times,” Carter notes.

Use a range of different sources to ascertain what the company’s track record is in the market, including what stories have been written about them in recent times, and their corporate social responsibility program.

“This will give you a sense of whether your values match theirs,” Carter says.

Mooney recommends contacting people inside the organisation to see what the culture is like before you apply for the position. If you are already at the interview stage, then ask the hiring manager what their “culture is like and what the expectations are”.

“For example, you could ask what they have done to support their employees during COVID-19, and what kind of social support networks they have in place in the organisation during this time,” Mooney says.

Most importantly of all, listen to your gut instinct about what an organisation will be like to work in.

“Often clients will tell me later that they had a gut feeling that it wasn’t a good fit and they ignored it,” Mooney says.

5 things to look for before you accept a new role

Keep your eye on these points, says learning and development consultant Mark Carter:

  1. Is there high staff turnover? If so, this could indicate a culture problem.
  2. What philanthropic and corporate social responsibility programs do the company engage in? Are they in line with your values?
  3. Check out sites such as Glassdoor, which allows ex-employees to anonymously review their former workplaces.
  4. Look for meaningful wellbeing programs that genuinely support employees and work-life balance. Casual Fridays and table tennis tables do not necessarily translate to a healthy work environment.
  5. During the interview, ask yourself if the hiring manager comes across as open, collaborative and a good communicator.

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