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Look beyond the salary in job offers
 Career Advice



Money, money, money, money, money! That may be the theme song of Donald Trump's The Apprentice, but sometimes, it isn't just about the money.

When negotiating for a job, there's more to consider than just the salary. But if you must take a pay cut for a better opportunity, make sure you know it's going to pay off in the long run.

When Curtis Simmons took a job that paid peanuts, he was following a dream to work with a prominent architect, expand on own experience, grow professionally and make important connections in the field.

"I went for the biggest dream I could, even if that meant going for broke," he says. "That was the path I had to take in order to get where I am now professionally."

Although he recommends taking a lower pay when you're younger and don't have as many financial responsibilities, he credits much of his success now with the experience he gained while working for very little pay.

Simmons says the job, which he worked about 10 years ago, is still opening up doors and has helped give him credibility in his industry.

He says the culture and environment of the company he worked in was important to his decision, as well.

Laura, who asked that her last name not be used, agreed to a significant pay cut when she went to work for a university. She was looking to diversify her skill set, while also pursuing a master's degree.

Although the pay at the university was less than a private-sector job, the savings in tuition benefits more than make up the difference.

"It pretty much boiled down to the dollar amount (in savings), but it also would benefit my career," she says.

She advises to look beyond the paycheck to long-term goals. If taking a lower salary will pay off in a few years, it might be worth the temporary cut.

Laura says factors in a potential beyond pay are just as important - if not more - than the money.

"There are great values that aren't measured in your weekly paycheck," Laura says.

Laura's gamble with a smaller salary paid off. After graduating with her master's, she was promoted and earned a salary greater than the job she'd initially left.

How to evaluate your job offer

Before you decide if a job offer is right for you, it's essential to evaluate all aspects of it, says Jack Chapman, salary coach and author of "Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1,000 a Minute."

Chapman says there are six important factors in weighing an offer.

  1. Satisfaction: Will the job be engaging and build upon your skills?
  2. Professional growth: Will the job lead to a greater future? Will it help you professionally?
  3. Company philosophy: Does the mission of the organization fit with your values and beliefs?
  4. Location: Will your commute time detract from your personal life?
  5. Growth in responsibilities: Will you be promoted and given room to expand in the company? Will you be able to raise your pay through these promotions?
  6. Compensation: Does the salary with benefits and perks meet your requirements?

Chapman says it's generally a good idea to avoid taking a lower pay, if the job fits five of the six factors, the job will likely fit.

He adds there are other points to negotiate that go beyond pay, such as working from home, leaving early on Fridays, a shortened workweek, one-time bonuses or earlier raises.

"Anytime you can produce a long-term effect, you can ask for more," he says. "Look at where your efforts make a difference to the bottom line."

Chapman advises making a laundry list of benefits and important values to your ideal workplace. Estimate what they are worth to you and the likelihood of an employer agreeing to those values.

When you're negotiating beyond the salary, move quickly through the list, Chapman says. You don't want potential employers to ask themselves if this guy will ever end with his demands.

In the end, you want to find the best fit for your career path. Sometimes taking a lower salary will help you achieve your professional goals. But before you settle for less, set a clear path of the payoff in the long run.

Elizabeth McKinley is a freelance journalist who writes about careers and workplace issues. E-mail her at