Should I Take a Job That Pays Less Than Unemployment?
The statistics are in. While the unemployment rate was last counted at 8.5%, the underemployment rate (those who quit looking for work or have taken part-time jobs in lieu of a desired full-time job) is up to 15.6%. So what should you do if you’re offered a lower-paying job while on unemployment? Should you take it?
The Bloomberg story that cited the 15.6% rate of underemployment makes several good points. First, it acknowledges that gaining employment isn’t always what it seems. Secondly, it points out that there are many unemployed who are no longer receiving unemployment benefits. And so we’re left with this nagging question of what to do: Should you take that part-time or lower-paying full time job or just stay on unemployment until something better comes along? Here are expert tips for both sides of the argument:
You Should Take That Job
Many career and living experts say, “Go for it.” Here’s why:
1. It Shows That You Have What it Takes - “Most employers will find candidates much more marketable and hirable when employed (regardless of how much money they are making) as opposed to staying home and having the government take care of them,” says Jim Luzar, president of Sales Consultants of Brookfield. He goes on to say that “While the extra money is nice, candidates will in the long run benefit because they are keeping their skills sharpened for the future. Additionally, it shows courage, drive and guts when you do this, three traits that I personally look for in anyone I hire or place.”
J.F. (Jim) Straw, of the Business Lyceum, shared a story of a man who took a low-paying job in a TV repair shop during the Silicon Valley tumble years ago (when others in his field were holding out for a better job.) “He found a job in his career field before any of the others. Why? Because the potential employers saw a man who wanted to work ... as evidenced by his taking the low paying job. It is easier to get a job, when you have a job.”
2. It Exposes You to More Opportunities – Certainly, there are ways to grow within a company – even if the initial job description is low on the pay scale. Karen Wilson-Dooley, a certified career management coach, encourages job-searchers to ask, “what opportunities are there for advancement with this employer and will I be able to increase wages / position within a respectable length of time? You may consider accepting the position after researching potential opportunities to grow with that company and increase your salary over time.”
3. It May Give You Back Your Benefits – Karen also echoes the sentiments of many who’ve acknowledged the value of employer-based health insurance, 401K matches, and life insurance. “Unemployment compensation does not provide fringe benefits that a potential employer may provide. Therefore, you need to ask yourself if you are covered under a spouse’s insurance policy and, if so, how much it is costing you to buy coverage under the spouse’s policy vs. a policy you may have with your own employer.” For many, a decent benefits package may be reason enough to take a lower-paying job.
You Should NOT Take That Job
There are many who say just the opposite, however. Here’s why:
1. It Can be a Sign of Desperation – When Beth Colley of Chesapeake Resume Writing Service was asked if there were any benefits to taking a job that paid less than unemployment, her answer was straight to the point: “None, what-so-ever.” She says that “Job seekers tend to adopt a desperation mode and give up. When career professionals accept lower paying jobs they typically begin to develop a pattern of instability, jumping from one job to the next for a few extra dollars an hour. This pattern of instability wreaks havoc in terms of resume development and does more to damage a person’s morale and employment opportunities than increase it. Just because someone is earning a pay check, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are being productive.”
What can job seekers do instead? Beth recommends taking time to build an effective network of supportive colleagues who can give you quality job leads and do short-term contract work that can provide a livable wage while building their resume. (Note that contract work must be reported, and may cause you to be ineligible for unemployment compensation.)
2. It Can Take Time Away from Job-Searching – With many interviews scheduled during working hours, it can be hard to take time away from your new lower-paying job to find better work. Understand that unemployment may give you the freedom to keep putting 110% into your career search, and that working a lesser job may get you stuck in a rut of not having enough time for better pursuits.
3. It Can Mess with Your Long-Term Plan – While there are occasions for taking a lower-paying job in the field of your choosing, there’s little to be gained from taking the first job you can get. “This is not typically the best move,” advises Katie Philips of Snelling Professional Services. “The long term needs to be considered. Where do you want to be in 3-5 years? What path will get you there- does this job take you a step further along that path? If not, strongly consider looking for a different one. If the job does take you along the career path that you desire to go down, I’d encourage you to take the opportunity (even if the pay might be less) because it’s an investment in your future. Maybe you take 1 step back to take 2 steps forward- that’s a good move. But just accepting any job for a paycheck is not going to better your career in the long term. Period.”
As you can see, there is often not a straight “yes” or “no” answer for every situation. By being diligent about creating a long-term plan for your career, carefully assessing each opportunity that comes along, and keeping a positive attitude about you, your chances of landing a career (and not just a job) improve dramatically. Best of luck with whatever works for you!