Redefining Compensation: Why Salary Should Not be the Most Rewarding Part of the Job

Posted on April 09, 2018

Redefining Compensation: Why Salary Should Not be the Most Rewarding Part of the Job - Princeton Consulting

If you want to build a successful career, money should not be the most important factor of your job search. Too often, job seekers fall victim to the mistake of taking the offer with the highest salary, foregoing other factors that contribute to higher job satisfaction, keeping skills relevant, and most importantly, career growth. A word of caution: don’t let the highest bidder steer you away from the most rewarding career opportunity. Examine your job search from every outlook.  

The General Outlook - Job Satisfaction

Your salary will vary throughout your career, but job satisfaction is priceless. The Society for Human Resource Management conducted the Employee Job Satisfaction Survey in 2016 to identify factors that contribute to job satisfaction and employee engagement. The findings of the study revealed that “respectful treatment of employees” was the top contributor to employee satisfaction, above pay/compensation, and identified by 67% of employees who took the survey.

Also in the top ten: overall benefits (60%), job security (58%), trust between employees and management (55%), opportunities to use skills and abilities (55%), financial stability of the organization (53%), relationship with supervisor (53%), feeling safe in the workplace (50%), and respect for your ideas (49%). Considering all the factors that contribute to job satisfaction, salary is merely a grain in the sand. Moreover, a high salary won’t compensate for factors that contribute directly to career growth, such as opportunities to use skills and a relationship with your supervisor, which cultivate more value over the long term.

The Generational Outlook - A Millennial Perspective

To give more depth, the study elaborates further on the outlook for one generation in particular - millennials. As the baby boomer generation exits the workforce, the millennial generation is entering en masse, expected to comprise half the entire U.S. workforce by 2020. And when millennial job seekers were asked about job satisfaction, one factor stood apart from the rest: culture.

For a generation known as “value-centric,” millennials place emphasis on emotional connection, an environment of inclusion, openness, community, and a sense of purpose. In addition, millennials want to be challenged; they want to know that their work is contributing to the success of the organization, and to have managers who nurture and invest in them.

Since culture, purpose, and fostering relationships are important factors to job satisfaction, it’s no wonder that millennials are on track to becoming the most college educated generation to date. Having invested in a four-year degree is a key reason why job choice is so important - candidates should take advantage of opportunities to hone and advance the skills they learned in college, not only at entry-level but throughout their career, to make a rewarding progression that leads to higher salary and optimal job satisfaction down the line.

The Personal Outlook - Delving into Details

In addition to salary, it’s just as important for job seekers to be aware of personal factors - what do you need from a work environment that will motivate you to succeed, expand your skills, challenge you, and help you grow as a professional? What will demotivate you?

As an example, commute is an often overlooked factor when accepting a position. The average commute for workers in the U.S. is 50 minutes round trip - and for New Yorkers it’s even further, at 57.5 minutes. Research from the University of West England found that adding just 20 minutes to a person’s commute had the same effect on job satisfaction as a 19% pay cut.

According to this information, a position that offers 15-20% more per year than the next best offer, but has a commute 20 minutes or more further, breaks even in terms of job satisfaction. For this reason alone, it’s crucial to weigh all the personal factors including commute, hours, benefits, potential for growth, and more, before making a decision. The devil is in the details.

The Industry Outlook - Tech Pays.

Understanding that pay should not be the driving factor in your job choice, there are certain fields of work where you can have your cake and eat it too. If you’re in the tech industry, rest assured that you’ll be compensated competitively. As of 2017, Software & IT services is the top-paying industry, followed by hardware and networking, with median salaries at $104,000 and $101,000 per year, respectively. That’s more than twice as high as the median salary for U.S. workers, which currently stands at $44,148 per year. Furthermore, Computer Science was the highest paying field of study, with an average salary of $92,000, and degrees in STEM accounting as the highest paying fields overall.

With that said, in order to build a successful career and raise your earning potential to a six-figure salary, you need to be an equally competitive candidate. Taking the highest paying job at an entry-level, while overlooking opportunities that offer more in terms of growth, mentorship, education, and training, could be detrimental both to your career as a tech professional and your future earning potential. Tech is as competitive as it is financially rewarding, and in an industry known for being fast paced and fast changing, the choices you make in the first few years of your career are imperative to where you will go.

The Big Picture - Where Will You be in a Year?

When considering multiple job offers, one question gives you the most insight and the clearest perspective of all: If I accept this job, where will I be in a year?

Will a higher income be enough to overlook a stressful commute, a culture you don’t identify with, and most detrimentally - a lack of opportunities for growth? By accepting the highest offer without considering other factors, you run the risk of not being in that position at all a year from now. Or worse, missing out on experience that helps your progress to the next stage, ensuring that you remain a competitive candidate down the line.

On the other hand, you might receive an offer at a lower salary range, but the work aligns with your skillset, you get to attend tech conferences, network with other professionals, and your supervisor is willing to invest in your growth and provide mentorship. It’s factors like this that are invaluable to your professional growth, success, and appeal as a job candidate after a year or even several years with the same company, because you’ve invested in your career, and not just your current paycheck.

What this means: Look for opportunities that create value and cultivate growth.

If you have the education, the talent, the skills, and the drive to launch a successful career, then only one element remains that will determine the fate of your future success - experience. Just as your field of study, the skills you developed, and passion for your work have all gotten you this far, the choices you make in your career is what will drive your success moving forward.

Look for work experiences that create value by taking the job that makes you and your skill set relevant. Does the organization offer training experiences in your field in the form of workshops, mentorship, or certification/tuition reimbursement? Are there opportunities to collaborate with other people in your field, either at the same level or more advanced, who you can learn from? Will you be getting regular feedback from your supervisor? Are there opportunities to grow your network by attending events and tech conferences? Does the position take you out of your comfort zone, causing you to learn and apply a new IT practice, or regularly do work that you find difficult, so that you continue to expand your skills?

In any field, but especially in the tech field, the most important factor to your career growth is keeping you and your skills relevant. The most rewarding career opportunities are those that will increase your strengths and desirability as a job candidate, advancing your career and getting you better offers down the line.

To put this in perspective, if you’re only taking an entry or mid-level job because they’re offering the highest salary, think of it as a “get-rich quick scheme.” You’re getting the highest rate of return (salary) for the smallest investment (your current skills, education, etc., but without the promise of growth or advancement). Easy money comes at the risk of temporary satisfaction without any investment in the long-term. Do you want the most money you can get now, or the option that invests in your growth, advances your skills, gives you more opportunities, and higher salaries down the line? Invest in your growth, and instead of earning the most you can now, earn the most that your career can give you as a highly-skilled, experienced professional - the epitome of success.

Redefining Compensation  

Don’t let today’s dollar signs stand in the way of your most rewarding, successful career path. It’s important to know your worth, and just as important to pay your bills, but after those needs are met - which job is going to give you the most growth, happiness, and future success?

Compensation is more than a single paycheck, it’s what fulfills you personally, professionally, and financially (and not just today, but also as your career advances). To get the most out of your professional experience, see compensation holistically, not just in terms of one salary, but in all the ways that a position is going to benefit your ca

reer growth and success.