when is struggling financially worth it for your career?

A reader writes:

Three months ago, I made the transition from my multiple low-paying jobs in the nonprofit world to a much better-paying single job in government. I love the money. I love it! I literally get overwhelmed and start grinning like an idiot when I think about how I can afford an apartment by myself and sock away money in savings (both of which are firsts for me). I do not love the job itself. It’s boring, there’s no potential for advancement, and I worry a lot about how I’m going to list my mundane administrative duties on my resume. I dread every Monday in a way that I never have with my previous jobs.

Subsequently, I’ve been covertly job searching, and recently got offered an interview for a really exciting legislative position. It’s not my dream job, but it’s the kind of job that could easily set me up on my ideal career path. The salary would be a 16% decrease for me; it’s not so low that I would have to move back in with my parents, but I would be living paycheck to paycheck. I’m torn. There are tons of young professionals who take low-paying jobs so they can break into their field! This could be an amazing opportunity for me! I thought I was the kind of ambitious person who would go to certain lengths for my career, but I am so, so reluctant to give up my current salary. I can’t help but feel greedy and entitled for wanting an interesting job AND the ability to buy a latte once a week.

Is this normal? How do people make these kinds of calculations? I’m especially uncertain because I thought my current job would be a huge step forward career-wise, and I’m feeling a bit burned now that I’ve realized it’s a dead end position.

This is hard.

Some people are really clear that they’d never make a trade-off like this. They see the purpose of work as first and foremost to support them financially, and everything else — fulfillment, advancement potential, interesting work — is secondary. And that’s absolutely fine if you feel that way.

But other people are willing to make less money in exchange for fulfillment and interesting work. There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s about what you personally value and can happily live with.

However … I would be really cautious about giving up a comfortable salary for one that would have you living paycheck-to-paycheck. That’s not just a pay cut; that’s a move from relative security to relative insecurity. And even more so at this particular moment: Things are so precarious in the world right now and the job market so shaky that you want to be adding to your savings, not depleting them, if given the choice.

So even if you’re not someone who puts a huge emphasis on money and stability normally, I’d put extra weight on it right now. Not necessarily forever, but for now.

That said, there are other things to think about as you consider this: How likely are you to find a similar opportunity in the future, maybe a year from now? How likely is this job to lead you to that ideal career path you mentioned, and how quickly is that likely to happen? When you say you’re dreading Mondays in your current job, is it more like “ugh, no more weekend” or more like feeling ill at the thought of going to work? And are these the only two options, or is it likely that if you kept looking you’d find something that pays better than what this exciting but low-paid job offers?

Sometimes it does make sense to take on temporary financial struggle because it’s part of your path to something better. Is this that path? Is it the only path? Is it a highly reliable path or a risky one? Do you know what you’d do if it didn’t work out the way you’re envisioning?

No matter what your answers to these questions, it’s still worth going to the interview. Find out more about the role. Who knows, maybe you’ll realize it’s not for you and won’t need to agonize over it at all. Or maybe it’ll turn out that you can negotiate the salary higher.

But there’s nothing greedy or entitled about wanting to earn enough money to comfortably support yourself. It’s an amazing feeling to have financial security when you didn’t used to have it. It’s normal to want it! It’s normal to feel great about it and to be wary of giving it up. It’s not love of money per se; it’s love of security. It’s love of peace of mind. (It’s lattes too, but there’s nothing wrong with that.) It’s okay to value it.

{ 204 comments… read them below }

  1. lyonite*

    I agree with everything Alison says and would just add one question of my own: Would this new job look as good if you weren’t so unhappy with your current one? Not that there’s anything wrong with wanting to get out of a place that’s not satisfying you, but there’s always the risk of looking at something that might be better, and seeing the solution for everything you want, which might color your decision about the pay cut, in a way a more objective view of the position wouldn’t.

    1. Smithy*

      This is really good.

      My first “real” job in my early 20’s was one that (in retrospect) paid quite well, but was a lot of admin, no room for growth, etc etc. After 2 years, I left for a second graduate degree in another country that enabled me to get a job in that country where I lived for another 3 years. The full 5 years was wildly expensive – not just for the 2nd grad degree (arguably an AWFUL decision) – but also my salary was quite low.

      Financially the decision was terrible, but it also never mattered. I was personally so much happier, I got the exact career I wanted, etc etc etc. But there is no getting around that I gambled on a significant financial dip that really only served as a net gain nearly 10 years later.

      For me, the financial detour was one I was willing to take. But I can not imagine how unhappy I might have been had I not openly embraced the gamble.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I left a job for PT/freelance work to get out of a truly soul-sucking situation. I was able to later get back into the FT workforce. I don’t regret doing it for other reasons (I was able to care for our child) but it definitely had some disadvantages, like financial stability. I worried a lot more about things like a flat tire or a sick pet. I would look at the new job with a critical eye. Go to the interview with the future in mind. Does this job get you where you want to go or is it just getting you out of the job you find boring? Also, is there anywhere within the agency you could move? Or could you take a lateral into another agency you like better and keep the pay and benefits? Or is there any room to negotiate a better salary so it’s not so deep a cut? Even if you are doing admin tasks, are you learning things about how government works that could be useful later?

        TBH, I’ve had several jobs where the end goal was money vs fulfillment. But if you have no dependents, this is the time to make this kind of career leap. It’s not so easy when someone is relying on you.

    2. Code Monkey the SQL*

      Yes, I think that’s a very pertinent point. The release valve of not feeling a financial pinch really gives you room to consider what you love best, and that’s amazing. But brains have a tendency to project your current baseline feelings into whatever you’re dreaming about – so right now, you might be assuming a rosier view of a new job than you would if you were still in your underpaid old ones, because the boost in finances has taken away such a point of instability.

      And it is most certainly not greedy to want stability. Oftentimes, we’re told that certain professions are done out of “love” and what that translates into is dire pay and worse benefits that burn out all but the masochists and those with independent income.

      OP, I totally sympathize with not feeling like your job jives with who you are as a person. Take a look at my username, and know that I got a degree in Literature, with a minor in Tudor History. I am an outlier where I work, and it’s not hard to see. But unless your job is truly and utterly a dead end (and you’ve only been there 3 months, so it might be hard to tell right now), there might be more room than you realize to grow it into something better.

    3. StrikingFalcon*

      Conversely, would the pay cut be worth it if this job doesn’t lead to the opportunities you are hoping for? If in a year from now, you find yourself exactly where you are now – in a job with no clear path forward, and job searching again, would the sacrifices you would have to make have been worth it?

      Or, if you don’t take this job and it takes you, say, 6 months to find another opportunity you would be as excited by would you regret passing on this one?

      Financial security above all gives you choices, and that includes the choice to let this opportunity go by and wait for a better one – the interesting work AND livable salary.

      1. Genny*

        That’s a great question. It’s so common in government for recruiters to sell entry level jobs as a foot in the door. Sometimes they are, sometimes they’re not (IME, they’re not quite as “foot in the door” as recruiters present them to be). Regardless, you still have to hustle once you’re in to make your career what you want it to be, and that comes with its own set of challenges that can be further exacerbated by financial insecurity.

        1. Momma Bear*

          A LOT of people take a subpar role to get into federal employment knowing they can work their way up once they are “in”. You can take your seniority with you from agency to agency if you play your cards right.

          It is also a good point that OP is only a few months into the job. Maybe they should ask for greater responsibilities?

          1. Genny*

            Absolutely, that’s what I ended up doing. It’s just not nearly as straightforward as some recruiters and hiring managers make it seem (probably because they want to fill less-than-desirable roles and “take this meh job and a better job will inevitably open up down the line for you” is a better selling point than “work in X role for two years doing something really boring that you’re not interested in to maybe get a shot at possibly moving into a role you are interested in”). Reading between the lines with this LW, I’m getting the sense that’s what happened here. There is very likely still a way for LW to use this experience to position themselves for the next role as they make they’re way to the dream job, it may just take some time, a little creativity, and some good networking.

    4. EngineerMom*

      I’m a little surprised the reply didn’t include something about asking to increase the salary to match what you’re currently making. Is that because as “legislative position”, the salary is completely fixed where it’s at?

      I would still do the interview, ask really good questions, and also ask about opportunities for advancement, typical advancement timelines, etc.

      And know that it’s ok to just stay where you are, do the work you’re paid to do, and pour passion/time/energy into things outside of work.

      My mom and dad switched jobs a fair number of times over their careers, and had very successful careers while also raising a family who still enjoys spending time with them. Their standard for jobs: “All jobs have good days and bad days. If you’re having more good days than bad days, it’s still a good job. If you’re having more bad days than good days, it’s time to move on.”

      1. TheLayeredOne*

        If it’s a government position, the salary is likely fixed. But there still may be a range within which OP can negotiate. Totally agree that it’s worth doing the interview to find out more — and what you learn could be useful right now if you decide to leave, or it could be useful for more long-term planning if you decide to stay. The difficulty of these decisions is that you know all the bad parts of your current job, but not of a potential next job, so it’s easy to project perfection onto the potential job. Use your interview to dig into what the day-to-day reality of the job really is.

  2. Observer*

    OP, I actually side eye people who look down their noses and make disparaging comments about >insert your punching bag group< who are "greedy and entitled" because they want a decent salary. That is NORMAL and healthy!

    That doesn't mean that you should always consider a good salary as THE thing you consider when looking at a job. And it can sometimes be smart or admirable to give up a good salary for a specific reasons. It just means that financial security is a legitimate and necessary thing to factor in to your decision making.

    1. Rose*

      It’s the cringiest thing, nothing is greedier than wanting to improve your own life by forcing someone else to live paycheck to paycheck.

    2. Tisiphone*

      The amount of “selfish” I’ve heard while growing up is that it seems to be defined as putting yourself ahead of last place. If that’s selfishness, I embrace the selfish.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I think a *little* bit of selfishness is healthy. It’s kind of like the airplane safety thing – put your oxygen mask on before helping others, even your children. You can’t help anyone else if you’re so selfless that you’re dead.

        1. Non-Profit Fundraising Professional*

          +1 to this. My mom always reminds me of this when I start putting everyone else first (work, life, etc.) and I get stressed.

      2. BRR*

        Ooh I’m going to steal that. I think often times it’s the people who are nowhere near last place, telling the people second to last place they’re being selfish.

        I also agree with Rural Juror (best name ever). A little bit of selfishness is healthy. The same behavior can be called selfish and other times advocating for oneself.

    3. BRR*

      I would be ecstatic to never hear the word entitled again. Especially when it’s about living paycheck to paycheck or having a little bit left over (I don’t believe we’re talking about huge sums of money here). Would it be great if money wasn’t as crucial? Absolutely! But in the meantime, most of us need money to get by.

      I think Alison posed most of the questions to look at, but I’d also ask how much fulfillment are you looking for from work?

    4. Anon for this*

      It’s possible to have it both ways. I work for a non-profit as an individual contributor, do 40 hours a week on a very real flex schedule, and make $150,000/year. *And* I actually like the work I do.

      I’ve worked with people who have quit to take drastic pay cuts in other fields, and well… it’s their choice to make. There are a few jobs that I think I’d actually like to do more than what I’m currently doing, but is it worth the pay cut to do them? Oh hell no.

      I’ve had lower paying jobs in the past. *At work*, it was great and I liked what I was doing. Away from work? I couldn’t afford to do much, and felt like I was really stuck in the rat race. When you don’t make much money, you really do have to contemplate what working for the rest of your life might look like. When you make more than you spend? You can think about the opportunities that extra money will create for/buy you, like the possibility of actually quitting your job one day and having a real retirement.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I work for a non-profit as an individual contributor, do 40 hours a week on a very real flex schedule, and make $150,000/year.

        Where exactly do you work? Asking for a friend, lol.

        1. TheLayeredOne*

          LOL, same. Even the executive director at the last two non-profits I worked at didn’t make that much. (I also worked at a huge org where the ED made over $300K, though.)

    5. Blackcat*

      Yeah, I mean I know a friend who left Big Law to become a public defender.
      But she only did it after paying off all her loans and saving a ton.

      Also, a lot of the people I know who have opted into low paying jobs have parents who are financially stable. If you know you’re not going to be homeless, it’s a lot easier to live paycheck to paycheck.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yeah, I mean I know a friend who left Big Law to become a public defender.
        But she only did it after paying off all her loans and saving a ton.

        This is very, very common. I know a lot of associates biding their time to pay off their law school loans and flee for better quality of life or more interesting work. I know one who saved for years in order to take a federal law enforcement position at about 25% of their lawyer salary.

        It’s, bluntly, the same advice I’d give OP now. She’s been in this role for three months. Stay for another nine, sock away money to hedge a paycut, and then take the savings and full year of professional experience shopping for a new position.

        Jobs on the Hill pay squat and are primarily held by people whose parents can subsidize them for a few years until they can pivot into a lobbying role or something higher paying. Some of them are also very tied to election results and are less stable than other jobs.

    6. Lady Meyneth*

      Hear hear! Anyone saying you’re greedy for wanting finantial security is plain crazy!

      But also, OP, you’ve been at your job 3 months. That’s a really short time, barely enough to be trained and really know all your tasks in a lot of jobs. Are you sure you were able to correctly assess if this job is truly boring and unchallenging in such a short time when you thought it could be a good carreer step only 3 months ago?

      You know your situation best, but be wary of looking for the perfect dream job, because those don’t really exist. There will always be parts of any job you don’t like or find boring/annoying, and while you don’t want to have every part of what you do, don’t be too quick to move on because not everything is what you expected.

  3. Colette*

    I totally agree with Alison – now is not a great time to take a pay cut, and particularly one that will make your financial situation precarious. I think that sometimes we think that wanting money is always bad, but the truth is that money buys you choices. If you have enough money, you can move if you need to, or take a cab when the bus doesn’t show up, or quit a job with an abusive boss. (I’m not talking billionaire money, I’m talking about a healthy emergency fund.)

    Are there other positions you could transfer to internally? Administrative skills are good skills to have; are they truly irrelevant to the jobs you’d like to have? But also, in my experience, if you get really good at a boring job, you may find that you get other options that may not be visible now.

    1. Quinalla*

      Agreed, put more weight on the pay-cut aspect, but also look at if the potential new job really does have big growth potential, how long you have to stay at the smaller salary as well? Is the salary negotiable? What about other benefits that might make the lower salary not really as low as you are thinking?

      And there is absolutely nothing wrong with loving the security of having a paycheck where you have some room to save and spend on some nonessentials here and there. There is real benefit to your mental health especially in having that level of paycheck and it is nothing to feel bad about or disparage. Once you get past that, the returns for more money diminish, but the different between living on the edge and feeling comfortable and saving is HUGE.

      1. Classic Rando*

        I still vividly remember the first time the effects of a pay increase really hit home. After working minimum wage for years I got a full time job at about double the state minimum wage. It still wasn’t a lot, but I could finally afford to get my car’s oil changed and emissions test done, so I could finally pay to renew my registration. I’d been driving unregistered and uninsured for a while because of the costs, but public transit really didn’t exist where I lived.
        The guy at the shop came into the waiting room with two air filters, one totally black with grime and a pristine new one. He held the black one up and said, “this is your air filter-” and I waved it away, “yep, just go ahead and replace that!”
        He left as my chest swelled with pride, I’d just been able to approve an additional part without worrying about the price! I didn’t even ask what it would cost, I knew I could cover it! What power!

        So OP, you’re not greedy or entitled, you’re a normal person with normal bills and expenses. Anyone who says otherwise probably has too much money and not enough sense.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      the truth is that money buys you choices.

      YESSSSS! I feel much less anxious about life in general now that I have almost six months worth of living expenses tucked away in savings, have almost hit the deductible amount in my HSA, and can pay extra towards my school loans. I would not be able to say this if I hadn’t left my last low paying position for the one I’m in now (by the end of the year, I will have made a little over $80,000 with my bonuses factored in).

      But also, in my experience, if you get really good at a boring job, you may find that you get other options that may not be visible now.

      This can also be true. I once worked for a law firm as a client services specialist (a dead-end job at my firm that didn’t pay much on an hourly basis), but then was made a paralegal around the two year mark because I killed at my original position and was assisting the paralegals with higher-level work already. I didn’t get a pay bump with the title bump (the firm was horribly cheap), but seven months later, I was recruited away to enter into a claims trainee program (thanks to that title bump) where I received a $11,000 pay bump to start, and eight months after that, was promoted to do higher-level writing and settlement negotiating (and received another pay bump).

      Keep hope alive, OP. Some dead-ends really can lead to U-turns and forward movement.

  4. Generic Username*

    OP, whilst only you can make this decision, I would really recommend that you stick with the devil you know – even in the best of times. I took a paycut that barely left me enough to live on each month and it really wasn’t worth the stress of having to constantly worry the most minor of expenses. I was let go after 2 years and like you I’m now in a depressingly dull government job but the thought of being able to just grab a coffee or takeout every so often is worth it!

    1. Broke & Stressed*

      I agree with you! The stress of not knowing if you’ll have money left over for an emergency really is a horrible thing. I’m the sole support for a family of 5 (3 adults and 2 small children) and I find myself worrying every single day if I’ll have enough money left til next paycheck for food, diapers, gas, etc. While a boring job can be mentally draining, the constant worry about money can be even worse on your mental health.

    2. MarsJenkar*

      Some people say that money can’t buy happiness, but that’s only true past a certain point. The fact is, financial insecurity is a major source of unhappiness for a lot of people, and major or chronic cases can even cripple a person in ways they may never recover from.

      I’d recommend continuing to search. Taking this job may seem appealing now, but may set you up for greater unhappiness down the road.

      1. sacados*

        So so true. I identify so hard with that giddy feeling OP is talking about — I remember the exact same emotion when I went from two years of making about $12/hr at my first post-college job to $20/hr at the next job. It felt CRAZY to me to have so much money, and actually be able to save a bit!

      2. No Longer Looking*

        “Money cannot buy happiness, but it can mitigate unhappiness, and it can make misery very comfortable.”

      3. RecoveringSWO*

        Some study made waves in the past couple of years that basically said, “Yes, money buys you happiness until you hit ~$65-85k.” Taking care of needs and security shouldn’t be ignored.

    3. RussianInTexas*

      Yes! When a minor car repair gives you insomnia because it’s either car you need to get to work, or your grocery budget for the rest of the month, a stable, even if boring, job with decent income is nothing to throw away after 3 months. Especially now, with all (waves hand at the world).
      *the car repair was paid off with credit card debt which is how you get in to the debt cycle when your income is low.

  5. OntarioTeacher*

    I feel this. I’m a teacher, and the way teaching in a COVID world is going, I’m working at 66% of my salary year round with opportunity to supply teach for the other 33%, just at specific times of the year (whereas in a regular world I could pick up daily supply work by the hour to top myself up to full time). It’s going to be ROUGH until I can supply, but I know this temporary pay restriction will be fixed in the future. For me, it’s worth it to stick it out now & dip into savings to tide me over until next year. I’ve worked my way into my position for 6 years – I can’t give it all away now.

    1. TeacherCurious*

      Off-topic, but I’m curious to know more about the Canadian teaching system. Are you regularly a full-time teacher? I’ve heard that it’s very, very hard to get hired as a full-time teacher in Ontario and that people spend many years as supply (which I think is the same thing as substitute) teachers.

      1. OntarioTeacher*

        You’ve heard right. I’m part-time permanent (so I teach 4/6 classes throughout the school year), thus get paid a prorated amount, but can supply teach to top myself up to full-time. Ideally in the next few years I’ll be able to be full-time permanent. I’ve been working my way towards this since 2014, progressing from daily supply, to short term contract, to full year contract, to part time permanent, then hopefully to full time permanent. Colleagues of mine travel between schools or teach outside their specialties to make it work.

        I should note – I teach high school, it’s somewhat more difficult in elementary school.

        1. TeacherCurious*

          Wow — teaching in the US certainly has problems, but this degree of difficult in getting a job is not one of them. Why do you think it’s so hard in Canada?

          Good luck to you!

      2. Aaron*

        BC new teacher here. Similar, though if you’re willing to work in remote communities getting a job is easy. The public system is part of a province wide union though, so you can transfer lots of seniority from district to district.

        1. TeacherCurious*

          Interesting! Is it this hard in all provinces, or just Ontario and BC?

          Thanks for answering my curiosity!

  6. Former LC*

    I would take the interview and ask about opportunities for advancement within the office. As a former legislative staffer, I left partly because of the low salary (also because I wanted out of politics), but especially if you are in DC, legislative jobs are good experience to have on your resume. If it’s a staff assistant position I would carefully weigh the benefits of doing admin work and ask if there is room for you to assist with actual legislative work. If it’s an LC or higher position I would do it for a few years and leave with a resume that is boosted by having legislative experience.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I was coming to say this. If the pay will be low for a year and then there will be other opportunities, then a year living paycheck to paycheck would be an investment into a beneficial career. It may be worth it.

    2. BPT*

      I would suggest you take a look at the organization on LinkedIn, and filter the results to be people who used to work at the organization. Do people leave the organization quickly? Do they get promoted into new positions at the organization? Or did the last person with this job stay in the same position for 5 years? Look at people who used to hold this position, and see if they’ve had the type of career trajectory you want.

      If it’s a legislative position in DC (or similar), it’s often worth it to take the lower salary. It also depends on your age/where you are in your career – if you’re 23, it may be worth it because there’s a lot of time to grow in your career. If you have more financial responsibilities/kids/mortgage, etc, it may be less worth it to take a lower paying job.

  7. juliebulie*

    After the interview, if you’re still undecided, get into an imaginary time machine and go five or ten years into the future. You’re still at the job you have now. Do you regret letting this opportunity go by?

    In most matters, I usually err on the side of caution. But if I think it’s likely that for the rest of my life I’ll look back and be sorry I didn’t try something when I had the chance, I go ahead and try it.

    1. Rose*

      This feels disproportionately weighted towards leaving. I love my job but if I’m still in the same role in five years I’ll be very disappointed. Op will have the chance to interview for many, many more jobs in five years. This isn’t the only path out fo their current role.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        In five years, you might have anything from serious medical bills to a baby to the desire to save up for a house to some other financial eventuality. Living paycheck to paycheck means that you dip into your savings every time something non-standard happens, which eventually can snowball into even having to take on debt in order to pay some kind of emergency like a broken down car or something. So in 2020 of all years, I would not necessarily put too much romance into the exciting but underpaid job that got away.

        there will be other meaningful work that will come along that offers equitable pay. And even if there isn’t, with a decent enough paycheck you can choose to do meaningful things for free.

          1. Julia*

            Yes, but OP isn’t paycheck to paycheck now and presumably would start the lower paying job with a small financial cushion.

      2. Bee*

        Also, two or three years from now, they’ll have SAVINGS and will be much more comfortably able to take a pay cut to get into the field they want! The risk feels less risky when you’ve got a cushion for emergencies.

    2. MK*

      The problem with this kind of logic is that it works both ways, and people rarely want to apply it the way it doesn’t sync with their personal desires and prejudices. I mean, obviously if the OP is still in this unsatisfactory job ten years from now, she will have some regret she didn’t take a risk. But if she does take a risk and in ten years is still struggling financially, she will also regret it, especially it doesn’t pay off careerwise. Just as you say “imagine yourself in this boring job ten years from now” one could also say “imagine yourself having to live with roommates ten years from now”.

    3. Frank Doyle*

      But this isn’t the only opportunity in the world. Just because she doesn’t take THIS job, that doesn’t mean she’s stuck in her present job for the next five years.

    4. juliebulie*

      I wrote this with the impression that it was a rare opportunity that OP might never get again. If that’s not the case, then sure, it can wait. It definitely doesn’t have to happen now.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      This involves a lot of crystal ball-gazing, and I tend to find that attempting some sort of future analysis of how you’ll feel if X tends to be more of an exercise in projection of how you’re feeling now. There is no way to know if OP would still be in the current role in five years and this is the only opportunity for escape or she starts doing so well in her current role that she gets tapped for a higher-level role or in another year she has enough of a savings cushion that taking a paycut doesn’t have the same ramifications it does now. Any speculation about future regret is not much different than the calculus she’s running now.

  8. Quill*

    Another thought for OP:

    How long could you, realistically, keep going in this new job without removing money from your savings? Is it “until I need to find a new place when rent goes up?” Is it “until I have any major repair?”

    Is this a situation where in an alternate world version of 2020, without a virus, without the world having no clue what they can expect to happen next year, you would still have had a moment of hesitation because this job will have you treading financial water?

  9. KatyO*

    Definitely explore this other opportunity so you have all the facts in order to make your decision. I’d say there’s another option too, if the current job isn’t one that makes you want to jump off the building every monday. :)

    Are there volunteer opportunities in your area that could lead you to the path of your dream job? To get your name out there and network with people in that field? Keep the current job for the financial stability and find other ways to fulfill yourself outside of work. Could be a good way to meet more people and move toward something that you’d love to do in the future, while building up your emergency fund…just in case. Good luck to you, either way!

    1. Lizzo*

      +100 to this.

      Financial stability is key, especially right now, and the idea of volunteering outside of work to move you towards whatever the next step is, is an excellent idea. I bet the volunteering will help ignite a fire that allows you to detach from the drudgery of your job a bit and make it more palatable.

    2. Michael*

      ^ +100
      Have definitely had points in my life where work was just frustrating and the release valve was volunteering or baking (mostly to give away to friends, sometimes the office), or hobbies so that I could feel like I was learning or making an impact since I wasn’t necessarily getting that at work.

  10. Sleepytime Tea*

    I… am risk averse. Taking a new job at this particular time would make me slightly queasy. Taking a new job with a pay cut that meant I wouldn’t be able to put money in my savings account makes me even more queasy. The thing is, that there is no “dream job” to start with. Oh how I’ve started my dream job more than once and found out a year later that all those things I was so excited about were not what I thought, or the baggage they came with made it not worth it.

    I think Alison is right, that in a year when things are (hopefully) more stable, it might be a better time to take the financial risk. Another year at a boring but secure job? Not ideal, but for me, well, I’m in a similar situation and just trying to make the most of it.

    But really the question is about what is an acceptable risk level for YOU. What if you got hit with an unexpected expense and you didn’t have the savings to cover it. Do you have a fall back? Are you ok with having to use that fall back for the sake of your career? If the answer is yes, then you are a step closer to your answer. This is not the one and only job you will ever come across like this. But if you really don’t want to wait another year before you can take the next step in your career, maybe that makes it worth it for you to go for it. Make that pro and cons list, and rate each item. Total it up and see where you land. Then, take into account your heart and your gut. I’m analytical, but I know that you can’t go with the numbers on everything.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      I… am risk averse. Taking a new job at this particular time would make me slightly queasy. Taking a new job with a pay cut that meant I wouldn’t be able to put money in my savings account makes me even more queasy.

      We are the same. Unless your job is in some way abusive, OP, or a threat to your physical or mental health in some way (because yes, boredom at work can cause severe depression and anxiety), I wouldn’t recommend jumping ship just yet. My brother recently did back in June, but he was working in a prison as a corrections officer where they were lying about Covid exposure from transferred inmates, so he had no choice but to leave. He’s still walking on eggshells right now because he doesn’t know if his new company will have a downturn, need to make cuts, and will start with him as the last one hired in his department (he’s a supply chain manager in their logistics division, so he may be safe, but you never know).

  11. MK*

    OP, I don’t want to question your assessment of the factors, obviously you know your circumstances, but… three months ago you accepted a position that you believed would be a huge step in your career and now you are sure it’s a complete dead end. Now you are considering something you say is an amazing opportunity, even though apparently it’s not on your ideal career path, but could easily set you on that path. Are you sure you are making well-thought-out decisions here? Because tome it’s coming across as if you are taking impulsive steps.

    1. Lady Heather*

      I’m wondering this as well, especially considering “young professional that has had multiple low-paying jobs”. Were those all short-term?

      1. Mid*

        More likely they were multiple jobs at the same time. I worked between 3-6 jobs at any one time before I got my current position.

    2. Mockingjay*

      OP, keep in mind that in most quote “normal” jobs, the first 6 months or so are slow in terms of assigned work and responsibilities, especially in government. Use this time to your advantage. Learn about the agency you support. Take online classes – most agencies offer a ton of free training for quick skills and helpful stuff. If there’s no promotion in your current position, there will be in other areas – find out what the requirements are and start a career plan.

      Most jobs are not quick jaunts up a career ladder. Career progression is like the tortoise – slow and steady. Plan for years, not months or moments.

      Take a deep breath, review everything that brought you to Current Job and evaluate what it brings against what Amazing Opportunity offers. Amazing Opportunity offers thrills, but how will you feel when it ends and you’re job hunting again?

    3. Gunther Centralperk*

      I also want to add that you should reflect on whether your judgement is being clouded by how much you dislike your current job. When I was in a similar scenario, I was convinced that taking a leap of faith would be the best move for me. But once I took a long hard look at what was going on, I realized that I was trying to give myself reasons to take a risky move because of how unhappy I was at the time. I think you should also think about what exactly about your current job makes it unfulfilling. Is it a lack of challenges? Is there anything you can do/take initiative to challenge yourself and build skills where you are?

    4. BRR*

      I reread the letter and am questioning this as well. I hope this is not making too big of a leap but I’m wondering if this is the LW’s first full-time and if they’re at the start of their career? I think more early-careers roles can be more boring than usual and the new job might not be that much more interesting.

    5. Genny*

      This stuck out to me as well, partially because I’ve been there. The grass is always greener, in another job and everyone else is somehow catching the golden ring while you’re just stuck in a career that isn’t going anywhere.

      LW, instead of chasing new job opportunities when you’re only three months into this new job that you thought would be an amazing opportunity, think through what knowledge, skills, and experience you’re building in this job. Things like knowing how to work within the bureaucracy, how your department works, who key players are, how to apply rules and regulations to get to a satisfactory conclusion, how various processes work, etc. are all really important things that can make you more attractive in future positions because they’re the not-so-sexy things that keep the system functioning.

      If you don’t know how to talk about the skills you’re gaining in your current role, see if your department has some kind of employee career center or if there’s a friendly HR person in your office. Meanwhile, get a better idea of how you can leverage your current position into something you’re more interested in by having a bunch of informational interviews with your coworkers.

    6. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      Having been in this job only 3 months struck me, too. I can’t remember any job I’ve ever had that I didn’t feel measurably different about (one way or another) 6 months or a year or two later than I did at 3 months. I can’t help wondering about the “grass is always greener on the other side” factor here.

  12. EEB*

    This post resonated with me so much! After I graduated from college I spent five years at a nonprofit job that I loved (both the organization’s mission and the day-to-day of the job itself), but where I was significantly underpaid. I ended up taking a job where I had a lower level of responsibility, was doing less interesting work, and cared less about the organization – but where I was making more as a specialist than I’d previously been making as a director.

    For a few months, I was bored and unhappy at my job that I frequently wondered if I had made a mistake. I felt like I had completely abandoned my promising career trajectory, and I too was dreading Mondays. Even at the worst points, though, I loved the financial security and the quality of life that my boring job afforded me, and I couldn’t honestly imagine giving that up. Even though the job itself was worse, my life overall was better.

    I got really lucky – over time my boring job became a lot more interesting, to the point where I now love the work I’m doing and feel like my career is back on track. I have also gotten 20% raises two years in a row, which would NEVER have happened at my old job, and I’m so grateful to be in the financial situation that I’m in.

    I completely agree with Alison that there’s no right or wrong answer here. I would say, though, that if you’re only three months into your current job…consider giving it a little more time. In my experience, nonprofits have so much turnover that you can rise in the ranks and get to do interesting work very quickly. At bigger/more stable organizations, it may take longer for the interesting work to start coming, and to prove that you’re the kind of employee who deserves such work. But it can happen!

    1. Engineer Woman*

      OP, you note that you’re only 3 months into this new job. I highly recommend you give it a longer try. Financial stability is not to be taken lightly and I think any job (unless with illegal, dangerous or truly toxic components) needs a bit longer to fully determine if a good fit or not.

    2. Super Duper Anon*

      I agree with this. I started at my current job a couple of years ago and took it knowing it was a corporate job at a company that didn’t super interest me, but had very good stability ratings. I was at a company having financial troubles and my husband was unemployed at the time and I really needed to reduce my stress levels. At the start, I was very underworked and bored and was thinking of leaving as well, but as I went on I found side projects that I could do and got more and more work onto my plate. Two years later I have been promoted and have a comfortable level of work that I like, and lots of room to take on things I find interesting. Not sure if I will be here forever, but being in a stable company with money is so valuable to me.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I was on the same path…years at a non-profit doing all sorts of interesting and fulfilling work, but living paycheck to paycheck. In my case, I stayed too long. The stress of just getting by for years has taken a toll on how I view money and life decisions that involve money.
      When I left, my salary doubled. It was like I was plopped down into a new life. But, work was boring and I no longer had the decision making power I used to. But then I left that job and found an excellent job that has the excitement and the salary.
      So, I’d suggest the OP makes a long term plan. It may be beneficial to add more skills and experience in exchange for a paycut, but there needs to be an exit plan to move onto other opportunities.

  13. Lifelong student*

    Consider the stability of the two alternatives as well. Government work- if Civil Service or any equivalent is very stable and generally has good benefits. Legislative work could be very dependent on elections. Even if not for a specific politician, staff assignments may change depending on majority changes. Also, even if the current job is not stimulating, there are advantages to being in the government system and potentially able to transfer agencies. Take the long view.

    1. Chumble Spuz*

      I was coming here to say this. Particularly if the OP is an actual employee of the government, versus being a contractor working for the government. I’d suggest looking at what the other jobs are in that government organization because there may be contacts to be made and getting hired internally is always easier than as a member of the public. If you think of it as a foot in the door, can you leverage it to go somewhere you want (job position wise), even if there isn’t a direct promotion potential?

      I work for a federal agency and was in a dead end admin job I *hated* for 4 years. BUT it allowed me to learn a lot about the various groups in the Agency and figure out where I did want to work. I used that time to pick up some project work related to where I wanted to go, and was eventually able to get promoted into a job I love that is quite different than the admin work I was doing.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        My sister-in-law was in a position working as a civilian employee of the Army. She was super stressed out all the time and really hated that job. She also had no upward mobility there, so it was going to be a good long-term career path. But she was able to jump ship and work for a organization that contracts with the Army. She’s still technically a government employee, because the organization is federally funded, but she was able to get out of the other position that wasn’t a good fit for her. So, to agree with you, other paths can open up!

    2. engineermommy*

      This, 100%. Not only are legislative positions election-dependent, you don’t have the same job protections that civil servants have. You can be let go for any reason at any time, and the reason might have nothing at all to do with your performance. Benefits may not be the same either. Hours are almost certainly different.

      With the coming election, there may be lots of flux in positions. Do you know enough about how these things work to make it work to your benefit? In other words, if the legislature flips and a new majority takes over, you don’t want to be competing for jobs with a legislator on the new minority side because they will have the pick of the litter. Legislative jobs also mean you are basically picking a party, and that choice stays with your for your entire career. I’m not saying that’s good or bad, just pointing it out so that you are aware.

  14. Washi*

    I was once a young person who happily took some low-paying jobs to get ahead. It wasn’t a very difficult decision because I had very low standards of living and nothing to lose really. My priority was definitely career over comfort.

    Now I’m more established, making more, and have standards, and I wouldn’t go back. I look at my former self who lived in a basement with no kitchen and washed dishes in the bathroom sink and I’m like….nooope! I admire the passion and energy I had then, and I thank my former self for getting me to this place I am now, but I’m ready to move on to a different stage in my life.

    It’s ok to change and want different things as you get older! You did that string of low paying jobs so you could have your comfortable life, and you don’t need to feel like a sellout for not wanting to return to that. Having no standards makes it easy to find jobs, but maybe your goal isn’t to take every job opportunity offered to you. Maybe you just want to have a comfortable life, and maybe in a bit find a job that’s a little more interesting to you, and that’s ok.

  15. redcoat*

    This is a difficult question. Are there things outside of work that make you feel really good and fulfilled that you can do with your extra time, now that you don’t have to work three jobs?

    I once worked a similar job to what you describe–government, good pay, great benefits…and it was boring, weirdly stressful, and insanely mismanaged. My coworkers were some of the greatest people I’ve ever known. Our supervisors were not. (That’s when I started reading AAM–I applied to 200 jobs in five months.) I have learned to describe that job in a way that pulls out all the good things I learned on the job and none of the totally, bafflingly, mind-bogglingly insane things that happened. So maybe the boring admin tasks, while boring right now, are actually good skills? As someone who now hires people for admin work, so many people just assume they can do admin work but few people are really great at it!

    I think you will get a better job that you like more and still pays well. Go to the interview, see what happens. But everything is so scary right now, it is okay to stay where you are so you don’t have to worry about money. That doesn’t make you a bad person and it doesn’t make you a sell out.

    I wish you weren’t in this position, but I know you won’t be in it forever.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      LOVE THIS! Especially the need for a perspective shift – would you feel fulfilled enough if other parts of your life checked those boxes for you, OP?

  16. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    A bit of perspective from the other side of the table: I’ve been under & unemployed for nearly a year, and DREAM of having a boring job again. Yes, I would love something where I could utilize my talents, but with the pandemic… just a place to get up and go to during the day, or a team to work with online would be GLORIOUS. I have been where you are, but the grass is not always greener on the other side. I’d hold out until the economy is more stable, as Alison said.

  17. blink14*

    I would really consider the value to you of potential job. While your current job may not be your dream job, would staying there another 6 months or 1-2 years give you enough of a cushion to take a less paying job in the future? Because the potential job isn’t your dream job either, as you stated.

    How would the commute be? Work hours? Benefits comparison? Items like that, while you can put a price on them in some way while looking at it on paper, often are make or break for jobs that are sort of lateral moves, or a salary decrease.

    A real life example – my friend, who has an extensive background in PR, felt stuck in an old school PR firm where she had been a long time, with little in raises and promotions. She was desperate to get out – so desperate that she took a position as an in house PR director for a non-profit, which came with a large salary cut, about 25% if I remember correctly. The job, the non-profit, the message, all fit her career goals. The salary cut was too much. She stayed about a year, and then took some short term gigs before landing in a different industry as a PR specialist at a much more appropriate salary.

    My personal opinion? Don’t take a job with a salary decrease unless it’s your life’s goal to work in that industry, that company, etc. Because that salary increase, while it may not seem like much at certain income levels, can feel drastic when you are trying to save, move, pay off debt, loans, etc.

    1. blink14*

      As an addendum to this – my dream job, which is still my dream job, was something I put aside when I was just out of college because the grind and work hours for the payout wasn’t worth it to me. It was something I could still do on the side, in a smaller scale. Ironically, this dream job is in the entertainment industry which has obviously been hit drastically by COVID. My university job with a steady salary and excellent benefits looks better than ever, and I worked hard for that stability.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Don’t take a job with a salary decrease unless it’s your life’s goal to work in that industry, that company, etc.</em?

      Yes, but the story about your friend — isn't it likely that she was able to get the PR specialist position with a much better salary in part *because* she now had experience as an in-house PR director? Would she have been considered for that better role without that experience?

      Maybe yes, or maybe not, but the point is the trade off of month-to-month salary against a job you like better or is more in line with the field you want to work in — isn't really the only factor to consider.

      e.g. in many industries, people invest large sums of money, sometimes very very large sums of money, into things like graduate degrees for the field they want to get into, because it's an investment in their future self and is the "start-up cost" involved in getting into that field. Future self has borrowed the money from current self, if you like.

      If a job is lower-paying currently but opens the doors to something better, isn't that really just a different form of investing in future-you?

      1. blink14*

        The job my friend took was actually pretty lateral – she had been assigned to long time clients at her old job as a contracted in-house PR specialist, working for very large, regionally known brands. The salary cut was unlivable, and that was a big part of the point I was trying to make – if you are taking a job because it sounds good, is in your desired industry, but isn’t THE job, and there’s a big salary cut? Is that worth it and is it something that is livable? Can you afford to live and not be scrimping like crazy.

        Its a different thing when its the dream job in the dream industry, or it’s a direct requirement to that.

  18. Trek*

    When you don’t like the options in front of you look for other options. There is never only two solutions to a situation. You could sock away money for a year and then take a decrease in salary if needed and use your savings to supplement. You could get a roommate to share costs. Look for other jobs that don’t require a decrease in pay and start networking and researching what skills you need to get that job. What are your goals outside of work including saving, traveling, education and family. What do you need to achieve those goals? While you can go back and take the decrease I wouldn’t do it for more than one year.

  19. Justin*

    I dislike my current thing and am trying to build a safe way out by writing and speaking on the side until a better thing comes along. Much as it pains me to do something I don’t think helps the world, this isn’t the time to jeopardize security. I’d say find a side volunteer/interest and spend your drudgery looking forward to that until it’s more secure to move on.

    I get it though, I do.

  20. CatCat*

    Another thing to think about is the possibility of moving to a different job within the government after you’ve been in your position for a while. Not sure how it is with the government system you’re in, but where I am, it is totally normal for people to do this and may be easier to find something when you’re inside the system. Weirdly, the same classifications can ultimately be quite different from one another in terms of job duties. So say someone is classified as Government Drone I at Dead End Agency and your work is largely working on mindnumbing spreadsheets. Then there’s a job opportunity at Exciting Agency researching and writing interesting reports as a Government Drone II. Required experience: one year as a Government Drone I.

    So it would definitely be worth looking more at mobility within the larger government system you’re in if similar such circumstances may apply. Sometimes you have to be in it for a while to see how it works.

    1. Public Sector Manager*

      Government attorney here. I agree with this completely! Also, the OP said the new opportunity was in legislation, and in my state, every state executive branch agency has a legislative director. If that’s the career path, the OP can pursue that goal while keeping the salary and job security that they have.

  21. Some Lady*

    I did this – I took a nearly 20% pay cut to live in a more expensive city after using up savings for grad school for a job that would let me pivot into a direction that was more interesting for me, and for which I needed some experience to get to higher positions. For me, it was totally worth it. I had to get a second job to make ends meet for the first 2 years, and my parents had to help me out with my deposit on my apartment and with repairs when my car broke down. I did not make a dent on either savings or debt in that time. For me, it was rough, but so, so valuable. I am now being paid very fairly for a job I love, have paid down most of my debt, and built up my savings considerably. I’m far more qualified to get another job I would actually enjoy if I choose or need to, both from actual skills, the resume to prove those skills, and a network in a field I care about.

    It’s up to you for all the reasons Allison said, but I do believe that while it’s fine for work to just be work and not ‘passion,’ passion can also make you a better worker, especially in mission-driven fields. And jobs that are soul-crushing are never worth it long-term, no matter what the pay.

    1. NeonFireworks*

      I’m in this position too. Prolonged financial insecurity and debt were not fun, but I have very low boredom tolerance, to the point that living with very little money was the less scary option. Now I’m in a fast-paced and satisfying line of work, thank goodness. It was worth holding out for in my case.

  22. insert pun here*

    One thing to consider: if all the potential entry paths to your ideal career are going to involve having a low-paying job for some amount of time, then there is an argument for just ripping off the band-aid and taking the low-paying job sooner rather than later. Though, admittedly, perhaps not during a pandemic.
    There’s also a good argument for working the boring job for awhile, saving up some cash, and then taking the low-paying job and sort of mentally treating it like you’re going back to school. That might be more palatable if you’re risk-averse, financially.

  23. Mid*

    I’m in a similar boat. I can’t tell you what to do, but I can share what I did.

    I’m at my first job that actually pays me enough to live. It’s also incredibly boring most of the time. I don’t hate it, but it’s not something I’m passionate about. I was offered a position working for a non-profit I’ve worked for in the past. It would be exactly the work I dreamt of doing, but for longer hours, high stress, less benefits, and less pay.

    I chose to stay in my current position. I realized that living without financial anxiety was a huge plus for me. Being able to go to the grocery store without counting my spare change is amazing. Being able to save up money. Being able to buy things I need without skipping meals. Knowing I can actually handle a financial emergency without having to put everything on credit cards.

    I also like not being emotionally invested my job. Not thinking about it on my off hours, not feeling like I always need to be doing more to help The Cause. I have more energy to volunteer with causes I care about, and to invest in myself, my hobbies, and my friendships. I can donate money to causes I care about.

    And beyond the emotional investment, I also like having a 9 to 5 that doesn’t often require working late. I like being able to flex my time if I do have to work late or early one day. Our work week is 37.5 hours a week and I rarely have to go over. Having that predictability has been so great for my health. Having free time has been great for me too.

    So, I’d look at the pros and cons of the work. Not just pay but schedule, benefits, stress, hours, everything. Figure out what’s most important to you. And realize there is no one right answer. Both options are valid paths, and they’ll have different results, but neither is inherently right or wrong. So focus on what matters most to you, and what would be best for you right now.

  24. anon73*

    There’s not a one size fits all answer. It’s all about what’s most important to you, and then decide what risks you’re willing to take. A few things to consider…Is this new job really that great, or are you just desperate to leave your current position? If you took this new job and couldn’t pay your bills, is moving back in with your parents an option/can your parents help you financially? There’s nothing wrong with loving a steady paycheck, and nothing wrong with throwing caution to the wind and risking it for a dream job. But nothing is guaranteed, especially right now.

  25. Red5*

    If you’re offered this new job, would there be room to negotiate your starting salary? This would be a way to at least lessen the impact of the salary decrease if you’re able to do so.

  26. Voodoo Priestess*

    OP, it seems like you haven’t been in your current job long, so in addition to what Alison mentioned, there is value in staying long enough to not be job hopping. If your salary allows it, start saving now for that “dream job” in the future with a pay cut (assuming eventually it will lead to financial stability). If you plan on sticking it out for at least a year, you can cut expenses and save now so when you’re ready to make the change, you have a cushion. Or better yet, make a plan: Determine how many months/years it will take for the “dream job” to be financially secure, determine how much in savings you would need to cover those months/years, and start interviewing when you have the savings to take a pay cut. Your job now might be boring, but if you know it’s temporary and frame it as “I’m going to learn as much as possible while I’m here” it will be easier to tolerate. Or maybe there’s no learning and you put the required energy into work and save your outside energy for your hobbies, passions, or skills that will help you get that dream job.

    Remember, this is not the only job offer if you want to switch careers. There will be others! Good luck!

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Determine how many months/years it will take for the “dream job” to be financially secure,

      I think that’s the part that makes this difficult to reason about, because I felt like OP doesn’t know (or there isn’t a way to determine) how long that might take, if it’s even guaranteed (as much as anything is in these times!) — if it were, it would be a case of some math to figure out the “run rate” of what she’d be spending on rent and bills etc vs the salary, how much of a shortfall would there be, etc.

      This also assumes the current, boring, job has an “infinite” duration and OP isn’t likely to be laid off or downsized etc. I don’t know if that’s a possibility in government jobs or not, but I think it’s a mistake not to at least take into consideration.

      Would the other job, even if it didn’t work out, give more experience that could be parlayed into a better job in another organisation?

  27. AdAgencyChick*

    There is no one right answer to this question. Everyone has a different personal comfort level with risk, with how much joy you get out of luxuries; and everyone has different family situations too. It’s easy to say “do what you love and don’t worry about the money” if you’re independently wealthy and/or have a partner who’s cool with earning most of what you need to support yourselves. Not so easy when you’re the sole provider for a family/are paying down mountains of student debt/etc.

    All this is to say: Don’t look down on yourself if you choose money over a passion project. Passion is a value. So is security.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. Also, it’s not just a matter of luxuries, but it can just be a matter of some financial security vs. living paycheck to paycheck.

  28. Betsy S*

    A lot of this depends on your circumstances.
    It helps to be very clear in your own mind about your financial big picture
    Some possible questions:
    Are you on your own, or would there be family resources if you were in a crisis?
    Do you have health insurance, and do you have any known medical conditions?
    Do you have loans? Dependents?
    How secure is your housing?
    Would it be difficult to move if necessary on your new salary?
    Do you have the time/energy/opportunity to work a side gig?
    If you are at the boring job, do you have the time/energy/opportunity to do a volunteer gig?
    How stable is your current job (be very honest) and how stable is the potential new job likely to be ? (be VERY honest)

    Also on the market:
    What are the salaries in your desired field – is it likely that you will get a better offer if you hold tight?
    How much has your field been affected by the current situation?
    Are there possibly other areas adjacent to your field that might be satisfying and pay more?
    How fixed is the salary offer at the possible job?

    As others have said, these are uncertain times and a lot depends on how much security you have.
    It may help to think of your current job as temporary and focus on building as big of an emergency fund as you can possibly swing. Having 3-6 months of living expenses in the bank – maybe even a year – will change the calculation for you.

    good luck!

  29. Betsy S*

    PS if you aren’t already, try starting right now to live on what would be your take-home from the new job.

  30. Lady Heather*

    OP, something that can never hurt is: live like you’re on a lower salary, and put the remainder in a savings account. That way you can 1) experience whether the low salary is doable, and 2) build up a buffer in case you do choose the low salary and have an emergency bill.

  31. Hobbit*

    Hi Op,
    Instead of looking for a different job, would a side-gig work? A lot of people do that, they view their job as a means of financial stability (which is not greedy) but their passion is funneled into the side gig. I’m working towards this myself. Your side gig could be a volunteer position as something that connects to your future plans. Good Luck!! Please send us an update when you make your decision. Sending positive vibes.

  32. DG*

    I have a mentor who says people who seek out a new opportunity are either “running from” something or “running towards” something. There are times when it makes sense to run from something (extreme burnout, a hostile workplace) but those who put in the work, do some real soul searching, and come up with a well thought out plan for what they want to do next and why are happier, interview better, and are less likely to make rash decisions that they’ll be tempted to “run from” again in a few months.

    My advice to OP – stick it out for at least a year and find side projects that make your day-to-day less of a slog. That could include leading small trainings on your areas of expertise, mentoring junior staff, coordinating community service opportunities for your team, leading an initiative in an affinity group, or any number of other things.

  33. Jaybeetee*

    I would vote that hand-to-mouth pay would take any job out of the running for “dream job”. And it sounds like this wouldn’t actually *be* your dream job – just a step in that direction. Overall, it doesn’t sound worth it to me.

    That said, Google the concept of “weighted natrix”, which is a handy way to help make big decisions that goes a little deeper than just listing pros and cons.

  34. Annony*

    Sticking it out at your current job for a year or so would not mean that you are not ambitious. It means that you are both ambitious and practical! Sticking it out for a year will look better on your resume. It will also give you a chance to build up your savings so that you can afford to take a pay cut if needed without having to move home. You would still be working towards the future you want! If I were you, I would not take the pay cut right now. You have no guarantee that this new job will be worth it. By all means keep looking, but keep your standards high and save up so that when the perfect job comes you can feel comfortable taking that risk.

  35. Seal*

    Here’s the thing, OP – you’ve only been in your government job for THREE MONTHS! You already realize you have no chance for advancement there and you’re already dreading coming into work on Mondays. You have the opportunity to get a more exciting job that pays less but could lead to your ideal career path. Imagine where you’ll be 3 years from now if you pass this up – is that where you want to be?

    1. allathian*

      Three months is too soon to tell if they have any chance of advancement or not. In most jobs, you’re lucky if you’re fully trained by that time. It’s certainly still barely past the probationary period for every job I’ve ever had.

      There’s also the point to consider that depending on the jurisdiction, if you quit your first government job this quickly after being hired, it may make you ineligible for hire for any government job in your area.

  36. SomebodyElse*

    This is a tough one… on the one hand I’m somewhat of a proponent of making some sacrifices for career. As an example I move a lot in my early career including spending 9 months 100% on the road. But on the other hand, I’m not a fan of that sacrifice coming in the form of low compensation.

    This probably doesn’t help much, but for what it’s worth I’m on team ‘stay in your current job for now’ and spend your time and energy looking for a new position that gives you advancement opportunity, industry growth potential, and fair compensation.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, given that I have a family to support, a living wage’s the absolute minimum for me. I would also not be willing to sacrifice a good work-life balance for a high salary. What’s the point of earning a lot of money if you never have the time to enjoy it?

      I’m not particularly career-oriented anyway, and for me “passion for the job” is way less important than financial security. That said, I work for the government because I want my work to benefit the general public rather than to contribute to the wealth of shareholders and executives.

  37. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    I’ve had a job that I felt a passion for that barely paid the bills (pre k teacher) and I’ve worked as a govt. admin that paid good but was soul sucking and boring. So I understand what OP is feeling. However as a grown adult it is up to OP to figure a balance between “love what I do” and “pay the bills”. Weighing in as a mom of adults here: It is my responsibility and moral obligation to house adult kiddos in the even of sudden job loss not in the event of this is more fun but I can only afford this job if I live rent free forever in my childhood bedroom. Keep the decent paying day job and keep exploring options. Could you volunteer or get a part time job in a field you love more to indulge your nonprofit loving side?

  38. WriterGal*

    I took a pay cut eight years ago for what I considered my dream job at the time and had absolutely no regrets about it. I was able to do what I loved full-time working from home for a good wage — living the dream. Eight years later, I’ve gone through an expensive divorce, an expensive house sale, and now an expensive pandemic as the sole earner in my home (a small apartment I rent, very different than the house I had to sell.) But beyond that, my dream job is no longer my dream job. At the start of this year, I was ready for something new in a new community and told my boss so…and then the pandemic hit. Now I’m looking at another year to two years in a job I was eager to leave, and I absolutely dread Mondays now. That’s not to say you shouldn’t leave to find something more fulfilling — I did, and I was very happy doing that for a solid five or six years (and I’m very grateful to have this job given COVID). But the shine on even the best job will eventually fade and your life circumstances could change in ways you’d never expect, and I think that’s something to consider, especially in a pandemic.

  39. Barbara Eyiuche*

    There may be no room for advancement in this particular government job, but once you are in the government system, it is then easier to get other government jobs. So after a year or so at this job, you may be well-placed to apply for other, better, opportunities in the government.

  40. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    Question: Are you sure you’re not going through drama withdrawal?

    When I went from a nonprofit where our hair was always on fire and something was always going sideways, I was bored out of my mind. I’d gotten so used to a regular day’s work turning into a Giant Flaming Emergency at every turn, that I struggled to stay engaged in a workplace where a regular day’s work was a regular day’s work and that was it. It was a big adjustment to work somewhere where you just did your work and if there was an obstacle, you asked someone to please help with it, and they did, and that was that. No yelling or weird workarounds or threats.

  41. In The Same Boat*

    I just made this decision in favor of the secure job. After moving to a new state and being out of work for a year between Covid, move, and significant health issues of my child, I’m going back to work…to a position I held (somewhere else) four years ago. It isn’t the direction I wanted or planned for my career, but the pay and benefits are WAY better than any of the positions I would rather be in (I had been moving away from customer service facing roles to comms/management roles, but here the customer service roles are making more!) the work is fine, I don’t love it but I can do it without hating it. To be honest, I’m struggling with feeling like a sell out and wondering about my long term career trajectory- but this is what makes sense for me and my family, right now, and gives us security during Covid. I’m prepared to say that in future interviews and hope for the best! Wishing OP all the best in making this tough decision and advocating for pay/benefits.

  42. Ariadne Oliver*

    The federal government has so many options open to you that there is no need to be stuck in a boring job. Meaning, stay with the boring job and keep looking until you get something that’s more interesting and pays the bills.

  43. Amber Rose*

    We’ve been approaching this from the opposite direction: should my husband take a demotion, to a crappier lower ranked position with less responsibility, in exchange for 15% more money? And we chose the money.

    We chose the money because I remember doing a job I loved for just a hair above minimum wage and hating my life because if I had a rough day and chose to have the latte, I might not be able to afford rent. You ever had a rent check bounce because you were 27 cents short? I have. It’s right up there in the list of sinking, shameful, despairing feelings.

    There will be other jobs with more pay available to you some day. This job may be exciting, but it’s not the only one that you will ever have a shot at.

    All that said, this is obviously my very biased opinion. You could decide you need to do this, make the choice to switch, and it might very well work out great for you. Even if it’s a pay cut now, maybe you will get raises and it’ll only be tough for a short while. It’s just that maybes are a really hard thing to plan your future around.

  44. Crystal*

    For the LW, is a part-time job in addition to the potential new one out of the question? Waiting tables or working retail a couple of nights a week might be enough to make up the financial difference. Obviously that’s not always possible or sustainable, but it’s worth considering as an option, I think.

    I’m the type that likes to work out Option A, Option B… Option R to make sure I don’t miss any possibilities :)

  45. Academic Librarian too*

    So again. It depends. I had a corporate job that was low-paying but a foot in the door. I left it for a government job – routine, didn’t take work home, stable etc. (a lot of it was repetitious and tedious.) With the “spare time” I developed a consulting practice in my area of interest. That might be something to think about.

  46. Mr. Cajun2core*

    Thoughts to consider.

    Do you work to live or live to work?
    If you had your “dream job” and won the lottery, would you continue working?

    If you had to move back in with your parents, do you think you would dread more going home than you do going to work now?

    Just thoughts to consider. I hope they help.

  47. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I’m not knocking those that want to work in non-profits – working for a cause…. BUT…..

    To use a 1980s expression = “YA GOTTA TAKE CARE OF NUMBER ONE” – meaning -yourself.

    Yes, every job has its pitfalls BUT as for me – as the breadwinner in a family – wife, daughter, mortgage, car payment …nothing extravagant – I was quite happy to take my place in the middle class. I was in a low paying job for ten years and finally went on to another position.

    And it was a zoo – toxic – but I put up with it for a year – financial stability came with it. From that bad professionally/good paying job … it was a bridge to a new life where I had BOTH financial security in my next situation. I knew what I wanted in a job. In a career. And when I was nearly fired from “toxic job”, I went forward, not backward – my next position was nirvana.

    And the next 36 years were, for the most part, blissful, as life it today in semi-retirement. Oh in my last job I had to put up with a lot of crap in the last couple years (a number of Dinner Table Stories, to be sure) but I also counted my retirement money every weekend.

    This old duffer’s advice = when you can pay all your bills, a tremendous distraction is removed from your life. You can THEN rationally anticipate and plan for your next move. You might not like the job but you can rest assured you’ll meet the rent and the light bill. And you are free to develop and explore your next opportunities. Most people do find them.

    1. Some Lady*

      I don’t disagree with this at all. But for me, taking care of me meant finding a way to make sure what I was doing for 40+ hours a week 50-ish weeks of the year was interesting and meaningful for me and was an appropriate match for my talents and weaknesses. It did, eventually, lead to financial security, because since I cared about what I did so much, I was ready when the opportunities finally came. You get one life – you should take care of yourself, and you get to decide what that means.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        I should have put a disclaimer/exception in my treatise above = about staying in a financially secure position one might not like = “as long as your health holds out.”

        Early on – in my first job – I worked the overnight shift (12-8) and, it nearly killed me. And I was in my early-mid 20s. I had saved up enough and was planning on grad school, then they turned around – knowing I was going to leave – gave me a career path that I could happily follow.

  48. Sciencer*

    OP, here’s my concern with what you wrote: this paycheck-to-paycheck job isn’t your dream job, but it seems like a stepping stone to your dream job. How long would you have to be in that role for those steps to become attainable? How often do jobs of the dream-job variety come up in your area? I.e. are you stuck in this financially less secure position for 1-2 years, or 3-4? That’s an important part of the calculation in my opinion.

    Not least because depleting savings (or halting accumulation of savings) puts you at a disadvantage if/when that dream job appears. What if it’s across the country? What if it would require a long unpaid period? (e.g. you get caught job hunting and lose your job, or weird logistics get in the way of a smooth transition – if it’s a government path, these seem to be the norm rather than the exception) Having substantial savings allows you to make risky decisions when it’s the *dream* job you’re risking things for. I worry that by jumping at this stepping-stone job with the pay cut, you’re hampering future flexibility.

  49. Dust Bunny*

    I adore my job. Seriously. We’re nearly a perfect match. But–I’ll say it–the take-home is just over $2,000 a month and that is exhausting. I don’t have overtime, my benefits are paid, and my employer is as generous as they can be while needing core hours, but we’re in a big city and it’s just not enough money. If I could find a job I liked less that paid significantly more I would seriously consider jumping ship. I can always volunteer, etc., to support causes I love.

  50. Kiki*

    Everyone weighs these pros and cons differently, so it’s truly up to you, but I would keep the current job, especially with the economy the way it is and it doesn’t sound like you have a lot of cash reserves or a large safety net. It stinks because it ends up working out that folks with more wealth can take more interesting positions, but I’ve personally found being able to splurge on hobbies and meals at good restaurants makes me happier than any job realistically could.

    1. Kiki*

      I also want to add that in the experience of most people I know, “dream jobs” don’t end up to be nearly as fulfilling people thought they would be. Often, the day-to-day work isn’t terribly exciting or the work culture isn’t good.

  51. Garnet, Crystal Gem*

    There’s some great advice from Alison and here in the comments OP. I’m going to second the advice on finding a side hustle or volunteer gig (highly recommend checking out the Taproot Foundation) instead of taking the low paying job. Having something of interest to work on, might help offset the dread from your day job, and you’ll get to keep your paycheck!

    OP I did what you’re suggesting, though the pay cut was far steeper, thinking I’d be working in a dream industry and career field—in my mind it was totally worth it. There was also the fact that I wasn’t early in my career, and I anticipated I’d be able to advance fairly quickly. Nope! The position I accepted was 100% a bad fit, and not at all what I imagined or understood it to be. I reported to someone completely inexperienced at managing, and managed up a LOT. Worked hard, did great work, and yet was rarely credited or acknowledge for my ideas. Potential for advancement was nonexistent. The fact that I was getting paid well below my earning potential made dealing with a crummy job a bitter pill to swallow. I was demoralized AND underpaid.

    I ended up in this position because I left a job of nearly 2 years because I was B-O-R-E-D. The higher powers that be tried to find ways to make my work more enticing (and keep me around) but there was no path forward for advancement or growth. Looking back, part of me wishes I stuck around for at least another year to earn the title bump I requested, keep making the $$, and start volunteering or freelancing to branch out into my current field. I’m not risk-averse at all, but the boring job was somewhat of a blessing and I was just too naive to realize it at the time.

    When interviewing for that new role, ask all the necessary questions to suss it out and trust your gut. If it feels off stay where you are and keep searching! It really does suck to be painfully bored at work but leaving that job for one that pays less and potentially sucks just as much could be really challenging to manage in the midst of a global pandemic.

  52. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    When I took my current job I took a pay cut and don’t regret it, but that was because there were other monetary benefits that offset the loss. My old job only paid a wage — it was a good wage — but for instance, I had no retirement program to contribute to except my own private one, I had no dental or optometric insurance (I wear glasses/contacts), I had very little paid vacation/sick/holiday leave. My new job not only had all of those things, but a few other financial incentives that my old job couldn’t possibly match. Once I really started doing the math, taking a cut in my take home pay but gaining benefits that I no longer had to pay out-of-pocket for, put me ahead. It was a bit of a squeeze on my budget for a bit, but my salary has increased steadily and my benefits remain very competitive, in a sector that hasn’t been impacted significantly by the financial crashes of both 2008 and 2020. It does sometimes work out financially in the long run.

  53. Oof*

    Set aside what direction you want for a minute – you’ve been there three months after a boatload of PT roles. Unless those positions have some legs to them, you could risk having a job hopping resume. (You would know if this is valid) Looking at that is how I would decide how long to stay.

    In terms of direction, that is such a personal thing. In the end – it’s your call, and don’t judge yourself because you picked one or the other. It’s pretty hard to know the future, either could fail or succeed – and most likely will be somewhere in the middle. The best advice I ever heard was Buzz Aldrin – don’t be afraid to fail.

  54. Good Luck Hamster*

    Former legislative staffer here. It was decades ago but I still view it as one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. HOWEVER! It is stressful work. Are you up for being stressed about pay and stressed about the actual job at the same time? And I bet it’s even more stressful than when I was doing it because the world is so polarized right now. And as someone else said, your job can evaporate if your legislator loses a committee position or the majority switches from one party to the other. In other words, the legislator doesn’t even have to lose an election to lose staff. Having said that, I loved it. Another time, when I had to make a choice like you have, and I was having trouble deciding even after doing massive pro and con lists, I pretended I had made the decision and checked to see how my gut felt. Then I pretended I had made the other decision and checked again. I finally had to decide based on that — instinct — and it involved moving 3000 miles away from everything and everyone I knew. But my gut was right. Good luck!!

  55. I don't know*

    OP, I am in local government and started in an admin role and am now a team lead in another department. It does feel as though there isn’t room for growth when looking at individual departments, but a lot of our hiring is internal transfers where people move up by moving departments. Is this maybe an option down the road for you?

  56. KeepIt*

    OP I would really make sure the job is worth it before you consider taking it too. Talk with people in your field and get a good idea of what this job can actually lead to. If it’s a clear cut “people who do well in this job move on to x usually” situation, great! If it’s just a “well, taking this position will get you on the radar…”, add that into your calculation

  57. learnedthehardway*

    You’ve gotten really good information here. Personally, I would apply and interview, because it sounds like you would regret not exploring the opportunity. One good way of putting any potential regrets to rest is to look into things further – often, you find a reason why you wouldn’t want to go in that particular direction, and that satisfies the yen more than all the logical reasons you can come up with for not looking at it at all.

    Plus, it’s possible that there might be some flexibility on the salary.

  58. Third or Nothing!*

    Here’s my two cents as a 31 year old woman who fell into a job that isn’t particularly satisfying, but provides everything else one needs to thrive: you’re not selling out if you decide that stability is more important than loving every second of what you do.

    I was a marketing major in college. I enjoyed my studies, and looked for all kinds of full time jobs after I graduated, but the only one I could find was with this teeny tiny company that needed a jack-of-all-trades. My title was Marketing Director (yeah I know, completely ridiculous that they’d put a 21 year old in charge of all their marketing but that’s what happened). I did alright, nothing spectacular, but I got my boss on TV to talk about our company so that was pretty cool. Then we were bought out, and I ended up doing more data entry type stuff since that was needed more. And it was meh, but the benefits and pay were way better with the bigger company so I stayed. Then we were bought out again, and I moved into more of an account management role (which I find I’m well suited for!), and once again the benefits and pay were much better so I stayed. At that point I took a few interviews for some basic marketing positions and discovered that my salary and benefits can’t be matched in that world, at least where I live, and frankly they didn’t pay enough to live on (below minimum wage if you calculated by hours! Ugh!).

    Am I living the dream I had when I was 20? Nope. Not even close. I’m still pretty ambivalent about work, although I work hard and always have glowing reviews. But you know what? I don’t worry about whether I can pay the rent this month, or whether my chronic illness flare up is going to result in my being fired because I’ve already been out a couple times this year. I’m home almost every day by 5:00 and get to fully enjoy my time with my husband and daughter. It’s not greedy or entitled to want stability and certainty, especially in the world we live in right now. It’s something that I, as a wife and mother, absolutely need out of a job. And you know what? You don’t have to be married or a parent/guardian to need it too. Stability isn’t solely the realm of people like me.

    I didn’t give up on my dream. The dream just changed.

    1. Julia*


      Where does this notion that wanting to be compensated fairly for work we do is greedy even come from? If anyone is greedy, it’s the companies that expect our labor for peanuts.

    2. Allonge*

      This. There is no such thing as selling out, not in this context. Everyone who wants you to Burn Through your Life as a Shining Example of Selflessness is selling someting to you or does not have your best interests in mind.

    3. Birdie*

      I completely agree. I think if you’ve grown up being taught that career is something that’s integral to you as a person, you don’t really think about the fact that work can just be the thing that sponsors parts of life you care more about. It took me most of my 20s to realize first that “loving work” was not a top priority for me and then recognizing that this didn’t mean selling out or giving up on my potential, etc. It meant I was figuring out what actually mattered to me.

      I started out pursuing a career I found personally fulfilling, and I found that it didn’t fulfill me enough to make up for the poor pay and the terrible work-life balance. I would MUCH rather do a job I like fine but have no personal attachment to if it means walking away at 5:00 and making enough money that I don’t have to constantly stress about bills and can take the occasional trip, etc. I’m not going to get rich (I’m definitely willing to take a bit less if it means avoiding work that will make me miserable/bored out of my mind) but I can live comfortably and have the time and mental energy to enjoy the living (in normal times, anyway), and that’s what is most important to me.

      OP, if you do decide to prioritize stability, at least in the short term, see if there are any trainings you can do or projects you can take on to expand your experience/skill set and occupy more of your time. If you haven’t talked to your supervisor about development options, definitely do that, too. There may be ways to improve your long-term options without making that plunge now.

  59. Turquoisecow*

    Another thing to consider is whether or not your dream job will actually be your dream job. Yes, it might set you on the path toward the career you really want, but also it might be a cesspool of dysfunction and toxicity. Your current job is boring and financially stable, the potential new job gives you less financial stability and might also be horrible. You don’t mention if you have a good relationship with your boss or coworkers, but I’m assuming it’s not toxic and horrible or you would have mentioned it. The new job seems perfect right now, but it could have the worst boss and coworkers ever. It’s not guaranteed to be perfect, so you may end up miserable there for completely different reasons.

    In your situation, I’d stay at the current well-paying job for a bit. You’ve only been there six months, so things may get more interesting, but also, financial stability is really important. Save every penny you can, and maybe in a year or two you can afford to take a lower salary for a foot in the door. Or maybe another similar position with better pay will present itself.

  60. LizM*

    I know we are supposed to take letter writers at their word, but as a career civil servant, I’m wondering if it’s true that there really aren’t any advancement opportunities. In the federal government, I know a lot of people who started as admin technicians (basically an entry-level admin assistant) or the equivalent and ended up moving up into regional executive positions, or Division Chiefs in our headquarters. That’s not going to be true in every agency, especially ones that require a lot of technical expertise, but the nice thing about admin skills is that you can sometimes jump from agency to agency more easily. My husband is a contracting specialist and he’s worked in 3 or 4 different agencies over the last 10 years.

    I guess all this is to say that I wouldn’t necessarily rule out moving up within government, even if the path isn’t clear from your specific position.

    It’s also not clear whether you’re looking at state or federal, but a lot of state budgets are not healthy right now, so I would think long and hard about how secure this new job would be, especially if you haven’t built up your savings yet.

    1. LizM*

      I’ll also add, I rolled my eyes in my 20s when people said this, but compounding interest is an amazing thing, and the more money you can sock away early in your career, the more flexibility you will have middle- and late-career. Giving up salary now doesn’t just impact your current standard of living, but it impacts how much you are able to save for retirement, when the savings have the most opportunity to grow. If you’re not saving now, you will be playing catch up later on. You may decide that it’s worth it to walk away from that, but make sure you’re considering that when thinking about the impact of the pay cut.

      1. Nicotene*

        I really loathe that we burden our youngest and least-able-to-save workers with this. Honestly if we are so eager “help” them with the “magic of compounding interest!!!” we should insist that entry jobs have generous 401K matching, not hammer 24 years olds with student debt making 30K about how they need to save 15%.

  61. Nanani*

    LW, I have personally experienced a pattern of slumping around the three month mark after a big life change.
    New job is fun and exciting! But at the three month mark it gets boring, the excitement is gone, and the minor irritations are making themselves ever more present.
    New place to live (whether a specific housing arrangement or a brand new city) also looses its lustre around the three month mark. New activities too.

    I would be very wary of making any big decisions this soon after a big life change, specifically because this post “honeymoon phase” slump is pretty common.

  62. Fezziwig*

    In my ten years in New York, I took a lot of low-paying jobs as a way of growing my career. Some helped and some didn’t, but I think we ultimately place too much emphasis on the TRUE abilities of a position to elevate our careers based on its merit alone. Very rarely does a job by itself elevate our careers in ways that are meaningful for years to come. It’s just as much the people we meet, the good bosses or colleagues we’re lucky to have, the project we’re assigned or yes, the money we earn, that makes the biggest difference. Not just the “job.”

    Whether or not your experience is truly valuable or elevates you also depends so much on what one individual or group thinks of said experience. One hiring committee could place a lot of value on your last low paying job. But another could think it doesn’t matter at all.
    You being broke isn’t up for debate–it’s facts. The financial ramifications of taking these jobs have been just as far reaching (if not more) than the experience I’ve gained.

    Financial security isn’t greedy. It’s necessary! It allows you to create stability in your life that makes almost everything better (or at least easier.) Are there volunteer opportunities? Freelance or part-time work that you can find that mike make your day to day more fulfilling? I would strongly recommend that over a decrease in salary right now. It’s so easy to forget how stressful paying rent or securing health insurance or grocery shopping or buying a latte (!!) can be when you have even a couple months of financial security. But remind yourself! Passion for what you do doesn’t pay the bills, and people who say that it does have clearly never had to truly struggle to pay their bills.

    Take the interview. Learn more! Always take the interview. And regardless of what I’ve just said, release any guilt about what you decide–it’s your life after all and you can only make the right decision for you.

  63. DevilsAdvocate*

    I work in an industry that regularly takes well educated and younger employees and starts them in ‘associate’ role that seem more administrative than the employee originally expected (think taking minutes and keeping project timelines). Often, at about the 3 month mark, they are demoralized and think they deserve better, by virtue of an Ivy education, thinking they deserve more money and responsibilities. However, we expect this, and talk to them about breaking through that period, to a point where they realize how much they are learning, so that within a year to 18 months they have learned enough of the basics to be considered for a position of increased responsibility. Three months is such a short time, and unless you don’t feel you’ve learned anything at all, it’s worth sticking out. It’s natural at the 3 month mark to stop being excited by the day to day and focus on the parts of a job you dislike (filing, etc.). Seek out mentors, learn as much as you can, before jumping ship to a new ‘shinier’ opportunity that pays less. Pay year over year is compounded and it’s not worth it unless your job is seriously affecting your mental health (or health in general).

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Also three months or six months is around the time that students get to enjoy a big change – end of the semester, end of term with promotion to the next year of school etc – whereas the pace of promotions in the work world can be much slower (“do the same thing for 2-3 years with only two weeks off and then we’ll see!!”). I have had this conversation explicitly with new grad hires and we’ve talked about ways to create excitement and change either within your role or within your personal life.

  64. Des*

    thought my current job would be a huge step forward career-wise, and I’m feeling a bit burned now that I’ve realized it’s a dead end position.

    On a practical note, OP, I would think about what led you to believe it was a step forward. Are you sure you’re not seeing the new job through a similar lens that will end up being incorrect? And how sure are you it’s a dead end? Could you move up from this job A to a job B that is *not* the dream job you always wanted but is still paying well but is also more fun?

    1. Chickaletta*

      I wonder how much of a dead-end it really is too. Three months isn’t a long enough time to see the possibilities. I’d give it at least a year and spend that time making connections around the organization because you just never know what potential other people might see in you that you hadn’t considered.

      Also, as a person in their 40s who worked for peanuts in my 20s and 30s – take the damn money. You can always find fulfillment in volunteer positions and your personal life knowing that you have the income to support the lifestyle that you want. Maybe that’s material things, but maybe that’s other stuff too like living sustainably, donating to causes you care about, pursuing a hobby, spending time with friends and family, adopting a pet, etc etc etc. Low income limits those sorts of things too – not just dream cars and nice apartments.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        True. I have taken a pay cut for personal reasons (switching to freelancing – and not putting in a full workweek so I can focus on other priorities) and felt okay about that, although it was hard. But a paycut to work another 40 hour a week job? That’s not for me. I work to live, there’s no fulltime office job that is so much “fun” that I’d be happy to go into poverty for it.

  65. Green Goose*

    OP, your letter really spoke to me. I also work in the nonprofit world, but somehow found a position that pays more like the corporate world. I was drawn to the mission and have been there quite a while, and even though I’d be interested in gaining new skills at a different org, all the other nonprofit roles I’ve looked at pay so horribly that I just can’t justify the change.

    My financial responsibilities have increased a lot since I originally started out and I just don’t want that aspect of my quality of life to go down. And you should not feel guilty about wanting to get paid enough to feel comfortable. It definitely bums me out that so many great, important roles in the nonprofit world expect people to have so much responsibility and get paid a pittance. Every role outside of my org (which is not perfect btw) that I’ve found interesting would be a huge increase in responsibility, and about a 20-35% pay decrease. So I will likely stay where I am for a long time.

  66. Pinniped*

    OP, this is me but in the other direction – I have a job I adore, but it doesn’t pay as much as I could earn for my skills elsewhere, and I’ve been thinking a lot about when to jump ship. (I’m able to save, but I can’t afford to live alone, etc.)

    I think this decisions depends on two things: your life goals and what contributes to your wellbeing. Does living on your own make a massive difference to your mental health? Is it the actual work you do? Is it the cushion of safety that savings bring? We’re always encouraged to make job decisions based only on the content of the job itself, not on the things that the job provides you with. Housing makes a huge difference to some people – it’s totally fine to do work that lets you live in a situation you thrive in.

    In terms of life goals, is there anything you see in your future that requires more substantial savings, or are you able to handle risk just fine for a while? (Since I’m looking at potentially having a kid on my own in a couple of years’ time, I’d be making my next job decision based on that, more than the content of the job.)

    Another thing to consider is whether the lesser-paid job would give you the ability (and mental space) to freelance in your spare time, if that’s an option. I don’t do this all the time, but it’s one way I’ve added to my savings.

  67. BonzaSonza*

    Does it have to be THIS job? You mention that it’s not actually your dream job in your letter, so is it possible that another job might be a better fit while still opening up future opportunities?

    There’s a lot of really great discussion around the relative merits of staying vs leaving, but deciding not to go for this particular job isn’t the same as deciding to stay – it’s not this job or nothing. And you’ve only been in your current role three months, that’s not enough time to fully explore your potential growth and experience in that position.

    Your current employment gives you the time and space to be picky about your roles, and being able to afford the choice is something you shouldn’t underestimate. You can also afford to negotiate for a higher salary because you don’t NEED the job (in the same way a long-term unemployed person may be desperate for one).

    When I was looking to get out of a job that had gone very stale (there were tears and HR involved at times too) I wrote down a list of everything that was a) not negotiable, and b) desirable in a new job. I only applied for roles that met every one of my non-negotiables, and after two years ended up with a wonderful job that ticked every single one of my desirables too.

    15 years ago I gave up my dream career in medicine halfway through my degree to work a mundane entry-level admin role because I couldn’t afford to continue at university without working. I’ve definitely regretted it at times, but I’ve come full circle and I now work in a field directly adjacent to my previous career. I love my job, I have a great manager, am paid well and knowing what that career is actually like from the inside, the shine has definitely worn off the idea of being a surgeon myself.

    PS – I’m now studying epidemiology, which is the perfect blend of my medical knowledge and my statistics/data experience. None of my roundabout career progression has been wasted, so don’t give up hope of getting into the career you want, even if it takes longer than you expect.

  68. 1234*

    I’m pretty risk-adverse and would stay with the safe, boring, administrative job where I knew I could do the tasks well, and it paid well.

    Earlier in my career, I wanted, and got, the “dream” job in the “dream” field, one that involved travel, excitement and cool events with rooftop views etc. It paid ok for Major City – because I lived at home with my parents. I loved the work that we did but man, the stress and long hours were not worth the salary.

  69. The blind forest*

    Personally, I am very pragmatic that you work to live, not live work. My husband and I are both in careers that pay well but are not the stuff of dreams. We have had to rein in our spending as hubby is out of work due to Covid and it has been really hard to give up the little luxeries like being able to go out regularly for breakfast/dinner, getting our daily coffees and usual entertainments. That is the entire point of working a well paying but not exciting job. It would have been so much worse though if we didn’t have savings to cover the mortgage (another perk not to sneeze at).

    Having said that, you don’t want to dread going to work. It is enough that you don’t mind the work and the perks of a decent pay make up for a lot. Personally, I would be looking into training options available and/or applying to other government jobs that use your skills. If you have a plan, eg continue your dead end job while your employer to pays for your upskilling/studies, you probably won’t be as unhappy. Good luck.

  70. Jackson Codfish*

    A few years back, I moved from a low-paying job in an action-packed, exciting, often-romanticized field into a higher-paying job in a much slower-paced, less exciting adjacent field in the government sector. The 22% pay increase was mind-blowing, and I would never go back. Do I miss the adrenaline rush of the prior job? Absolutely. Was it worth never having savings, constantly worrying about a car breakdown, or living in a shitty apartment in the middle of nowhere? Hell, no.

    Within the last few years, I also took a 14% pay cut moving to a new government agency. My prior employer was killing my soul, and I needed out. My current job title is less impressive and I’m not doing as high-profile work – but the new job is also taking up less space in my brain, it’s work I can leave on the desk every day and not take home, and it’s paying for an educational opportunity that I never dreamed I would have. In these COVID times, those are incredible blessings that allow me to spend more time with my family safely and be healthy, safe and sane. I’m making enough money for me, and that’s fine. The extra cash wasn’t worth the stress.

    Balance it all out, warts and all, and think about the positive intangibles of the current boring job. They may be better than you think at first glance.

  71. Media Monkey*

    for me, a low paying job is worth it is there are opportunities for advancement. i work in an industry (advertising) which people think is well paid (and at the top it is!), but where you tend to start on a low salary, and because people want to do it it is super competitive. i earned £12k a year living and renting in London when i started. i literally had no money at all for anything other than rent, bills, travel, food – i had no working wardrobe to speak of and so i set aside money every month to buy something to wear for work. however that is a starting salary and there are opportunities to move up and get increases. i wouldn’t/ couldn’t work for that salary for a long period of time or at a time in my life where i had dependents or large responsibilities. but it was worth it for me to take a short term hit in salary to have a more “career” type job with more opportunities.

  72. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Made the extreme version of that choice over a year ago: stay in a well paid (but highly highly toxic) job, or quit to save my mental health and go unemployed.

    I would advise it’s a decision to make multiple contingency plans for. ‘What if I can’t afford the bills one month? What resources do I have?’, ‘how will this look on my CV later?’, that sorta thing.

    At the end of the day though there’s no ultimate right or wrong choice, only what you know is better for you. For me, I knew my literal life would be saved by walking away from that job, and I was unemployed for 18 months after.

  73. Policy Wonk*

    You don’t say what level of government you are working in, but at the federal level it is easier to move around once you are on the inside – jobs are advertised to agency employees only or government employees only, particularly where security clearances are involved. I’d recommend you look at opportunities in your current agency to move to another bureau or division where there are chances for advancement. Given your interest in a legislative position, check out the office in your agency that handles legislative or government affairs. see if they are hiring.

    And there is an election in a couple of weeks. No matter your place on the political spectrum, there will be newly elected officials who will be looking for staff, so there will be additional opportunities. You don’t need to jump now, and I agree with Allison that you should wait.

  74. theletter*

    I think it’s worth it to explore – if you still have a long career ahead of you, sticking with a n0-advancement, very boring job would be a mistake, because there’s a good chance that the position may get automated in the next few years, leaving you laid off and lacking accomplishments on your resume.

    If you haven’t accepted the offer yet, there may also be a chance to negotiate on the salary . . . . ok maybe not so with a government job, but if there’s any wiggle room and they know you’d be taking a pay cut to accept, it would be in their best interests to at least try to make up some or all of the difference. If not, they should be able to speak to opportunities for advancement that would get you equal and over in the next few years.

    While it’s true that times are weird, it won’t last forever.

    On the other hand, if you decide to stay with the current job, it might be worth the effort to try to automate whatever you can. Anything that involves data going from one computer screen to another should be done automatically. Information that has to be verbally expressed could be handled with an optional google form. If software tools that are meant to assist are failing, figure out why and figure out how to adjust them so they work.

    If there isn’t a way to do these things, and you’re looking down the barrel of thirty years in the workforce, then I would say that the pay cut in the new job would be worth it.

  75. angstrom*

    We have a friend who regularly cycles between being self-employed(independence! control! can choose interesting projects!) and working for a larger company(regular paycheck! benefits!). When she’s doing one, she misses the other.
    There will always be tradeoffs like this.
    Lots of good advice from the folks here. I would say that it’s easier to take risks while you’re younger, but it’s also easier to take risks if you have a cushion or fallback plan.

  76. Ex-broke kid*

    I would highlight that it’s harder to return to poverty (or lower incomes that leave you without financial security) then it is to live in them when you’ve never had money. I grew up poor and stayed poor while I trained. A below poverty level income felt pretty awesome when I first started earning little bits. But, having lived on a good income for a while now – I could not so easily return.

    Look through carefully what you would be giving up. Is it just the lattes, or would it be catching up with friends. Joining colleagues for a coffee run (ok not so much now). Being able to say yes to invitations for social events. Funding medical treatment. Healthy food. Saving so you can replace your car when it dies, or to pay for an Uber when it’s terrible weather. Paying a tradie when your roof leaks or the hot water system does. If you’ve started to build a lifestyle around your higher income (friendship groups, social activities, house, car etc) it will be even harder to have to move backward financially.

    There are so many things I now take for granted that broke me just couldn’t do. Broke a tooth – I just went to the dentist and paid them to fix my mouth. Feel like a steak or some fresh fruit – I just buy it. Car playing up – it goes to the mechanic. Get invited out for dinner – I can say yes. Horrible weather and without a car – get an Uber home.

    Staying in a job you hate has a huge impact on your health, but so does poverty. I think you need to weigh things carefully and consider either a possible middle ground exists. Hope you can find a position that is interesting but also leaves you able to save and have a reasonable safety net. Personally, the job would have to be really, really bad before I could give up my financial security. But poverty left some pretty big scars, and it’s not a place I ever want to return to.

    1. Nicotene*

      True, there are so many jobs now that I just wouldn’t be able to afford to take. That’s just how it goes. Honestly those jobs should probably be ashamed to be offering that salary to a full time worker they plan to burden with a lot of responsibility and long hours. They are looking for people who are independently wealthy and don’t “need” this salary (nonprofits); that’s their choice. I have to walk on by because I need to live on what I earn.

  77. I don’t post often*

    Speaking from my experience here: Right out of college I chose an exciting career path. The work was interesting, co-workers interesting and high performing, work was meaningful, etc. the trade off was that the job was very low pay and long hours. the rest of people that graduated college with me made twice what I made and complained they were underpaid. Now, people in that career “put in their time” and within 10 years become “very important” on a national level and depending on the path they choose could also start making big money.

    My boss lost his election. I lost my job in the middle of a downturn. I took the first job that came along with a big finance corporation. Guess what? I was making more, the benefits were significantly better. The work was boring. 10 years later I’m still at big company because $$ and benefits. I heard another employee describe it like this, “this isn’t anyone’s dream job. But, it is relatively stable, the pay and benefits are great, there are periods of stress and busyness, but I’m always at home to spend time with my children in the evening.”
    Either path is fine. Think about what you want in life.

  78. queen b*

    Hi OP – I recently took a paycut in the pandemic as well. I was utterly miserable. I thought it was normal until I started this new job in June and people were actually… nice? And cared about my development??? It was a paycut of about 8 dollars an hour, which translates to several thousand dollars difference. I’m in my mid20s so I felt okay about this paycut, I live with my mom already and pay rent to her, so this wasn’t a huge difference but I have had to be tighter about some budget things. I took that first job I hated for the money, and left 9 months later. It’s a really hard personal decision, but I know you’ll make the best one for yourself!

  79. hello*

    OP, you really need to take a look at your finances. It almost doesn’t matter whether you take the new job or not, because you’re in a bad financial place already. A 16% pay cut would take you to “paycheck to paycheck”, meaning only 16% of your pay is going to savings AND all discretionary spending? That’s a pretty precarious place to be in, considering that most financial advisors say you should be putting at least 15% into retirement savings, PLUS any other savings like an emergency fund, PLUS discretionary spending. What is it about your budget that is causing you to spend (apparently) almost all of what you make?

    Hint: housing, food, and transportation are the big spending categories for most people. Since you mention “an apartment by myself,” I’m thinking you live in an expensive urban area, in which case you probably need to get a roommate. It’s never okay to have no savings, and you should be building savings, not saving less than 15%.

    1. Nicotene*

      This is quite a harsh take. OP probably has student loan debt. I know my major expense for many years was insurance. It’s easier to help people if you come at it with a little more compassion and a little less judgement.

  80. Kaycee*

    So I’m 32- when I graduated in 2010 it was during the recession and well paying jobs for new grads were scare. My first job was at a nonprofit for $13/hr, so I also got a second job in retail. I loved the nonprofit job but trying to pay bills (especially student loans) and work two jobs on two different shifts was killing me (I actually did end up falling asleep at the wheel on the way to my full time job).

    I bailed when I got a job offer at a law firm that had a huge pay increase as a project assistant. That was a job with no room for growth but I stayed for 3 years as I researched jobs and careers and paid down my loans.

    My next job was a pay cut as well as temp to hire position at a tech company. It was quite a risky move but it was also strategic for me. I really wanted to work in tech but didn’t have any experience, so this was my foot in the door. I hated the company and my boss but loved the work and my team. I debated leaving so many times, especially because of the low pay but decided to stick it out long enough to build my skillset. I ended up staying for 2 years before selectively applying to new jobs and ending up where I am now at a company I love with the salary I was looking for, and I’ve been promoted twice since being here.

    I would advise staying at least a year- save money, really research where you’d like to go for your career and how to get there. Also build up your network, volunteer, maybe do a side job to make more connections. If you’re going to do a pay cut like that I would make sure you’re strategic about it.

    1. Firecat*

      Hello fellow 2010 graduate!

      Yes I really feel for today’s graduates. I hope most of us MEs are being very considerate to our new young graduates. We know how hard this is (to an extent), but one of the things that made it harder was all of our older peers meeting our struggles with essentially:
      Well it’s your fault for reaching for a pie in the sky (university)
      You’re entitled and selfish for even thinking that middle class and work-life balance is a worthy goal
      I actually had it harder then you (despite all the mathe saying each year is harder then the last…I personally know it’s harder now then when I graduated, even ignoring the pandemic)
      It’s your fault that we can’t keep staff/turn over is high
      Well maybe if you didn’t have iPODs/iPADs/iPHONES you could afford $10,000 a year in medical expenses.

      Don’t interlnalize any of that crap new grads. It’s not true.

      1. Firecat*

        Showing my age lol. I guess today’s big things are:

        Maybe if you didn’t have an iPHONE/Starbucks/avocado toast then you could afford $10,000 in rent without a job (healthcare is not a right so its entitled of you to even think you deserve ito afford it).

  81. Firecat*

    Late to the party but I hope you are still reading.

    10 years ago I ditched my low paying passion job for something that covered the bills and let me build some savings.

    During those years I had some crap jobs at dead end companies, but the skills I was building were transferrable. So don’t feel like your pigeon holed if you stay at your job for 3-5 years even if advancement within is unlikely.

    Now? I have an interesting job, make $80k a year in a low cost of living area, and almost all of my coworkers have similar backgrounds to me. One of my team members even got the same degree at the same university!

    Only you can decide but if you are thinking “I’m a failure/sell out/entitled for wanting happiness and a chance at the middle class” then I think you should reframe your thinking.

    This false dicotomy of “suffer now to succeed later” vs “sell out” is frequently … well false! Sometimes there is no success. I have many friends my age who “stuck it out” who are now in their mid thirties trying to get into the entry level jobs I took in my mid 20s. Their earning power is permanently crippled.

    Even with the “headstart” I got, assuming you are in America, building any sort of wealth is very hard. Despite what I consider to be a successful and lucky career, I still have to work until 70 if I want to retire with enough money to live until 95. We are still paying off student loans, and we only just now saved up 3 months of living expenses and that was only because we were able to save our stimulus checks and defer many bills during Covid (and speaking of guilt I felt terrible “taking advantage” of the emergency relief but then I realized that’s just playing into the system. Building a few months of living expenses is not some selfish luxury. The folks peddling that are usually the same who say “you should have saved” when they evict you). Last year we had medical bills, and despite “good” private insurance owed $6,000. That emptied years of scrimping and saving. Financial stability in America is often a car accident or serious illness away from destruction in America.

    Please be kind to yourself. If you don’t begrudge others who found success outside their “passion” then please don’t begrudge yourself.

    I wish you the best! Sometimes I think I should start a podcast called drop outs or something like that to dispel some of these notions.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      ++++A++++ As I said in a prior post in this thread – being able to pay your bills relieves you of a monstrous distraction, and you are able to think , plan, and strategize your life and career much more clearly.

      “Please be kind to yourself” . In AAM, we often see postings “ohhhh I work for a wonderful non-profit, and we are in a toxic environment and I’ve been offered a job with a 30 percent raise and good benefits, but gee whiz, I’d be leaving some friends behind at Toxic Office and I feel so guilty!!! And the cause, too!”

      DON’T FEEL GUILTY. There’s nothing wrong with advancing yourself; in fact, there’s something wrong with you if you don’t try to get to the next level.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah in my experience, if you transfer to a lower-paying job because you believe in the growth potential of a different field (from the outside, without knowing that much about the situation) it is AT LEAST as likely that in five years you will still be stuck with lower pay versus if you’d kept on as you were and tried to build up. Our system is brutal and most companies aren’t going to give you a dime more than they have to, so even if you get that promotion you may find the salary isn’t equal to what you would have made coming in from a higher level.

  82. Sloan Kittering*

    I dunno but my personal rule is: I will take a lateral move to build my career, but not go down in salary. Once I’ve obtained a certain benchmark I ain’t ever going back. I guess this wouldn’t work if you were mid-level in one career and were going to be entry-level in another, but in that case I’d look for some lateral equivalent of your skills that can transfer. It doesn’t mean you’re going to be stuck in a dead end job forever but it does mean I’m not starting over as an intern or assistant in my midthirties after a decade of work even if a certain field has that dream-job-cachet. Most jobs kinda suck on one level or another and that’s what the money is *for.*

    1. voluptuousfire*

      I’m kind of in this situation myself–boring but ok, steady job in the industry I like but I don’t want to leave for another opportunity (even lateral) if the pay isn’t more than I’m already making. I’m happy to take a lateral move if the money is there but haven’t gotten there yet.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        There are some transfers where even lateral pay is a stretch but – oh well! I guess that just means I’ll be looking longer. Cuz I ain’t going backwards.

    2. Firecat*

      I took a pay cut twice when moving between companies. Both times made sense and paid off. The first one was moving from a high COL to low COL I took a 10% pay cut but my take home pay was literally higher plus the dollars went further. The second was an 7% pay cut but way better benefits; around 30% more money overall.

  83. voluptuousfire*

    I’d keep the government job and save, save save. I’d also take the interview for the new job as well. I’m an advocate for having your steady gig but also keeping your options open since you never know where your next opportunities may come from. At least if you take the interview, you learn more about the role and your fit in it and you may see it’s not as shiny and interesting as you think it is. There’s also a decent chance you won’t get it. I hate to be negative, but it’s definitely a factor to consider.

  84. Roeslein*

    I would encourage the OP to find a more affordable way to pursue their dreams. You are lucky to be in a position where you can keep looking, and it doesn’t sound like your current job is unbearably toxic, so do that – I have been in that situation several times (I once almost accepted a poorly paid, low status government job because I thought it was my “dream job” – in retrospect I am so glad I didn’t!), and I have found that there is usually a better option out there. I hate boring jobs as much as the next person, but one year is not that long in the grand scheme of things – look around, even a boring job should have enough for you to learn to keep you busy for a year. It’s one thing to give up a very stressful job with very high salary for a somewhat lower, but still acceptable one with better work-life balance as an experienced professional – it’s a different one altogether to live paycheck to paycheck. The grass is always greener, etc.

  85. Malika*

    As you already know, there is no one right answer and it is totally up to you which job has the best return of investment towards your quality of life. The sensible-interesting conundrum can feel like an unsolvable riddle.
    As someone who has had both dream jobs at world-famous workplaces with admirable missions as well as ignominious paper-pushing in worn-down industrial sites that were so anonymous they didn’t even have their own bus stop, I know full well how incredibly different an experience both sensible and glamorous/fulfilment jobs are. You never really know whether it is worth it until you make the jump. The financial aspect has been touched on, but the content of the job and whether it lives up to your expectations is also a crapshoot, looking in from the outside. What looks exciting now will become same-old, every day. Even the most passionate actor or fundraiser I know feels that their job is sometimes going through the motions. Do you get bored quickly? If so, however great the job is, it might not be worth the pay cut in the long-term. On the other hand, it might be the start you need for a fruitful career.
    Glam/mission driven job of choice might turn out to be paper-pushing under another name, 10% creativity and work and 90% networking and auditions, cutthroat and mostly unattainable standards as there is so much competition for scarce places, hideous management because of aforementioned scarcity, etc. Or… You’re Meryl Streep, culture fundraiser of the decade, my friend who always gets asked at parties whether being director of sitcom-worthy creative agency is all it’s cracked up to be or any other person I have ever met who talks about their high-status job with enviable purpose and conviction, as if they are being interviewed for a career profile in The Cut.
    Sensible job might be the most boring experience of your life, a Groundhog Day that will question how you got yourself into this situation, boring colleagues that make you realize what The Office was based on, a grey existence that makes you wonder if you died and ended up in purgatory, etc. Or… Your relatively straightforward job gives you room to execute initiative in a way your manager appreciates, your colleagues are diverse and hilarious, there is room for raises, competent management who get promoted to that job because they actually have leadership potential, and while you will never be interviewed for The Cut your hilarious anecdote about the going ons at Sensible Inc. bring out an amused ‘say what?’ from your friends.
    All these pros and cons, listed above? A snapshot of my career choices, at different points. This is a novel of a comment and I don’t even know if you will read it. I just wish that I had had as clear a set of spelt-out pro’s and cons while I waded around in my 20’s, from sensible to dream job choices. You face a choice, no one ever prepares you for. I hope you do have that list clear for you while you weigh whether to take the job or not.

  86. Former call centre worker*

    IMO now isn’t a good time to take risks or move organisations if you don’t have to. I’ve known more than one person in the past few months who had new jobs cancelled and had to either rescind their resignation at the last minute or contact other employers who they’d turned down offers from.

    However good a job looks on paper, you don’t know if you’ll like it until you’re there and you don’t want to find yourself in a badly paying job that you don’t like, during a period of time where there are fewer jobs on offer.

  87. SpaceySteph*

    I think this question comes from the “do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” trap. That statement is so false. Work is work, even good, exciting, interesting work.

    You need money. You have to work. If the job is boring but not toxic, its totally ok to decide that being bored at work is worth the money and to use your spare time (and spare cash) to do things for enjoyment outside of work hours. You don’t have to love work. I’d hope you won’t be completely miserable though. If you’re truly DREADING Monday though, maybe its not worth it.

  88. CharacterZero*

    Hi. Government relations professional here. There is a ton of upward mobility within legislative offices, and people there shift jobs all the time. If you are good at it, you will be able to make jumps quickly-after a year is considered pretty standard in a lot of cases, sometimes less. Working in a legislative office is usually a way to become both a subject matter expert and a develop a killer network, which pays dividends in the long run. Consider the actual legislator. Are they influential? Do they sit on committees that cover issues that interest you? Who are their allies/what offices would you be working with most frequently, as that will give you a sense of where your deepest networks will come from when you want to switch.

  89. boop the first*

    The biggest flag in this letter is “it’s not my dream job, but it’s the type of job that can set me up on my ideal path.”

    It really sounds like you don’t even want the job, AND that it’s not the only job that can set you up on your ideal path. The way you wrote it, it sounds like you are already planning to get out of that job as quickly as possible. That sounds like a huge no to me.

  90. juneybug*

    Take in consideration that many legislative positions will end up costing you more money in the long run than just a pay cut. For example, you will be working crazy hours (50 – 80 each week depending on the position, committee, etc.) so you will not feel like making a home-cooked meal when you get home, which means you will order out. Or during the day, you will probably order out for breakfast/lunch/dinner/midnight snack, plus coffee/tea, since you can’t leave the office.
    If you have a pet, you will need a sitter. That will cost more money.
    You might need to hire a house keeper/cleaner and laundry/dry cleaning services.
    The legislative position will move you forward in most career paths but just have awareness that this job might occur more costs than planned.
    Good luck!

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