Is your dream job worth taking a pay cut?

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If you’re like so many working women you’ve spent significant time and energy climbing your way up the career ladder; putting your heart and soul into every job you’ve had. Maybe you listened as mentors, college professors, and family equated money to success and cautioned you to stay in your career lane. So you continued to (nicely) claw your way into higher-paying roles with more responsibility. 

Awesome, right? Not always. For those who love what they do and make the money they 

deserve, I raise a glass to you. You’re truly living the dream and there’s nothing else like it. But if you’re like everyone else, you accidentally found your way into the dreaded career trap. It’s simple to spot, but not so easy to solve—or so you think.

When you take all the career advice and it still turns out wrong

Have you spent too long wondering how you followed all the career tips over the years and somehow ended up in an unhappy (maybe even miserable) spot? As crappy as it feels, you’re not alone. I would bet that most women in their 30s and 40s are not happy at work. 

So, what changed? You did. But the workplace didn’t. As you got older and wiser, traditional work remained the same. Those long hours and always-on mentality didn’t budge, but your priorities evolved. Maybe you got married and had kids, and what had your full attention for ages is now just another heavy responsibility.

The pressure, missing quality time with your family, and limited downtime from work can make every day a struggle for many working women. But what are you supposed to do? Can you really give up that salary and title you’ve worked so hard for? 

Trapped. Is that pretty close to how you feel? Yet, you continue to stay put because who in their right mind would leave a high-paying job even if it makes you feel terrible?

But you’re forgetting something. 

Bypass the cover letter

What is everything else worth to you? 

There’s more to life than work. A lot more. Maybe it’s time to open your eyes (and heart) to other possibilities.

Here’s an exercise to try. It takes a willingness to shift your mindset and move away from that old-school thinking you’re used to, but I recommend doing so.

Grab a piece of paper and write this question:

What is my current salary worth to me?

Once you answer, write these questions and answer each one.

What is my happiness worth to me?

What is my sanity worth to me?

What are my relationships worth to me?

What is my time worth to me?

Let your answers sink in. Is money the only thing at stake for you? Likely not.

If you decided your happiness, sanity, relationships, time, etc. are worth more than your salary and title, what’s the next step? Quitting your job tomorrow and drinking cocktails on the beach seems highly unlikely. But it is important to realize you do have more options than you think. 

Take time to figure out what you’re meant to be doing in your next chapter of life. What will be satisfying and meaningful? Doing some self-discovery will lead you to the answers you’re craving.

How to feel good about leaving your job for less money

So, what if you realize you may have to take a temporary (or even long-term) pay cut for your dream career? Getting real with yourself (and possibly your partner) is a necessary step in this process.

I spoke to a friend that went through everything we just discussed. Here’s what she had to say about moving on from a toxic, higher-paying role and into one that better served her but paid her less. 

(By the way, she’s now on the executive team of her company and making significantly more money than she was when she left her previous job).

“I felt anxiety and fear at first. Really, I felt crazy. There was the burden of financial responsibility and what that would mean for us. Initially, it was a huge hit to my ego. I felt like I was selling myself short, knowing I was worth way more than what I was going to be making. But there comes a time when you realize there are many things that you can't put a monetary amount on. Happiness was that for me. I was lucky that we were a two-income family and my husband was willing to make sacrifices as well so I could take the risk. We tightened our budget and in the end, didn't even miss the things we were spending on.”

What will your story be one year from now? Are you willing to risk your happiness, time, and relationships for the bigger paycheck? It is your time to act. If you need help getting started, visit From Stuck to Fulfilled: Building a Work Life You Love.

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