Do I go for money or stay put in a job that I like?

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I do interesting, rewarding work at a tiny specialised consultancy. I like the hours and the people, but the pay is measly. I’ve been told I can rewrite my job description, although it wouldn’t mean much more money. Instead, I could go for a bog-standard analyst position with a bank, with longer hours, but increase my salary by at least 50 per cent. What should I do?
Consultant, male, 26


LUCY KELLAWAY: THE ANSWER

If I were you I’d stay put. The trouble is that I’m not you, but even taking that into account I’d urge you to stay put anyway.

There are two snags for you in analysing whether to move. You don’t know how important job satisfaction is to you until you try living without it, and neither do you know how good or bad a new job might be. To move is to take a risk and for it to be wise, the odds must be compelling.

At about your age I did the same thing in reverse. I was earning a lot of money in the City, hated the job and spent much of my time crying in the loo. I swapped this for an uncertain job on a magazine on less than half the salary. Because my starting-point was so dismal, I reasoned the new position would be better. It was: much.

If you are so poor that you can’t afford to eat and pay the rent, or if the absence of skiing holidays has become unbearable, you need to move. But if you are in a greyer area, wishing you had more money but prepared to struggle on, moving looks too risky. Think how lovely your current job is. You have nice colleagues, good hours, interesting work – you can even write your own job description. At a guess, I’d put you in the top 0.1 per cent of the population in terms of job satisfaction. By contrast, I know a few happy City analysts and quite a lot of miserable ones. To run the risk of being in the latter group for only 50 per cent more money doesn’t seem like a good deal at all.

Of course, the ideal position is to have money and satisfaction. You are only 26; you have many years in which to achieve both. In time, can you earn more where you are? Can you supplement your income with something else? Even if you can’t, you should move only when your need for more money has become intolerable. That point could come if or when you have a pram in the hall – although if you have managed to marry someone with a handsome income, that will solve all problems at one happy stroke.

DON’T SELL OUT
The moment you sell out, you will never again get the opportunity to do unique, original work. That’s the kind of work that defines you – and your future value. Carry on rising through your boutique consultancy for as long as you can possibly afford. The longer you work there, the more you’ll get when you go to a big, bad bank.

Director, male, 37

GO IT ALONE
Start your own consultancy. Only a business owner can be paid what he or she is worth. You need to look on this opportunity as an education and do whatever it takes to get the right business experience to position yourself as a plausible independent consultant.

Consultant, male, 40

BUY-SIDE IS BETTER
You should be able to have both money and satisfaction. Have a look at buy-side investment firms as well – they can offer as much as (if not more) job satisfaction and pay with better hours than at an investment bank. At your age, though, the hours should not be a priority.

Analyst, female, 30

ANALYST’S HEAVEN
You have no idea if the well-paid job in a bank is as boring as you imagine. Plenty of mainstream banks offer a surprisingly stimulating work environment and the choice of jobs on offer – once you get past the initial credibility hurdle – is much larger than that found in a small and specialised consultancy. This could be a win-win situation for you.

Banker, male, 35

ANALYST’S HELL
I recently decided to leave a promising career in an investment bank. The salary was lavish but the working hours were inhuman, social or family life was non-existent and the level of stress was intolerable. I’ve given it up for a job with a measly salary but one that’s interesting and personally satisfying and – guess what – I’ve never been happier in my life.

Ex-banker, male, 27

A HEADHUNTER WRITES
Using maximum discretion, line up job interviews with as many of the top banks as you can. When you get a job offer, tell your employers the truth about why you would consider leaving. If they offer you enough money to stay, problem solved. If not, take the best rival offer and go.

Headhunter, male, 43


THE NEXT PROBLEM

My PA recently told me that she had to go into hospital and would be off work for two weeks. I was sympathetic and told her to take as much time as she needs. I then asked delicately the reason for the treatment, to be told it was cosmetic surgery. In light of this I have said she must take the two weeks as holiday. She has responded with great hostility and is threatening to quit. I feel I am in the right, but don’t want to lose her as she is efficient and pleasant and it takes time to train someone else.

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