“Pay peanuts, get monkeys” is one of Singaporeans’ favourite expressions, often used when explaining why you’re not going that damn extra mile.
But there are some situations where accepting lower pay, or “peanuts”, if you will, and working damn hard at your job nonetheless might actually be a good idea—at least for a while. Here are five scenarios where you might actually want to jump at the chance to do a job for less.
1. The company’s reputation would give your CV a boost
It’s amazing what a reputable company’s name can do for your CV. Nobody gives two hoots if you were the COO at Ah Pek’s Trading Company Pte Ltd. But put a big MNC’s name on your resume and all of a sudden, you become more employable.
For this reason, it is often a good idea to accept lower pay to get a good company name on your CV—just be sure to move on when the time comes.
2. The job can be used as a stepping stone to a better one
Just because your job pays you peanuts right now doesn’t mean you’re stuck in low paying roles forever. In fact, a low paying job can sometimes be used as a stepping stone for something much better.
For instance, many bank employees take on contract roles in which they’re paid less than permanent staff for a shot at being converted to perm staff themselves. Those who aren’t converted still have a higher chance at getting a similar perm role in a different company.
You can also leverage the skills and experience gained in some low paying jobs to leapfrog to a better job later on. Just remain at the job for long enough to learn how things are done, and then apply as an “experienced” hire to another company when it’s time to move on.
3. Better work-life balance and flexibility
In Singapore, there are lots of very well paid employees who have zero life outside of work. For instance, if you’re a lawyer, “good” work-life balance can mean leaving at 7pm or 8pm every day. Poor work-life balance means being at the office till after midnight.
In such circumstances, it may be necessary to accept a lower paying job in order to enjoy better work-life balance. In a 2015 survey, 57% of Singaporeans said they’d pick better work-life balance over higher pay, so there you go.
Employers who are willing to offer a high degree of flexibility might also be worth considering, even if they’re paying less than those who insist on lots of face-time. If you’re allowed to work from home three days a week, it might be worthwhile taking a pay cut, especially if the alternative is to sit at the office from 9am to whenever the boss leaves every night.
4. Receiving stock options
Companies sometimes offer their employees stock options in exchange for a lower salary. In fact, receiving stock options has become a defining part of working for a start-up.
In reality, you’re taking a gamble, as your stock options are worthless if the company goes nowhere or, worse, tanks. Still, if this is a company you believe in and you’re committed to doing your best, taking those stock options will totally change the way you work. There’s also the (admittedly) slim chance that your company will IPO and you’ll find yourself becoming an overnight millionaire.
Big, publicly-traded companies might also dangle equity as part of the benefits. Granted, you’re unlikely to see your $5,000 worth of shares balloon to $5,000,000, but on the flipside the chances of your stock becoming worthless are low.
5. You’re likely to be promoted and given a raise in the near future
A job that’s paying a less than desirable salary might be worth considering if you foresee a promotion and/or pay rise in the near future.
This can happen when you join a fast-growing company that’s about to create more job openings than it can fill.
You might also be able to anticipate a promotion if you’re slightly overqualified for the role you’re being hired for, and just need a few months to gain the skills that will haul you up onto the next rung of the career ladder. But just to be sure, this is something you want to discuss with your potential boss before you sign that employment contract, not after.
This story was originally published in Moneysmart on May 8, 2017.