Why I passed on a 55% higher salary

Why I passed on a 55% higher salary

Not sure if I am writing this article for the broader public or only myself. I guess at least this could be a fun read for myself in about a year or so.

During the last few months I got a few suggestive comments from a few people that they are actively hiring. Due to the company having salaries defined in a collective agreement, I was quite aware of what kind of money we were talking back then. Between the years I now got an actual offer from an old colleague of mine which I ran into just before Christmas. That offer was in the same ballpark – but this time it was not just a suggestive comment but a real offer ready to be signed. Since this decision kept me busy between the years, I guess it is good material for an article. This article is about my reasoning why I didn’t place my signature on that piece of paper.


A little bit about myself

I graduated at the end of 2016 with a Master of Science in Software Engineering from the University of Stuttgart (yay). Before my academic training, I finished a 3-year apprenticeship as a Java Developer. During that time I was on jobs by different university institutes which included a lot of teaching and public speaking in front of groups of around 25 people. One of the off-campus jobs was at a big corporation where I worked in a smallish local IT department. My job there was redesigning an internal set of online tools and evaluating the Oculus Rift.

My master thesis was about a practical evaluation of Modeling and Generating REST Interfaces instead of implementing and documenting them. This was a cooperation between the university and my current employer. Meanwhile, I started working there now full-time directly after handing in my thesis.
So, as you can see: This is my first ‘real’ job after graduation.

During my first two years here I REALLY learned a lot. Came in contact with a lot of technologies and patterns like Caching (+Cache Invalidation), Asynchronous Messaging, and the Spring Framework including all the Netflix OSS and Spring Cloud magic. Even got a certification for Spring.

But my whole experience is not solely about technology. I also learned a lot about Software Engineering Best Practices e.g. Clean Code and Agile Development. About the ways I can integrate TDD in my daily programming life and also about Software Architecture especially Microservices. I was even on the Spring One Conference in Washington DC.

On top of that I grew my soft skills. Nowadays I am told that I am leading our Backend Guild consisting of around 12 developers while working tightly together with other people across the project to make a better product. I grew from being the rookie to a respected senior developer.


The reasoning

Hey Marcus, so you got this 55% increased salary offer. Why did you not take it? Are you insane?

Some part of my brain, recently

Late in 2018 I had some arranged talk about my next year with my boss. This is something which is mandatory due to company rules. Our current project is getting on the backburner in favor of other, yet unknown, projects.

In the beginning the laydown of the project really made me sad. I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it. But I want to see the positive side of this and hopefully, this will open up new possibilities for myself.

We also talked about my role as one of the people which could be involved in the early phases of these new projects, what I really loved hearing. We figured out that it could make sense for me to add the knowledge of a mobile platform on top of my backend knowledge. Seems that I am getting into Android Development.

After this talk I felt pretty much pumped about the next year since I always wanted to some kind of Full Stack Developer and everything sounded great so far.

The dark side of the decision

And how does that sound better than a pile of cash?

Again the other part of my brain

Yeah, I wouldn’t be honest if I did not mention that I also thought about the things that this money could buy us. Us, a family of three. It was not easy as the breadwinner of the family and with my income being the biggest contribution for covering our expenses.

My wife and myself had multiple long talks about this topic which finally ended up in her being ok with me staying on my current job and hearing on my gut feeling. I hope that the pay gap between the jobs will be closing over the next years while I learn a lot new things which I would not learn at the other position.


What really made me stay

People Don’t Quit Jobs – They Quit Bosses

origin unknown

Well I guess for me it works even the other way around. I am more than satisfied with the working relationship between me and my boss. My feeling is that he is looking after my personal development and this means a lot to me. I hope it stays that way and the fear of missing out on the pile of cash does not come back in an ugly form.

Let’s see how this one turns out.


Were you ever in such a situation? How did you decide? How did it turn out?

Would really love to hear your story.
Hit me up on any of my social accounts or just leave a comment down here.

13 thoughts on “Why I passed on a 55% higher salary”

  1. Why I accepted and will accept any higher than current salary offer:
    s0 = current salary
    s1 = new offer

    because s1 > s0.

  2. So you turned down a 55% raise to stay at a company that’s shelving your project and hasn’t even told you what the next project is? Seems like a high-risk move.

    I would have taken the job and evaluated from there. If it turned out you didn’t like it — and you might have loved it — you could have moved on to the next one. You probably even could have gone back to your current job, no hard feelings or bridges burned, and possibly at a higher salary. It sounds like they understand your value, so why aren’t they compensating you appropriately?

  3. In my opinion, this is an opportunity you should have absolutely brought up to your current employer. You say that you feel like your boss is looking out for your personal development, but if you’re able to easily seek out such a large raise in pay, you are simply undervalued. This may not be a fault of your own, or your employer, but if there’s such a large discrepancy in pay between your position and others in the market, your employer should at least be made aware of it.

    I was in a similar situation to you recently – I loved my job and large array of projects I got to work on and lead, but my job description and salary had far outlived my abilities. After being contacted by recruiters daily about positions that had far less responsibility and were 35%+ more pay, I decided to start interviewing and just see what happened. Eventually, I made it to the final round at several companies, with some very strong offers. After evaluating my situation and what was being offered, I still felt torn between more money and leaving the job I was in, so I decided to talk to my boss about it who, like yours, is awesome and I didn’t want to leave.

    I told her how I had received some offers for significantly more money and a better job title that would help me further my career and before I could even tell her that I was conflicted about leaving, she asked me if I was looking to leave because of the job, or because I felt undervalued from my current salary. I told her the latter and by the end of the day, she’d set up a meeting with me, her and our senior VP to go over what they could offer me to stay. Their offer ended up exceeding my expectations – I’d discussed with my wife that I didn’t expect them to match my other offers, but I would stay for a 20% increase, which still seemed far-fetched. They matched my highest offer and reclassified my position to give me the senior title. They also recognized that I couldn’t do my job alone as our work load increased and approved me to hire a junior developer.

    While I’d always felt that my boss “had my back” in previous discussions with her, these actions certainly spoke louder than words and made it a no-brainer for me to stay. I’m not necessarily saying your conversation would go the same, but the way a leader reacts in a circumstance like this speaks levels to how they feel about and value you as an employee. While some may say, “If she valued you she would’ve paid you what you were worth in the beginning,” I don’t think things are as easily black-and-white like that.

    I think you should take your story as a time to reflect. Over the next few months, pay attention to how your boss and team interacts with you and do your best to put in the work that you’re proud of. The next time an opportunity comes up, speak to your boss about it. A good boss wants you to do what’s best for you and your family, whether that means staying with them or not, if your boss is as good as you say, being open an honest with him or her will be welcomed and appreciated – you might be surprised with the outcome.

  4. Hey Marcus,

    Firstly my experiences:

    – I once changed jobs because I didn’t like a 7% raise when I asked for 10% due to new responsibilities.
    – Once I didn’t take a job because it was $1,000 below what I asked for.

    When a company is petty, I can be just as petty. Some would call me greedy but you have to be. No one is going to give you more than they can get away with. I tell you this as a caveat before I offer my unsolicited opinion on your situation.

    Basically, time is the most important factor to me. You only have so much time to sell, you should get the best price for it. Yes enjoying what you do and learning is important, but in my 17 years of experience every company I’ve ever worked at has been fun and I’ve learnt a lot in every position. For you, this is 1 job out of 1, what are the chances you stumbled into the only job you will feel this good about?

    Also, consider how much time are you selling? i.e. what’s the work/life balance like, what’s the commute like. If that 55% job requires 60% more time, then that’s not worth it. Maybe it requires less time, perhaps you put a lot of unpaid OT (the blood, sweat and tears) in to your current job.

    I also get the impression that you current job is not giving you official titles, official responsibilities and the increase in renumeration you deserve (“I am told that I am leading our Backend Guild” so, are you lead or not?) This is just an impression because you mention nothing about a promotion or raise for heading up this new project. Additional responsibilities should come with additional pay.

    If you do want to stay at your current position, I would at least ask for a significant bump, I wouldn’t be afraid to mention the other offer. The best case scenario for you is higher pay at the company you want to work at I would think. Worst case, and it is extremely unlikely, they will let you go for asking for more and you go to work at the other company. That is so unlikely though, probably illegal, and if they did that you wouldn’t want to work for them anyway.

    This is just your first job, unfortunately companies will hire recent grads and give them bad raises and force them to go elsewhere for a bump, it’s what happens, and at some point you may need to do that as I dare say without demanding large bumps you will never make up the 55% gap.

    • Within the second year I already got a raise and a promotion (the shiny badge). Each of them with an attached salary increase >10%. Just not sure if my initial salary was too low.

      Think best thing to do is to follow your advice on checking the market and going for a counter offer.

  5. Hey Marcus, I’ve been a professional developer for 18 years now. If you do want to be paid more, your best approach will be to change jobs and/or get an offer and ask for a counter offer from your current employer. As a business owner also, I am only able to pay for the value I can get out of a team member. It sounds like you have become much more valuable at your current company, so I would hope you are getting your fair share in return. The only way to know is test your value in the marketplace by interviewing and seeing what offers your get. You do not have to commit to anything. Good luck.

  6. In a similar fashion, I left a higher paying dead end job working on legacy tech with a huge pay cut a few months ago. I was making 50% more than I do now and I’m very happy with the decision.

    • Glad to see people making this experience. Also it shows nothing is forever. When you make such a career move and it doesn’t turn out so well – you always could search for something else.

  7. In comparison to similar skill requirements and professionalism such as medical doctors, other professional fields do not have the controls necessary to reward those willing to put in the time to succeed in the field. Breaking the trend, to a degree, is managerial or lead level software roles. In such rolls usually at least five years of residency is required at leading institutions, as well as advanced degrees and continuing certifications. So the level of education and commitment is absolutely on par with the highest demands in the medical field. It’s for that reason that I find this article so contrary. I feel like you absolutely deserve the money that you passed by and I hope that you encounter it soon.

    • Thanks for your comment. Think I just need to stay in the loop regarding the market and see what kind of possibilities there are. You are definitely right, think there are other good bosses to be found somewhere else.

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