I accepted a job offer 4 months ago. The pay is substantially lower (40%) than what I had been making. I was told during the hiring process that after 90 days I would receive a significant raise, and then be eligible for raises based on merit every year. They knew what I was making before and said I could achieve that salary with 2 annual raises, providing my work was good.

About a month in, someone on our team was let go. I snoop around and find out this was due to financial troubles. My 90 days come and go and no talk about my raise from my boss. I finally ask and he says that it's not going to happen and that likely my annual raises will not happen or just be at 'cost of living' increase unless we can pick up some new clients. My boss has stressed there are no issues with my work at all.

Now, clearly I messed up because I did not get the raise in writing. I did not even receive a written offer. It was just a "come in on Monday the 18th" thing. I know this is incredibly stupid and do not want responses focusing on how stupid I am and that I needed this in writing. I realize this now.

I feel like I'm in a pretty dangerous spot here, career-wise. I had been making a salary 40% higher than where I am now for nearly a decade. Their initial promised raise would have closed that gap by half. I could live with that, especially because I planned on working myself back up to where I was before.

But instead, I'm stuck at this junior level salary. How is this going to affect my future job prospects, especially if they pull salary history? If I share this story in an interview when they ask why I am looking, will it make me look stupid and hurt my chances? Is it better to start looking now and explain my situation to prospective employers, or to stay at this low salary for another year and hope things turn around? I feel like I've reset my career-clock 10 years by this move.

  • 7
    "I'm stuck at this junior level salary." What stops you from start looking for a new place? Jan 21, 2019 at 14:22
  • 2
    I have changed jobs 4 times in 5 years. Being at this job for only 5 months is surely going to look bad and make me seem like a job hopper, no?
    – Arc Dar
    Jan 21, 2019 at 14:29
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    @ArcDur earning half your normal income and the possibility of losing your job is probably worse, no? Jan 21, 2019 at 14:31
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    What is your locale? In most places you aren't required to disclose past payslips, which is enormously in your favour when job hunting.
    – rath
    Jan 21, 2019 at 16:07
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    @rath this is in the US. I always assumed past salaries show up on background checks even if they don't come up during interviews.
    – Arc Dar
    Jan 21, 2019 at 16:16

6 Answers 6


Search for a new job. No need to mention to anyone that you took a pay cut. If asked, just say you aren't comfortable discussing your finances, and that this is about what you can do for the new company, not what you were earning for a previous one.

And don't disclose to your current employer that you are jobhunting until you have an offer in hand and are quitting.

  • 1
    Even with a job-hopping history is it better for me to not mention the salary issue as my reason for leaving?
    – Arc Dar
    Jan 21, 2019 at 14:45
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    @ArcDur you'd need a really really good reason to leave one job to work for half your salary that doesn't make it sound like incompetence or desparation. Jan 21, 2019 at 14:48
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    @ArcDar If pushed just say that the company was a bad fit, that you stuck it out 5 months to try and make it work but in the end it didn't. There's no need to go into details.
    – Styphon
    Jan 21, 2019 at 15:49
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    @user1666620 You can easily say you took a calculated risk, like you would when joining a startup, but that didn't pan out and now you look for something stable/reliable. That explains it, you can be open about reduced salary and hope to earn more, and you make it clear that you are looking for something to stay longer this time. No desperation or incompetence at all. Jan 21, 2019 at 17:37
  • Biggest mistake of my career was taking less salary than I thought I should have. Put me in financial trouble I am still digging out of 10 years on. Jan 22, 2019 at 15:32

IMHO, start looking for a new job.

Update your resume, perhaps omitting current position if possible.

If not possible, your "not job hopping" reason could be "hired for incoming project that didn't come through" or something similar.

In any event, your current job would not be a good place to work, given salary prospects and management integrity or the lack of in this case

  • I wouldn't hide the current job. Hiding is always a bad sign. If you hide it, you have to explain the gap, meaning you easily get into lying territory. There is also nothing that looks bad about having taken that job and finding out it's not the right one per se. That there are quite a few jobs over the last years might give some people a job hopping impression, but they'd likely also think in that direction with one job and 5 months less and in addition would wonder about the gap. [cont] Jan 21, 2019 at 17:43
  • @Darkwing i didn't say hide, i said omit, given this job doesn't contribute anything to OP's skill-set.
    – Strader
    Jan 21, 2019 at 20:15
  • Well, I'm used to full linear CVs that at least list every position, though some might have no details. Even with a CV that has only relevant positions, as an interviewer I'd be interested in what the candidate did in recent history and would assume interviewers to ask if it is not there and rather consider OP unemployed in that time-frame without further information. Jan 22, 2019 at 10:06

About a month in, someone on our team was let go. I snoop around and find out this was due to financial troubles.

Promised salary increases or not, redundancies for financial reasons are always a good reason to start looking elsewhere. Clearly the company is struggling, and with this sort of sign I'd always recommend looking to jump ship before it sinks.

My 90 days come and go and no talk about my raise from my boss. I finally ask and he says that it's not going to happen...

Again, broken promises because of financial troubles. This is another indicator that this role isn't going to be financially viable long term, and another reason to look elsewhere.

How is this going to affect my future job prospects, especially if they pull salary history?

Simple - you don't tell them how much you've been making. This is standard, good practice for any job interview / negotiation, so by itself this shouldn't be any cause for alarm.

If I share this story in an interview when they ask why I am looking, will it make me look stupid and hurt my chances?

Bluntly speaking, yes. "I took a salary significantly less than what I was making before" makes you look a desperate, and increases the chances of your new company also lowballing you on offers.

The good news is you don't need to share this story. You can share broad areas without going into details - the part about other employees being let go for financial reasons for instance, and that will make sense to future employers in its own right without you needing to share the details.


Salary does not correlate to job function. Some companies just pay crappy salaries and that's all there is to it. My first job I was working in a company in Japan as a software developer for a major tech firm (multinational, many business areas, very successful, etc) and I was making under $40k/yr. Left Japan, came back to Canada, first job made $60k/yr at a small consulting company with < 100 employees. Some companies just pay crappy. You will be hired to a new job based on your skills, not based on your salary.


I feel like I've reset my career-clock 10 years by this move.

You have done no such thing.
(unless your contractual title reflects your junior salary)

You have just let them sweet talk you into a lower wage and realize now that they can't or won't fulfill their end of the (verbal) contract.


Never, EVER volunteer yor previous salary in interviews or negotiations unless using it as YOUR leverage.

if they pull salary history?

Depending on country this most likely is not possible or legally not allowed.

Even if they know your previous salary in general, it only reflects your negotiations for another job at another company, when you had less professional experience and different financial circumstances.

Only ever talk about what your current salary expectation is.

In your case, once they know your salary and try to push you down as well, remain adamant that that was a one time special negotiation because X and Y reason (fill in why you agreed - unless it is as you say "stupid")

In general, if interviewers inquire why you seek new employment you may tell the truth, that your employer didn't fulfill an agreement (and leave it at that, no more info) or evade by saying something generic.

Should they be persistent or instead of the previous you may tell them they promised annual raises that never happened.(don't mention your low salary, it's just none of their business)

  • Companies often will want your previous salary history. In fact, they often even ask for pay stubs
    – Magisch
    Jan 22, 2019 at 8:53
  • @Magisch nosy little buggers aren't they.Of course they want to know to pressure you. No right whatsoever to get it however ! I worked in North America and Europe as employee, contractor, and freelancer and not once was I asked nor did / do I ask new hires for this. IF it ever would have come up I would have stated (the truth) "I'm uncomfortable to divulge private and financial information". The current salary I ask for is up for discussion but past ones are not part of the negotiation. Just gotta stand your ground or move on. Jan 22, 2019 at 9:02
  • @Magisch granted, if it is widespread standard in your industry and / or backed / required legally you're SOL and unfortunately have to give in... Jan 22, 2019 at 9:11
  • You're right of course, if you have the option to decline, but doing so may close of many job oppportunities for you. I know companies that will just not extend an offer unless you give them your pay stub, and their offers are capped at previous pay * 1.05 regardless of position. If you're in a non high demand industry and there are a lot of these, you're SOL.
    – Magisch
    Jan 22, 2019 at 9:27
  • @Magisch sadly very true. That pay*1.05 is exactly one of the reasons why they shouldn't know. It hardly, if at all, compensates for inflation, let alone all the experience gained since starting the previous job or last raise. Jan 22, 2019 at 10:06

First things first, never volunteer or tell someone else your old salary. If they insist, find a away around it. Going forward, you are worth what they value that need. Simple as that.

I don't know your FULL context. To keep in mind here, there are reasons you might be tempted to keep your current job. Most people will tell you to leave, I would say: What is your context?

Some reasons for staying:

  • Experience you haven't acquired yet. Starting in a low paying position that provides a lot of varied, diverse and interesting technical experience might be worth taking the hit temporarily. Sure, you get paid less now, however the experience might be extremely valuable. Keep in that in mind.
  • If the market doesn't have many opportunities for what you prefer to do, then it might be worth staying there to accumulate the experience for the thing that you are doing.
  • Great learning environment. Some companies are very rigid, some are very flexible. If you can't get the salary you want can you get the opportunities you need to expand your skills? It's often a worthwhile thing to pursue. Some firms provide a LOT of flexibility for people to experience different things. Might be worth it.

From the looks of it you may need to find a new position, but sometimes it's worth considering what the current trade-off is. My self for example. I was offered a job that paid a LOT more for COBOL. (roughly 25% more) I had gotten training on COBOL but I was also a .NET / C# coder. I'm actually quite competent at that tech stack. I turned down the COBOL job for something that paid a LOT less. But the environment of the C# shop was amazing. Lot's of interesting projects, learning was encouraged, I was often given my pick of the tasks I could do. So I ended up working on a lot of varying things. Which lead to a promotion. Now I make a lot more than that initial COBOL offer. The point here, is sometimes you take less to experience more. I don't know if that's the circumstance, but in general: Work is about you, not money. Money follows ability. The jobs you want are the jobs that let you fulfill your potential. The money will follow. What is important if you find institutions and organizations that let you grow as a professional. Their job is to make money, yours is to increase your worth and the only way you become worth more, is through experience. Which means, sometimes you take less, to get more later.

EDIT: The added bonus of also being in the C# shop was that it was a coding paradigm that is vary popular. So, jumping to other languages will likely be trivial. Where as COBOL, sure it's niche, but the opportunities will be thin, because the demand in my local market mostly surrounds a single company for COBOL. Where the OOP Paradigm and experience provides a lot of flexibility in terms of opportunity.

  • This does not answer the OP's question at all. The OP was inquiring as to what a drop in salary could do, not about C# programming. Feb 1, 2019 at 19:53

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