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The Background

Out of college, I accepted a position at a company(Company 1) that I had been working for as an intern basically throughout my entire college career.

Company 1 doesn't negotiate with salary at all, however they are usually very competitive in terms of similar companies in the area.

After a year and a half of working for Company 1 full time, I decided to switch jobs to Company 2 that was paying me about 18% more than the previous.

After working for Company 2 for only 6 months, I quickly realized that it wasn't a fit for me. I ended up going back to work for Company 1.

Originally, I was told that I would receive matched salary of Company 2 however, HR decided that it would be unwise to offer the match, as it would condone the idea that in order to get a raise at Company 1, the best way is to find a different company that will pay you more, and then come back later.

Instead, Company 1 offered me an 8% raise from my previous salary and a promotion, which is likely the course that would have happened had I stayed with Company 1 in the first place.

This offer was very much "Take it or leave it"

This is somewhat frustrating for me, as the amount I was making before at Company 2 fulfilled the criteria in order to meet my financial goals. However, Company 2 also had very little room to advance compared to Company 1.

The Question

How does one handle working for a company like this? I enjoy the company, I enjoy my work, and I enjoy the people that I work with. It is safe to assume that within 5 years, I will be making more with Company 1 then I would have with Company 2, and it is also safe to assume that if I do well and exceed expectations, then I could be making substantially more.

Is it best to just "go with the flow" if you will, and not worry about the fact that I have very little control over the situation?

  • What exactly does "the amount I was making before at Company 2 fulfilled the criteria in order to meet my financial goals" mean? That you were earning enough that you could buy a fancy car within the next X years or that you were actually earning enough to have an acceptable standard of living? There's a huge difference between the two. If it's the former, I'd say just suck it up; you may be earning less now but you're sure you'll be earning more a few years down the line, there are better opportunities, and you actually like the job. – Anthony Grist Apr 3 '14 at 19:29
  • I don't understand what question you are asking. Are you asking "what job should I take?" or what? Generally chasing money doesn't result in job fulfillment. – enderland Apr 3 '14 at 19:34
  • @AnthonyGrist means making enough money to afford down payment on a house in X years, versus X+Y years (where Y is positive) – Triplell89 Apr 3 '14 at 20:06
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    @Triplell89 - The simply answer is you find a job at an entirely different company that is neither Company A or Company B if you don't want to accept the pay decrease. If you cannot grow at the company then you shouldn't accept the job. I can make this statement because its clear to me you already actually made a decision. You just need somebody to point it out. – Donald Apr 4 '14 at 16:27
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Your options are pretty straightforward.

  • You can stay at company 2 and make the money you want now. Presumably in 3-5 years you can go back to company 1 in a higher position which should allow for the increase in pay. Chances are this position will not pay as much as if you go back to company 1 now, but you will be getting more right now. In the end this path is going to cost you more if you ultimately end up spending the rest of your career at company 1.

  • You can go back to company 1 now. Assuming you perform well and stay their for the rest of your working life, you should end up quite happy but it will take a few years to get back to your happy place financially.

  • You can find another company. You can probably find one that pays even better than Company 2 and maybe will make you just as happy or even more than Company 1. Or it could be a place that you hate. This is the riskiest option but potentially has the best all around payoff.

I can not tell you which one to choose. I can say that the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence. And my experience is when you return to a job you used to enjoy things have changed while you were gone. You lost some of the respect you had and while its not the same as starting over fresh its not like you can pick back up where you left off like you never left either.

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"We don't negotiate" is just another way of saying "we feel we have enough leverage in the situation to dictate the terms". Based on your description, it sounds like Company 1 does have the leverage here -- you are the one wanting to come back.

What you can do is find out what it would take to get to the larger salary once you rejoin. Most companies that have set pay scales have pay grades -- ask how you can jump to the next pay grade.

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