Take a loss to work in greener pastures?


How much of a loss in pay would you take to work on better projects or a better employer?

Assume the drive is the same, the responsibility is the same. 

Oct 12, 15 5:03 pm

Not more than 10% - assuming i was adequately compensated previously.  Just my opinion...

If you need to take something more than that, why not negotiate a performance review up front?  You, offering yourself at a discount rate so that they can be comfortable and get to know you.  You to upgrade your position.  "Hey, if this works out for both of us- let's meet back here in 6 mos and see what we can do about salary?"

Oct 12, 15 6:28 pm

In 2009, in the midst of the recession, I took a job as a landscape architect for a very small office. Their work wasnt very good or interesting, the pay sucked, no benefits, super long commute, etc, etc. 


I planned to leave in two weeks--it was survival. Long story short, I stayed, job turned into work from home, contract, then just another client I subconsult for now. 


Pay cuts suck, but learning and fulfillment is more important and might lead you to another opportunity or reignite your passion. 


Maybe this is a useless anecdote, but I 'm feeling congenial and procrastinating.

Oct 12, 15 6:52 pm

What goes down doesn't necessarily come back up

In 2009, in the midst of the recession, I took a job as a designer for a very small office. Their work wasnt very good or interesting, the pay sucked, no benefits, - and this went on for 3 years as a 1099 - flat rate - no raise - But I learned a lot 

Oct 12, 15 7:54 pm

Not to beat a dead horse, but everything is negotiable.  If you give up money- get something else; paid time off, unpaid time off, education expenses, car allowance, something

Oct 12, 15 8:10 pm

+++ Jerome….in real estate negotiations they often say you can have price or terms. If you can’t get the price, balance it with terms. Also agree with Larch, you never know where things will lead.

Oct 12, 15 8:28 pm

You are suggesting there are only two possibilities:

1. Stay at the office you are currently, with projects and an employer you don't like but acceptable pay

2. Move to a different office with better pay and projects. 

The architecture hiring market is currently the best it has been in almost a decade. I would suggest neither option. What about a third choice?

3. Move to great office with exciting projects and the same (or better) pay. 

If you don't think that exists you aren't looking hard enough. 

Good luck.


Oct 12, 15 10:06 pm

Not that they'll ever be reading this, but I'll try not to give too much detail...

Firm A: Current employer.  Lower base pay with intent to salary and work overtime.  Added vehicle benefits that boost overall value to a greater amount than base pay from firm B.  vehicle benefits are promised, but not necessarily guaranteed.  Mixed work, low budgets, less than stellar management.  Primarily Engineering firm with few Architects.

Firm B: Higher base pay.  Not salaried, no limit on overtime, but overtime isn't common. Bigger projects, bigger budgets. Can't speak to management qualities.  The firm, technically, specializes but has departments that do a variety of work.  Primarily Architecture firm with a few Engineers. A few more benefits covered.

Oct 13, 15 8:14 am

Things I've found and the base 'worth' I've given based on a 'livable' market salary:

1. good peer group - a studio full of people you'd choose to hang out even if you didn't work together: 10%

2. middle management - until you move up, that mentors, is patient, and allows you to manage your time by having foresight on deadlines: 10%

3. good ownership - acknowledges hard work and productivity through raises/bonuses, is generous with their time and money (free food, lunch and learns, afterwork cocktails), and can bring in good work: 15~20% (mostly because you get 10~15% in added benefits).

4. good projects: 5~10% (more later in career than earlier, as there's much to learn about the procedural aspects of the design field even in the mundane work)

One way to look at it is what is the job after the next that you want and which job(s) will best get you there - most positions aren't permanent, but it's just a step to another.  If you are strategic, it's possible to get to above average compensation in a great office environment where you're on amazing projects with important role in them.

Oct 13, 15 9:25 am

^Good list except that it’s all about & dependent on “others”. It’s like “I could be rich if you weren’t so stingy”; “I could be great if only you were great”…’s not just you; I’ve seen it everywhere…like people sitting at bus stops waiting to be picked up. Sorry, just one who thinks that taking a sports car to where you’re going beats mass transit.

(Good post, not picking on it, just had a familiar ring to it)

Oct 13, 15 10:38 am

pretty much all of life is dependent on others.

you can't get electricity without other people making electricity and maintaining the infrastructure to get it to you.  you wouldn't be using the internet without others inventing it.

for a more specific analogy, you're not going to be a successful architect without others helping to teach  you how to be an architect, without others giving you opportunity to be an architect, and without others hiring you to do architecture so you have clients.

Oct 13, 15 11:12 am

can't put a price on your mental well being.

Oct 13, 15 12:19 pm

Guess it was the "free food…” part that triggered it. Just coming off the threatened UAW strikes here in The Rust Belt with demands of $90,000 a year for putting on lug nuts.

Acknowledge that collaboration is key to what we do; it’s just that success comes from within:

“The real opportunity for success lies within the person and not in the job”

“When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you will be successful”

Oct 13, 15 12:31 pm

then it also depends on what it means to you to succeed

from tduds in the zaha thread:

I measure the success of inhabitable structures by their long term inhabitability, yes.

it takes a lot of people to make a successful project in those terms.  it's not just the architect, but you need a client with similar values, a good contractor, and past all that, you need the building users to keep up with maintenance.

of course if success just means you can drain as much money out of a project as possible as fast as possible while doing the least work possible, then there is a much different path for you to take.

maybe someone like schumacher defines success in how much attention he can get, or maybe by how big of an empire he can build, or how many people he can influence.  so his path is different from tduds or the typical tea-party type of capitalist.  in and case, what role other people play in your life, and what role you play in their lives, can be very different.

i suppose that might suggest 3tk's point 1 might carry the most weight?

Oct 13, 15 12:47 pm

I guess my point was that I'd take a hit in salary to be in a better environment, and I'm giving it a value - for example it's worth 10% hit on take home for me if it means my team is willing to pick up my slack if I have to go to a funeral (and the same would be expected from me, naturally).  Being able to share weekend fun plans and go to lunch together also has a value to my overall welfare, ditto on mentoring (and those willing to be mentored... can't stand the 9-6 minimum effort staff)

It's not about 'free', as we all know, everything has a price - it's the firm's willingness to show appreciation (and how).  In my experience after a 100hr work week and meeting a deadline successfully with good client feedback, there's a difference between a work place where the partner(s) come around, thank each employee and close the office for a day and those that don't (I'd almost take that over a higher bonus at the end of the year).

In terms of free lunch - the payoff in morale has got to be significantly higher compared to a similar financial outlay (free lunch 1/wk > +$10/wk).

Oct 13, 15 1:09 pm

To me success is the achievement of desired aims or attainment of prosperity, and I define “prosperity” as finding monetary balance in your life. Trouble is our society only defines success as monetary prosperity as in quantity.

I would summarize 3tk’s list as - “Stay away from assholes & don’t swim with sharks”.

Agree that you have to find a place where you can breathe.

Oct 13, 15 1:49 pm

All of the pros and cons you listed only refer to the short term:

Base pay, overtime, vehicle benefits, less than stellar management, not salaried, no limit on overtime, bigger projects, more benefits covered, etc.

Try not to get caught up with the immediate issues. What do you want to be doing in ten years? Does one office (or neither) support your career and personal goals?


Oct 13, 15 2:54 pm

Brandon, Will you stop beating your drum on this site? It got really old the first few times. Enough, already!

Oct 13, 15 3:30 pm

^tell me about it.

Oct 13, 15 3:51 pm
Career goals are good. But. I was talking one day with an older designer who spent most of his career with starchitects. He said it was amazing to work on high profile projects but the downside was the very long hours, little appreciation, and low pay.

At the end of the day he said, it's a job. You need to make money and take care of yourself. If the numbers don't work. Don't do it.
Oct 13, 15 3:55 pm

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