I chose pay over passion and that’s okay

When I was a fresh graduate, I applied for jobs in a field that I was interested in and paid little attention to the remuneration package. To me, passion was primary and pay, secondary. I believed that it didn’t matter so much what I was paid so long as I was doing what I loved. Oh, how foolish I was.

Now that I am half a decade older and wiser, I learnt that 1) accepting a job on such basis is ill-informed and 2) working for passion is bullshit if it doesn’t pay you enough to pay your bills.

By accepting the job that I was passionate about but paid just average (the welfare benefits were good though), I had unwittingly plunged myself into 4 years of specialised and hardly transferrable knowledge at a job that unfortunately does not align with my financial goals.

The sad reality of adulthood is that bills are real and ’em bills have to be paid. And what is sadder but so real is that working for passion sometimes does not pay well.

When you accept a job that you’re passionate about but pays poorly, you end up having to play catchup in the game of life in $ingapore for this dastardly reason: your next pay is pegged to your last pay.

Sure, this may not the case for all companies but in my (and my peers’) experience, the salary that a future employer is willing to offer is often closely tied to the last drawn salary of the job applicant. Employers would require a copy of your payslip as proof (even though a certain minister said that employers cannot insist on this) at the application stage which means you can’t even inflate it without being found out.

I always thought that it is not an obligation for job applicants to disclose information about last drawn salary and if I do out of courtesy, it is merely for potential employers to get a gauge of my value and what the market norm is.

But clearly I am wrong because there are some unscrupulous employers I have come across who are unwilling to offer more than a certain percentage of your last drawn salary, which they specifically requested for proof of, due to company policies or whatever crappy reasons. Can anyone working in HR please enlighten me why this is so?

And herein lies the problem: I took a job fresh out of school that didn’t pay well and now I am stuck in this wicked cycle that I can’t break out of because employers are so fixated on these damned last drawn salaries.

Screw you, Josephine Teo.

So moving forward, here is what I would recommend to fresh graduates based on my personal experiences: Take the job with the higher pay first, regardless of whether you like it.

I know what I am saying is unorthodox and controversial and I am likely to get a lot of backlash but I am not gonna apologise for that. Can you see where I am coming from after I have described the darned scenario above??

Unless there is a fundamental shift in the way employers value job applicants, there is a pretty good chance you will be stuck in a similar salary trap and struggle to find a higher paying job in future. I’m not saying it is impossible, I am just saying that getting the headstart of a higher starting pay makes a difference.

Therefore if you’re a fresh graduate, I implore you to seriously consider the opportunity cost of choosing passion over pay (and vice versa) and perhaps just accept the one that pays better first even if you don’t think you’ll like it. After you have secured that “sacred” payslip, you can then continue to look for something that is more aligned with your interest and use that payslip to negotiate a higher pay.

The worst case scenario is that you hate your job and want to quit ASAP. Go ahead then. You have the payslip in your pocket already anyway.

The best case scenario is that you end up liking that job and don’t have to jump ship (nothing wrong with that by the way, your own financial and mental health takes precedence over company loyalty). You can simply work on your passion projects on the side while holding that job to pay your bills and fund your passion. I believe if you are really as passionate about your passions as you claim to be, you will have no qualms sacrificing sleep and time to work on it outside of your working hours. You might even be able to create an alternative stream of income that way too!

When I left my first job and accepted another, I did not make the same mistake as I did before. I had to choose between two offers, one that seemed more interesting but lower-paying and the other less so but higher-paying. I chose the latter. I am a cop-out but I think it’s okay. Because with that higher-paying job, I am able to accumulate more wealth and quicker too.

Fellow young people around us overemphasize the glory and honour of working for passion. But ultimately, a job is just a means to an end.

I think as millennials we tend to get hung up on passion and working a job y0u love. I was once like this. Fellow young people around us overemphasize the glory and honour of working for passion. But ultimately, a job is just a means to an end. So long as there is no adverse effect on your mental health, just do it. The job just needs to serve its role in helping you achieve your passions and goals in life in the fastest way possible. It is not your whole life.

I’m genuinely happy for those who have found jobs in their passion or nurtured a passion for their jobs. But for the rest of us out there who don’t have that fortune, I would like to say this: it is okay too.

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