Dear Coach Joan,

My current job is challenging and rewarding, but the salary and benefits are not good at all. For the first five years (my first job after college)  I was so stimulated by the job as a teacher in a small private school, but now that my husband and I are expecting a child and  just purchased a home, I notice myself feeling resentful and unhappy about my compensation.  I am afraid that if I move to a more lucrative position, I will miss the rewards of being stimulated and knowing I am making a difference. I have been contacted by a few recruiters and colleagues about new jobs but so far have not shown interest. Can you advise me on how to look at the trade-offs?

Thank you,


Dear Ann,

It’s wonderful that you found such satisfying and stimulating work for the first five years of your career. Many people find their first jobs to be drudgery and unfulfilling; paying the dues, as the expression goes.  So you should appreciate that you had quite a good run for the five years and also make sure to reflect on the key things you’ve learned and, keep that network of interesting people involved in your career life.

Your life is now changing and as your life changes, you often have changing career needs. At the start of your career, just out of college, you looked for a job in your field and you lucky to find one. Most young people are not too concerned with living with roommates to keep costs down, they often drive an old car, if they have a car at all and they often are not thinking about supporting a growing family.  Our needs and values change over time as our lifestyle changes in the course of our  career lifecycle. Let’s look at four periods of life and how the trade-offs might look. I’m basing this on actual clients I’ve worked with of varying ages and stages of life, and the composite is a woman named Leslie, at various stages of her life:

  1. Leslie, 22, the college graduate: Leslie graduated with a degree in early childhood education. She had done student teaching and loved it! The problem was, the year she graduated, there were too many graduates in her area and competitive to get a position was fierce. She wisely decided to widen her job net and found a position about five hours from the place she wanted to live. But at that stage of her career, entry level, the most important thing to her was getting a job in her field, getting experience, so she could then be a more competitive candidate and return to her location of choice. So put the criteria of JOB IN HER FIELD as the A#1 priority and she was willing to give up geographic location and high salary and even how the school district was rated, just to get in the door and get experience. She accepted her job with a low, base salary, lived with three roommates and barely paid her bills and put all savings to pay off her college loans.
  2. Leslie, 32, now married: Leslie followed her plan and it took her three years to get back to her location of choice, leveraging her teaching experience. But now she was married and she and her husband were saving to buy a home and planning to have a family. Now her priorities were to get as high a salary as possible with a solid benefits package as her husband was a contractor and didn’t have benefits with his work. Leslie leveraged her work experience and fine references and got into a top school district with good pay and excellent benefits. She was also looking for a local job as she knew she didn’t want a long commute for when she had children.
  3. Leslie, 49, kids to put through college.  Leslie and her husband now have two kids to put through college. They are focused on making as much money as they can. Leslie looks into transitioning to a corporate training job as she finds out that it pays almost double compared to her teacher’s salary. She joined a professional training organization, reached out to other former teachers to see what kind of skills she needed to make that change. She did informational interviews and met a number of former teachers who mentored her and helped me get a new position. Though she preferred working with children, a high salary was now paramount to her.
  4. Leslie, 64, wanting to paint and use her artistic talents: Now Leslie really wants TIME and flexibility. She returns to part time teaching as she really missed working with kids. And she discovers during her ReVitalment ™, the period of life after full time career and before true old age, that she used to love to paint and draw but put her art box away when she needed to focus on career, then family building. But now she realized she had a love of painting and craved being in the art studio. With a part time job in teaching she now had two and half days a week in an art studio!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Yes, Ann, there really is a CAREER LIFECYCLE and at different stages of life, different things are important to you. It sounds like you are now in one of those transitional stages and you need to reflect and think about your priorities of today!   All the best to you and wishing your success and awareness as you go through your Career Lifecycle Journey.   Coach Joan