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Salary vs. sanity

by Shannon Houde

When it comes to a trade off between your salary and your sanity, there is only sustainable choice. As someone who went through this process, I can tell you that you might surprised by how having less money could make you better off in the long term. When I started my career coaching business, I transitioned from a cushy corporate consulting job to a start-up impact career being self-employed. Yes, this change came with a huge pay cut. However, I also became my own boss and gained unmatchable flexibility.

Image © NeONBRAND via Unsplash.

The thing is, beyond a certain level of income, money doesn’t necessarily make our lives any richer – in fact, it can have the opposite effect. Some of the highest earners can be poor in terms of time, life satisfaction or purpose. Not having lived a life true to yourself was cited by a palliative nurse in a popular Guardian article as the number one regret of the dying, while working too hard was the number two.

Many of us are now migrating from traditional career tracks to follow our hearts, make a difference and feel we’re adding value, despite the salary discrepancy.

And guess what else? You won’t be alone on the journey. Many of us are now migrating from traditional career tracks to follow our hearts, make a difference and feel we’re adding value, despite the salary discrepancy. But just as there is no country in the world in which women are paid more than men – the International Labour Organisation estimates that the average gender pay gap now stands at close to 23 per cent – women moving from high-paying careers into sustainability or impact roles have to deal with an income double-whammy; first for the role, then for the gender. This may come as a shock, but the stats don’t lie: Acre’s 2014 Salary Survey found that while men’s salaries have stayed the same since 2012, women’s have dropped by £4,500 p.a. Now that’s a bit depressing!

Doing more with less

So why do we do it? Because making that choice helps us feel like our efforts are more aligned with our values, more authentic, more sane. I left two high paying jobs in my career, one from Barclays Global Investors in San Francisco and one from Deloitte in London, because, despite the great salary and benefits, I just didn’t feel the values of my team and the organization were aligned with my own. Frankly, I didn’t feel good about going to work and never making it to my yoga class. I hear this a lot from my career coaching clients and I know it’s a personal choice, one that is not easy to make. But being poorer and happier can be rewarding, forcing you to simplify your life and be freer – without the lures of consumerism and commercialism. Even more sustainable reducing, reusing and recycling more? It’s less of a challenge than you might think.

Let’s talk numbers

That said, nobody’s suggesting you survive on minimum wage, so let’s talk numbers. Acre’s CRS Salary Survey is a great resource that will give you a snapshot of trends in the impact sector in terms of salary, function, sector, etc. My company, Walk of Life Consulting, was a distribution partner for the report this year and we were invited to attend the launch event in April. Over 1,200 corporate responsibility and sustainability practitioners responded to the survey, offering an unparalleled insight to the sate of the industry. The results show that there is continued growth and high levels of job satisfaction, but in terms of money, things are looking less rosy for women, consultants, and those based in the UK and Rest of the World regions. Here are some key points:

  • The global average salaries for men and women are £67,859 and £52,201 respectively
  • The average female salary has declined compared to 2012
  • There are fewer women in higher-level positions
  • Those working in the Rest of Europe are the highest paid
  • Average salaries have risen in all regions except the Rest of the World and the UK, where they have dropped (slightly)
  • On average, consultants are paid £8.7k less per year than those working in-house

TriplePundit sum up the findings nicely with some great infographics, explaining that the average salary for different roles ranges from £98,625 at Director level to £27,645 at Assistant level. In the middle are the Managers at £60,779 and Advisors at £41,366. Note though that most of the respondents had been working in a CRS role for between six and 20 years, while none had been there for less than two.

However, respondents cited job satisfaction levels of 85%, with 82% recommending a career in the area, despite the lower than average salaries – a resounding endorsement and one that encourages us all to choose sanity over salary!

If you’re thinking about switching roles for a job in CRS or would like to position yourself for maximum income as well as maximum impact, contact me for some tried and tested bespoke advice.

This article was originally published on GreenBiz.com.

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Career Change, Press

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