Forced To Accept Low-Paying Job?

Question:

I am currently receiving unemployment after being laid off from a newspaper in Massachusetts. I recently interviewed for another newspaper job that would pay significantly less than my previous two positions ($9,000 less per year than my most recent job, and $6 less per hour than the position I held before that). The new job would also mean assuming more responsiblity than my previous positions. I was told the salary offer was non-negotiable. I can’t make ends meet on such a small salary, but I’m worried that if they offer me the job and I turn it down, the state will consider it a “suitable” position, and I will lose my unemployment benefits. What should I do? -Unsuitable

Signed,

Need A Job But Need Money Too


Answer:

Dear Need A Job But Need Money Too:

This is not exactly a workplace issue, but rather an after-the-workplace-issue. But perhaps we can share some useful advice. We spoke with an unemployment counselor about this, and she had two key points to make. First, each state operates slightly differently. You should talk openly and honestly to the person who has your file at the state office of unemployment. Ask them about what is considered suitable work, especially as it relates to salary and responsiblity, not just job title. People go through your situation all the time and counselors are used to hearing that someone has had a job offer, but it’s not a good offer. If the counselor tells you it is a suitable offer, you still are not obligated to take it, and you can appeal. Nothing happens overnight. In most states, suitable employment does not mean ANY employment. For example, a lab technician would not be expected to take a job as a file clerk in a lab, just because it is in the same field. Or, for that matter, take a lab technician’s job at a pittance of the standard salary.

It may be viewed that you were overpaid for your previous positions, and that would be reflected in offered salaries. But that doesn’t sound like the case.

So, it would seem to me, as an outsider, that your best step is to not jump at a job that is not what you want, unless you really are desperate for anything and/or feel you can make up the money over time or get a pay raise. Talk to the person who is the decision recommender for your file–the person assigned to it. Be guided by her/his thoughts, but do not feel you must take a job you don’t want just because that person says to do so. You are not looking for a dream job–although that may very well be what you find–you are simply looking for a job that pays appropriately for your experience and training. You are not required to take the first thing you hear about or are offered.

At the very worst, you might be told you are going to lose your unemployment benefits because you passed up a good job. Those benefits aren’t going on forever anyway. But a job can last a long, long time if you are unhappy. The very best of wishes to you. I know this is a stressful and concerning time. But I’m convinced you have much better things in your future than this one limited and not very welcoming opportunity!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.