Home Work Job Search Don’t be a Paycheck Player: How 5,000 Dollars cost me 5 Years...

Guest post by, Srinivas Rao

If you’ve ever seen the movie Jerry Maguire there’s a great scene where Cuba Gooding’s character and Jerry are talking about all the players who are getting what Cuba Gooding’s character is not getting. One thing that struck me the first time I saw this scene is when Tom Cruise said to him “When it comes to your family life, you’re all heart. But on the field, you’re a paycheck player.” Cuba Gooding responds with “I’m all heart motherfuC#$#.” Paycheck players and those who play from the heart live in very different worlds even when they have the exact same job.


How 5,000 dollars cost me 5 years of my life

10 years ago when I graduated from college the economy was kind of like it is now for college grads. Companies were not hiring and the ultimate catch 22 was that in order to get a job you needed experience and in order to get experience you needed a job. But, despite all that I managed to get two offers about 2 months after I graduated.

  • Offer 1: The first offer was from a relatively established software company. They had some big blue chip clients and had about 500 employees. My overall instinct about the whole situation was a good one. I liked all the people I had talked to and the recruiter even told me I was every interviewer’s top choice. I turned down the offer.
  • Offer 2: The second offer was from a startup which to this day still makes me laugh and cringe because of what a joke it was to work there. When I went to interview at this company the guy that would eventually become my boss came into the room, promised me the world, lied to me about how much funding the company had, and convinced me that going to this company was the right move. It paid 5,000 dollars more than the the first offer. So, after a few days I accepted the offer.

A Fu#$#d up Series of Events

20% across the board paycut: Three weeks after I started this job the CEO instituted a 20% across the board paycut. His brother and his wife who were employees of the company were exempt from the pay cut (as I later learned). Needless to say the funding was something I had been lied to about.


No commission Checks:
I was a sales person for this company so this will probably seem completely ridiculous to anybody who works in sales. I thought to myself even with a 20% paycut, I’ll make it up with my commission checks. When it came time to pay out commission, the CEO told me “I don’t pay the engineers bonuses so how I can pay you a bonus?”

No Holidays:
Just when we thought things couldn’t get much worse, the CEO decided that there would be no Holidays. If you took a sick day, the nazi running HR would actually dock your pay. The 4th of July was not even given as a holiday and we all found ourselves in the office hating life. My friend Rodney put it well when he said the CEO seemed like he had declared war against the employees of the company.

IBS: I’m not going to belabor this point since I’ve gone into it extensively in my rant about IBS, ADHD, and uphill career battles. But, it was at this job that I developed IBS. Some say it was because of the stress. To add to the 13 hour work days, 20% paycut, no commission check, and no holidays, I was commuting at least 3 hours a day.

Getting fired: 5 days before Christmas something that I now look at as wonderful happened. I got fired. I should mention that so did 3 other people every month during the time I was there. Once there was a meeting where a new employee was introduced, but then never showed up again. CREEPY.

The damage from that job actually stayed with me throughout the next 5 years. I couldn’t quite manage to stay in a sales job because the stress of it was killing my health. I switched jobs probably way too many times for my early 20’s. My overall mindset was in shambles and I just could not seem to truly get it together.

So, why am I telling you this story? It’s not to complain about what happened or be a victim. That shit is all over now and in all honesty I have such an appreciation for the way my life is today because I’ve seen how much worse it could be. I’m telling you this because I want to warn you about the temptation to be a paycheck player. If you are young, you might be tempted to take that additional 5000 dollars, but you really have to ask yourself, in the end is it worth it? My pieces of advice to you when it comes to choosing a job is:

  1. Make sure you have a great boss
  2. Make note of the energy of an office (it tells you alot about the culture)
  3. Trust your instincts no matter what
  4. Don’t be a paycheck player, it comes with a steep price

Srinivas Rao obsesses over riding waves at his personal blog, The Skool of Life. He is also the host and co-founder the BlogcastFM, a podcast for bloggers.

12 replies to this post
  1. I haven’t been in your exact shoes, but they’re close enough it’s kind of creepy. You find yourself making decisions about the future with some rationalizations as to how you’re going to make something work. As I’ve transitioned through my career, I started thinking about everything BUT the paycheck. Do I get sick time? Vacation time? Remote office? Travel opportunities? The decisions were much easier when you actually took salary out. If you find that it’s going to impact your health, weight, stress level, personal life, home life, etc. then it’s not a good idea. But you have to think of these and not get distracted by the shiny salary…great post!

    • @Emily: It’s amazing how that happens as you progress more through your career. In fact if you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs the paycheck would follow fairly low on the pyramid. The thing is when you are young you often don’t know the impact of a bad job because you have no frame of reference. Hoping this will help some people avoid my mistakes.

  2. That is a crazy story. Pretty much a nightmare situation. At the beginning it seemed like it would have been a stable, good job but that was far from the truth. I’m talking to some companies about jobs now so I’m going to be extra careful when screening them.

    • @Michael: Just know that in a bad economy people have a tendency to hype up how good their companies are. The other thing is they see it as an employer’s market often. I’ve had friends who have gone on interviews that were a complete waste of time because the company didn’t even bother screening properly.

  3. I have a little bit of a different experience. I am severely underpaid but that is not the problem. My workplace has no energy, no focus, vision, positivity, compassion (even though that is one of our major causes), respect for its talented and line employees and overall evil spirited to keep those who are hard workers down. I have stressed, cried, been beaten down physically and mentally and realized what is the point? I am not learning anything new and have been stuck…partly because I allow myself to be stuck because I am afraid to jump from the frying pan into the fire. I want to do what makes my heart sing! But we as people have to understand we are not superhuman and have to do what is right for our health mentally and physically. We have to learn to better assess our options and career choices regardless of pay. Pay will come if we do a fantastic job!

    • @Desiree: Sounds to me like you might need to take the leap of faith and see if there are other opportunities. Fear kept me in that first job for so long and I can honestly tell you if it hadn’t been for fear and being threatened, I would have probably been much better off. So, keep that in mind.

  4. Oh my gracious. I am a little embarassed to say I’m guilty of this. I rationalize it by saying that the paycheck is getting me closer to my goals (paying down debt, going to school, etc) but during the most recent enrollment period at my college I wasn’t able to leave to go enroll. Ironic, huh?

    • @Amy: I think we’ve been all guilty of this at one point or another in our lives. We get this idea in our check that just a little more money will give us so much more happiness. This is a morbid example, but yesterday I was watching an old season of 24 where the director of CTU gets exposed to high levels of radiation and finds out he has hours to live. He talks to another CTU agent about the fact that he wanted to be a teacher and chose to work at CTU for an additional 5000 dollars and it cost him his life.

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