Don't be a Paycheck Player: How 5,000 Dollars cost me 5 Years of my Life

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.