I have been on the job market for a long time, trying to get another job. The process this year was especially grueling but I managed to get one. Not only did I manage to get one, I managed to get “A dream job” … I think, but I am not sure. I’m in the middle of negotiating the conditions for the dream job and I am confronting the possible reality that whats wrong with my life lately might not be my job, it might be me. I might be having a midlife crisis.
So of course, I google search “women” and “midlife crisis.” This leads me to some interesting things to read such as literature on the U-shape happiness curve. This is the idea that our happiness goes into a ditch around 40-50 only to start to climb out afterwards. People don’t know why this is the case. Some report children (but I have none) and aging parents (which I have but scattered in different countries). I next talk to a friend and she tells me all about her midlife hormonal imbalance that she is solving with bioidentical hormones and I read up about this and wonder WTF. Do I need different hormones? I then consider whether I should go on HRT and make a note to call the doctor. I then read Norah Ephron’s book I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman and decide I’m likely normal, for my age, and go to bed with an extra slathering of body lotion everywhere I can reach and some extra on my back that I force my husband to help with.
So what does this have to do with this blog? The new job is in the big City you see and so 5 years later and a property market boom later, there are some new questions and some fears, not least of all moving away from a University and doing something “different.” There are two fundamental principals (Maxims) that lead me to make this decision and they have been the guiding force for much of my anxieties over the last few years. They are:
- institutions don’t love you back
- know your worth
I will take these both in turn now so that you understand my thinking. The first maxim relates to this idea that we connect ourselves and our identity so much with what we are doing and where we are working, but ultimately your relationship with your employer is contractual and nothing more. I was just reminded this the hard way when I asked for flexibility in negotiating my leave date with my current employer and they were not flexible. I thought “How can they do this to me, I have been so … [enter positive quality here]. It’s totally unfair!” Of course, I was momentarily forgetting the Maxim! As the author pontificates:
“One cannot expect the same consideration as one may receive in a family. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, it is surprising how often even full professors believe they deserve special consideration because of loyalty, longevity, or past productivity.”
I spent 2 full days crying over this very fact! Such a waste of energy (and possibly hormonal imbalance, see above)
The second Maxim relates to negotiating the new salary. This was hard for me although recently I was very successful at doing this with my side hustle and so that gave me new motivations. There are a number of reasons why it is important to negotiate base salary but mine really had to do with the pension. My new employer has a generous pension, but the defined benefit pension contributions only apply to contributions from base salary. I can make additional pension contributions which are tax efficient but those go into the defined contribution section of the pension (making it a mixed-pension system). While say an extra 5K pounds may not be a lot but it matters for the “accrual” rate. This is a formula that’s used to calculate your final retirement income. This ‘accrual rate’ is a fraction of your salary (for example case 1/91), and it’s multiplied by the number of years you’ve been in the scheme. Let’s do a quick example to see why that matters:
So lets’ say that I stay with this employer at the same salary for 10 years and I make 60 versus 65K with no salary increase just to keep things simple. Over those 10 years, if I don’t try to get a higher salary, I potentially lose out 500 pounds of inflation indexed guaranteed income. If I stay 20 years, this gap goes up even more, to about 1000 pounds of income per retirement year. Now what about if I stay until retirement age? Let’s say I retire at 68 and I am 43, so 25 years, and I live until I am 85, this means that negotiating that additional 5K gives me 23,375 additional pounds in inflation indexed guaranteed pension over my hypothetical life. These small choices really matter and it matters to your future self as much as your current self. I can additionally make (tax efficient) contributions in the DC part of the pension but if you have a choice, try to get your pension to be generous if you can. Note that I am not a financial adviser so I am not trying to give professional financial advice, but as someone that cares about inflation, I think that trying to maximise your future benefits makes sense.
I’ll give you an update on how the negotiations go but for now Im trying to focus on the kindness that I am showing towards my future self. It’s such a pity that I feel so shit.