I'm in a bit of a bind here.

I need employment pretty desperately. (Which, of course, is not unique.) I'm also not someone with a whole lot of job experience under my belt. (A little volunteer work, that's it.) I think I can do good work; I'm itching to code and code and code. I Want A Chance To Prove Myself.

I may have just gotten one.

This brings me to the second part of the dilemma. There is no way, none at all, that I could possibly get more than a 30.000US salary for this position. It will probably last a year.

However, due to oddities of my local economic condition, it'll be the most money I've ever made. Quite literally, I've never made more than half that amount at any job, part/full/whatever. Frankly, this may look like a piece of fool's gold to almost anybody else who's worked for startups before, but fool's gold sells well for me.

My question is simple -- will this destroy my career before it's started? Will this give any employer I might ever have the idea that I can be purchased for nothing (not nothing to me, certainly, but some day I'd like to make more than 30.000US)? Will this make me a pariah in the community for being one more programming willing to work for "slave wages"?

I admit there's no easy answer to this question, but unless someone tells me that I'll be an absolute leper for taking the work, I'm going to reply with the most emphatic yes I can possibly write through email. I don't have much other option. I need to write code, I need to eat, and I want, so much more than anything else in my life, to finally deal with both of these needs at the same time. I shivered when I realized that I could actually get this job and possibly even be completely qualified for it.

So. Is leprosy in my future?

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Moral Dilemma
by Corion (Patriarch) on Apr 26, 2003 at 09:16 UTC

    I think you are not really clear about priorities :

    1. You say that you desperately need a job, and that you never worked before (in the sense of a 9-5 job).
    2. You say that you can get a certain amount of money from that prospective job.
    3. This prospective amount of prospective money will be the most money you ever made (this almost directly follows from the previous two points).
    4. You think that your situation allows you to skip this job offer and wait for a better one.
    5. You think that this prospective job will possibly make you an outcast with "the community".

    These points can be summarized to the following choices (IMO):

    Points 1,2,3 lead you to a wholehearted "YES" to that job offer, because your situation is bad, and you will need the money before it gets worse.

    Point 4 says your situation isn't that bad at all and you can still get by, in the hope that the situation gets better.

    Point 5 depends on the job and the community - if you are a drug dealer and now take a job "offered" by the FBI, your community might look down on you (and your family) for killing and imprisoning members of your community, but it is you who needs to get his priorities clear and make this decision.

    In my opinion, any job that brings food on the table is currently a good job. You can always claim the low pay was to this or that reason and that you want/need a higher salary in your next position. If the job pays enough to motivate you getting out of bed in the morning, then the job pays enough to be taken, and believe it or not, working for money isn't frowned upon within the Perl community.

    The decision you have to make is whether you need the money or not and whether another available job (flipping burgers for example) will pay/satisfy equally or more and is available. If you think you can stall this decision, you will end up with no job and no money.

    And btw, I think USD 30,000 isn't that bad a salary (not knowing how much/what you have to do for that).

      Thank you for the assistance (and everyone else as well).

      While I realize this question's answer may have seemed obvious to all of you, the way the job was phrased was roughly "there's one really bad thing about this job, and it's the money". I wanted to make sure I wasn't missing something important that taking a "low-paying" job would mean.

      Now that I know better, there's no problem. ;) Again, thank you all very much!

Re: Moral Dilemma
by Marza (Vicar) on Apr 26, 2003 at 09:03 UTC

    I wouldn't worry about it. If you need a job, you get a job. Salary is not an issue here. In fact when I interview I tend to not want to discuss salary. As I tell them, I don't want to talk about money as it tends to get in the way of finding if we are a match for the position.

    You said you lack experience. Well here is the opportunty to get some! Remember you are not wed to the position. This is not like the 1950s where you hired into a company and retired from that company.

    Executives have taught us that employment is no longer guaranteed. Put in your time and if a better opportunity comes, you take it!

    Good luck

Re: Moral Dilemma
by Jenda (Abbot) on Apr 26, 2003 at 11:12 UTC

    Erm ... I do not remember any recruiter asking me how big was my salary in the previous jobs*. (Might be a weak memory, it's almost two years since I spoke with them last time.) And I don't think it's their bussiness. They need to know what were you doing there, what did you learn and what did you acomplish. Not what the salary was. And "worked for Xxxx as Yyyy" looks better on your CV than "Unemployed".

    If the job looks interesting and at least a little bit challenging, go for it. If you prove yourself, your salary might rise even in this job. And with at least a little experience you are more likely to get a better job.

    Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live.
       -- Rick Osborne

    * I do not live in the States so the situation might be different there.

    Edit by castaway: Closed small tag in signature

      Probably not common to provide salary history in Europe — in fact, I am pretty sure it's illegal to even ask for it in the UK, FR and DE — for good or bad, it's standard practice in the US.
        It's not illegal in NL, nor is it illegal to ask your age or martial status during a job interview, and use this information in the selection process.


Re: Moral Dilemma
by Elgon (Curate) on Apr 26, 2003 at 11:30 UTC

    Right, okay...there...

    Firstly, relax: No one who in any way does not have their head up their backside will slag you off for taking a job, technical or otherwise. Coding for money is not a crime - even Richard Stallman has to make a living. Whilst the economic system we live under may not be ideal, it is a basic fact of life that you have to work for a living.

    Secondly, this will not destroy your career: Everybody has to start somewhere and any experience is good. One of the things I hear most often from friends is that they can't get experience without a job and they can't get a job without any experience (I'm a recent graduate so I hear this a lot.)

    Finally, I will say this: Take the job. Work hard. Show you can do what they need. This will pay for food, living and fun. It is nice to have a life and a job.

    Elgon - evil corporate whore

    "What this book tells me is that goose-stepping morons, such as yourself, should read books instead of burning them."
           - Dr. Jones Snr, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

      You obviously don't know RMS' views very well. Read him in his own words (look for the word "alternative"). Before you take exception to the alternate career suggested, here is what the first employee of the FSF had to say on it. And then explained why it was a particularly good option to consider. (For the record, Brian built a company up to reasonable size and, with wealth taken care of for some time to come, stepped down to have more time with family.)

      Whether Richard has his head up his backside is your judgement call. Many people think that. Many others think that he should be (atheism notwithstanding) canonized. I say that he has a carefully thought-out world view which is unusually consistent and inconvenient to a lot of people. If you don't share his assumptions, then the reasoning process is interesting, but the conclusions can be disregarded. Adjust this advice to the extent that you share his assumptions and find the reasoning compelling.

      That said, my advice to the original poster is to accept the job if it interests you. It is good experience, and more importantly it is a place to get skills from which you can get another job. This is not just, "It looks good in the resume" - it looks good because you actually improve in non-trivial ways. Don't underestimate that.

Re: Moral Dilemma
by perrin (Chancellor) on Apr 26, 2003 at 13:26 UTC
    Well, I don't see how this is a "moral" dilemma, but that's beside the point.

    Take the job. My first programming job paid exactly this much, and I was thrilled. By the time I left that company, they had given me two big raises for proving myself useful.

    Your only moral dilemma will be when your interviewer for the next job asks what your current salary is and you have to decide if you want to dodge it or lie about it. Most interviewing tips I've read says you should dodge the question regardless of how much you make.

Re: Moral Dilemma
by Abigail-II (Bishop) on Apr 26, 2003 at 22:32 UTC
    Where did you get the impression that $30k/year for someone without much experience and in these economic times is "slave wages"? The internet and ICT hype are over. I know the situation in Europe and the US can't be quite compared, but I'm looking for a new position as well, as my contract ends 3 days from today. The market is flooded with people that have experience, big consultancy companies sack people by the thousands. And many companies with large ICT departments have a hire-freeze.

    Anything that I will get above EUR 40k/year, I'll consider a bonus. And that's with 19 years of experience.

    I think you'll need to adapt your perception.


      Then you might want to look for work across the border in Germany. I recently read an article by Angela Meyer in c't: Magazin für Computertechnik that the median salary in Germany is better--looks like a couple of thousand Euros more per year. You can have a look at the article here (it also has information on Austria and Switzerland).


      That's why I quoted it -- I didn't know if that was what it might be considered by others. I jumped for joy when I read it.

      I live in a place where most jobs pay 20.000 or less, so believe me, this is a breath of fresh air and a hopeful sign.

Re: Moral Dilemma
by petesmiley (Friar) on Apr 26, 2003 at 19:53 UTC
    Well...speaking as a geek from backwoods Louisiana.....TAKE IT! I'm not kidding. 30K for a starter position and having little experience, sounds like an ideal deal.....heck that's what I started at and I'm making way more than that now. Everyone has to start somewhere.

    Besides, a job is exactly what it is and nothing more, it's a job.

    Disclaimer: This opinion only holds if you do not live in Taxachusettes, New York City or California. All of which make 30K a year seem like slightly more than minimum wage. Don't ask me how, they just do ;) If you live in any of these places please take no offense at my jibe.... It's just that I recently helped my wife with her NY state tax return and nearly messed myself.


      I'm a New Hampshire resident who works in Massachussetts, and you are correct in saying that their income tax bites. I was expecting them to give me a return of $800 (or there abouts). They "adjusted" that number to just over $400. And I used Turbo Tax to do everything. What a crock!

      It is God's job to forgive Osama Bin Laden. It is our job to arrange the meeting -- General Norman Schwartzkopf
Re: Moral Dilemma
by wolfger (Deacon) on Apr 28, 2003 at 02:37 UTC
    I honestly do not see the dilemma. You want to code. You have no experience coding. $30k is darn good for a starting salary for somebody with no experience. Future employers only need to hear one thing at the interview: "I'm looking for a new job because the money isn't good enough." That should quell any concerns they may have over why your pay was so "low".

    On the other hand, if you don't want the job, send me the contact info. I want to code, but I have no experience. :-)
Re: Moral Dilemma
by mojotoad (Monsignor) on Apr 26, 2003 at 16:24 UTC
      My favorite line:
      A degree is NOT required.
      The real nuissance of finding a job these days:

      I walk into an office and meet an HR person. He says, "Go ahead and take a look at the job description online. Oh, and ignore the degree requirements, those aren't a big deal."

      Now, it's statements like that, that really make you wonder.