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Why a high-paying job offer could be a red flag

October 21, 2015, 3:56 PM UTC
Photographer: Frank Schneider

The Fortune 500 Insider Network is an online community where top executives from the Fortune 500 share ideas and offer leadership advice with Fortune’s global audience. Mike Linton, CMO of Farmers Insurance, has answered the question: In choosing a career, how much should pay matter?

When people talk about compensation, they’re usually referring to salaries and bonuses, but I believe the thinking should be broader.

In the course of my career, I’ve learned that you will benefit by starting with a review, not just of your total pay, but of the total lifetime rewards of a job. Of course, that includes pay and benefits, but it also looks at the amount of real learning and experience you gain, the network you build, the meaning the job provides you with, and the opportunity you have to succeed.

I see the following to be important when reevaluating your current job or considering another offer:

Professional development
Whenever evaluating a potential position, I look at the runway available to accomplish something. A position should allow you to do something that’s meaningful to the market and present chances to build your career. That requires resources, support, achievable expectations and a reasonable timeframe.

In addition to having responsibilities that are clearly in your wheelhouse, look for positions that provide the opportunity to do something you haven’t done, or to develop a skill for which you have limited experience. Learning and improving makes you more attractive to your own company and to future employers. When you do the same thing over and over again, year after year, you’re not adding to your personal value, which can be detrimental in the long run — even if you make more cash in the near term.

See also: Why this CEO thinks a 6-figure salary isn’t always worth your time

Positive environment
If you work in an environment with a negative culture, it’s harder to succeed and add value, which makes it harder to gain experience and prove your worth. If you’re in a leadership role, it could have a lingering negative impact since you’re trained to lead in that culture. That may turn you into the kind of leader you don’t want to be.

It’s impossible to put a tangible value on every component of culture and environment, but both play a role in overall job satisfaction, as well as the ability to do things that drive value for the company. For example, perhaps your company allows you to dress casually, have flexible hours, work from home, offers on-site daycare, or provides other non-cash benefits. Your paycheck won’t feature a line item for these, but they can have a big impact on your day-to-day routine and ability to make a difference.

Ability to make a difference
Sometimes when above-market pay is offered, it can signal outsized expectations or entrenched problems. You may be expected to deliver certain results without the resources and time required to achieve those results. That’s a bad place to be in the long term. When you take a position where you don’t have the time to set up and execute a plan to succeed, you may end up like the major league manager expected to turn around a losing team in one year. Maybe you can do it, but if you can’t, it doesn’t build a long-term career.

You can often find a job that will pay more, but I believe that constantly chasing a higher paycheck is a recipe for an unsatisfying career. My advice? Take a job for the journey and the passion. If you’re dedicated to it, you will deliver accomplishments that the market will see and value, and the money will follow.


Read all responses to the Fortune 500 Insider question: In choosing a career, how much should pay matter?

When it comes to your career, this is how much pay should matter by Beth Brady, CMO of The Principal Financial Group.