Since I was let go from my job I’ve been back on the job hunt. My goals over the last few years have had a pretty simply motto, make as much money as I can as ethically as I can. This means that I’m not willing to work in certain industries, or for specific companies. It’s important that I can wake up every day and see myself as creating something worthwhile, even if it’s not a game changer. In the past few weeks I’ve gotten to final discussions with a few companies regarding salary, or getting the last of my questions answered when it came to a questionable organization. I decided it was time to write a little bit about this because it’s been a struggle. Constantly interviewing with companies sucks, but working for somewhere that is ethically questionable sucks even more.

As this post is titled it’s recently come down to a few things, the mission of the organization, the money they offer, and the ethics of what they do. Sometimes the mission is there, but the money isn’t, and sometimes they have the money, but I can’t ethically work there because of what they do (military contractors, some banks, companies like Comcast, etc.)

A few weeks ago I finished my final interview with an awesome non-profit. I was excited about what they were doing and the potential impact I could have. I had already talked to the CEO once and brought up my concerns over salary in the non-profit space and he assured me that they paid competitively and fairly. When the CEO called and let me know that I was their first choice and people were excited to work with me I was ecstatic as I was looking forward to working with them as well. Their mission was cool, and I’ve been hoping to work for an organization doing good for quite some time. Then came the discussion about money. I was hopeful as we had previously talked about how they were competitive. The CEO explained their benefits to me, how they were willing to be flexible depending on people’s needs and so forth. All great things to hear. Then he asked about my salary range, and I provided it and it was lower than my typical range would be as I was willing to sacrifice a bit of money because of the mission.

This was when the disappointment set in. He explained the situation, the fact they were a non-profit and couldn’t offer west coast style salaries (my range was pretty generous in this regard plus their finances are public so I knew it wasn't outside the realm of what was realistic). I was also told that the previous employee in this position had been making a lot less than what I provided as a reasonable salary while also living on the west coast. I was pretty gutted after hearing this. We ended the call a few minutes later, and he emailed me a while after that letting me know they couldn’t afford the salary I was asking for so we never made it to the actual offer stage. This lead me to question what I am willing to sacrifice salary wise for the mission and I realized it’s some, but it’s not that much. Sacrificing somewhere around 50% - 60% of my old salary just wasn’t something I was willing to do. Even if the mission is great organizations have to realize that they have to pay well if they want to retain passionate talent. Paying poor salaries creates resentment among workers and it just means people are going to move on relatively quickly. Delaying retirement by an extra 5-15 years because you took a lower salary isn’t going to fly with a lot of people. It certainly isn’t going to fly for me no matter how important the mission of the organization is.

The mission is important, but the money has to be there.

I also declined to continue the negotiation and interview process with a startup over ethical issues. I had been on the fence due to the questionable organizations they allowed to use their product but after talking to their CEO I knew the company was not for me. The CEO explained that they would allow organizations such as the KKK to use their platform and I simply couldn’t support this sort of behavior. They explained that “inciting violence” was the key tenant of their terms of service, but in my mind, how can an organization like the KKK be allowed to use their services while that policy is in place considering they are an organization built on violence and hate?

Hearing this plus my previous trepidation meant I was completely disinterested. I can’t imagine waking up at 2 in the morning to potentially protect the KKK from a DDOS, or helping them ensure that their newsletters get sent out. How could I look at myself every morning knowing I’m potentially helping spread the message of organizations built on hatred and racism? The money was decent and the benefits were okay, but the ethics just weren’t there and I don’t understand how anyone who currently works there could continue doing so knowing they would allow such an organization to use their services or how they could be okay with having that sort of customer. I couldn’t work there and I couldn’t live with myself if I did so I had to let the hiring manager know that I wasn’t interested in going any further with this organization.

The money can be there, but without meeting my ethical standards it’s pointless.

At the end of the day I’m still unemployed after getting to the final process with these recent organizations. While I’m disappointed I’m also glad that I can stay objective enough, and ethically just enough to decline offers which would make me question myself every day. I might not have a paycheck, but I haven’t compromised my personal needs or my personal beliefs and that’s what really matters to me in the long term.